What will happen in Downton Abbey Series (Season) 4?
So what is in store for Downton Abbey fans in season/Series 4? I speculated like many others about season 3 and I was out on a limb with my view that Mary would marry someone other than Matthew only to be snatched from the altar after the wedding by, who else but Matthew. Unfortunately, the production company took the safe but dull route in season 3 and Mary was married to Matthew by the end of Episode 1.
Generally season 3 has been very gloomy with Death and Disaster stalking Downton. First Edith (left at the Altar) Next Sybil (I can't being myself to write any more - the wounds are too fresh!) and Finally Mary's beloved Matthew. As Violet said in the 2012 Christmas Special, just before Matthew's sudden sticky ending, "you never know in life what is around the next corner." (in Matthew's case a speeding delivery Van).
Anyway let get on to Season 4 and the hope of new, more cheerful script writers and that no more key players decide not to renew their contracts.
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Downton Abbey Series Season 4
Yes, I do happen to have some pretty solid information about the possible content of Season 4. Four, I here you say disbelievingly, surely they can't be thinking about that with three hardly 'in the can'?
Let me put you right on that. The production company, lets call them Fanfair Productions, are a hardheaded, commercial bunch. Downton is a global cash cow and they will milk it for all they can get. Theyare already trying to get the cast to commit and sign up for seasons 4 and 5.
It is therefore vital that they have a rough road map for Series 4 in order to entice both existing cast and future talent to sign up. So how do I know about what the insiders call the 4th series Downton Road Map (or 4DRM for short)?
It is a good idea for me, at this stage, to add a disclaimer: In the legal sense, this is a work of fiction. None of the organisations or people mentioned here are real. Any apparent similarities in names or personalities with real people or organisations is just a coincidence.
Well, there is a smart girl called Liz Buckingham (not her real name) who worked as a researcher and general factotum at Fanfair who knows my daughter well.
In spite of her First from Cambridge, Liz found herself spending many tedious hours holding umbrellas overcast members between takes in churchyards and having to fetch large lattes and cappuccinos for diva-ish housemaids.
Yes it is a well known fact, born out by actress Joanne Froggatt, who plays the respectful Anna in Downton, that a microsecond before the cry of 'cut' is spoken, those playing 'below stairs' throw off their servant persona including the silly lace hats, grab a mobile and demand that a lowly crew member feed their coffee cravings.
Even the po-faced Carson, played by Jim Carter, has been known to demand a Cuban cigar or a bottle of his favourite stout between takes.
Not surprising, Liz rapidly became disillusioned with the bright lights and glamour of television. Until the day of the secret meeting, that is.
Please note that In the TV business there are endless clandestine meetings, behind closed doors, where focus groups focus, agents pitch and consultants are consulted about projects so crazy that were you to hear of them you wouldn't believe a word of it.
The Secret Meeting
One wet afternoon, Liz was struggling to edit a script for one of the lesser servants, a groom, for Season 3, episode 5 (of course I can't tell you the plot!)
Liz had just got back to the task in hand when Peter Wentworth, one of the execs appeared. He scanned the open plan office then marched over to Liz.
"Liz, we need your opinion can you join us?"
Peter had never spoken to Liz before.
Once out of earshot of the communal office Liz inhabited, he whispered, "Liz, I'm trusting you totally here. Keep everything you hear this afternoon under you hat, OK? This is top secret stuff," he tapped the side of his nose to emphasise the point.
Peter ushered Liz into the main conference room. It was packed. Chairs squeezed in tightly around the large table with many more seated against the walls making up a second row. A few more sat on the floor, the window sills or leaned against what little wall space was accessible.
"Don't worry about who all these people are Liz. Just think Downton Series 4. Where do we go?"
"This is Liz, people. Liz is bright and new to TV Drama. A costume drama virgin so to speak. Pitch your thoughts and lets see what she thinks and what sticks."
50 Shades of Downton - Julian Won't Like It!
"I'll start then," volunteered a keen, youthful guy sporting geek chic garb.
"Last series - far too gloomy! Julian obsessed with death of the young and beautiful. My answer: even richer plot lines, extravagant story telling. Steamy relationships, hetro and bi. Family programming before the watershed, 'show don't tell', then offer alternative extended late night version with more adult themes, you know, like more explicit love scenes, Tipping the Velvet stuff."
"Yes," said a woman, with bright red hair, a green dress and blue boots, enthusiastically, "We could call it 50 shades of Downton. There was something really Gothic about Mary and Matthew. Lets find a new lover for Mary and add a little 'Twilight' to the party!"
"But Julian won't like it," muttered a cynical voice from the crowd at the farthest end.
"Julian isn't here," said Peter, "I'm not that keen either, as it happens, but this is the sort of thinking the networks and senior team want. We aren't writing remember, were looking at strategy. Anyway we have plenty of writers who'd love to do it. Some countries won't want the X Factor - so they buy the PG version. Same story line but without the sizzle."
"But the actors won't want do it," said another disembodied voice.
"Well, the company will find actors who do. And guess who'll get the best story lines and the longest column inches, the biggest everything?" (polite giggles)
"What do you have, Anna?" said Peter pointing to a smart, petite woman standing, balanced precariously on killer heels.
"OK It’s the 1930s. Say 1936. We see the rise of fascism. The Nazi swastika casts a long shadow across Europe," someone yawned loudly.
They Killed Eileen's Monkey!
"No, No, No! It already been done to death by the Beeb," interrupted Peter. "Clique ridden crap that buried the laudable 'Upstairs Downstairs' franchise for ever.
When the BBC synically killed off Eileen Atkin's monkey they effectively axed the show."
He paused then added, "And before you ask - no monkeys. Ross and Friends was a dreadful warning to us all!".
"That monkey in 'Upstairs' was soo cute," added a disembodied voice.
"No more monkeys - moving on swiftly people."
"What about other animals? Or children? Why are their no children in Downton?" Speculated someone at the table.
"No bloody animals or children. That damn Labrador is quite enough!" Said Peter angrily. Focus people! Characters, drama. Anyway if we move on 10 years every series then all our characters will be dead before you know it. Remember this show will run for years. We're in it for the long haul."
Downton Abbey on Amazon
No Time Machines!
"Could we not have a time machine? The characters needn't age when they go into the future.."
"Get out," screamed Peter pointing at the offender. "This is not Dr Who! No time machines, space ships and no alien abductions! Anyone else with stupid ideas can leave right now!"
There was an awkward silence. Everyone waited while the time machine man shuffled from the room. Finally someone hesitantly said, "I'm thinking Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, Charleston. Its 1926 and the General Strike. The family are divided over the striker's cause.
Mary volunteers to help break the strike. She becomes a postman or something equally menial. Edith drives a bus in London. Has a fling with her male conductor.
Maybe Matthew supports the strike and they fall out over it. Of course Violet is totally opposed to the strike and, as always, has some withering lines."
"Good try," said Peter sarcastically, "except that In series 4 Violet is no longer with us, Matthew died at the end of season 3 and anyway Mary would never deliver the post!"
"Could we not get some famous people into it? A.A. Milne comes to stay and writes Winnie to Pooh in the rose garden. Or Virginia Wolfe is a house guest and leads Lady Mary into all kinds of mischief."
"I think Poor Mary has quite enough trouble in her life already what with dead diplomats in her bed, the Embassy scandal, the death of matthew and then the affair with a Liberal Cabinet Minister, said Peter wearily.
"Edith could marry her bus conductor across the class divide. Edith remains bisexual opening up opportunities for more conflict with her husband and the Crawley clan."
"Tom Branson and Mary could get together. It would be convenient as they are both single parents."
"Yes but where is the chemistry?" Asked Peter, "it would be a bit limp and dull."
Christina Hendricks in Downton?
I thought the fabulous Christina in Downton was unlikely but the following was recently reported:
In the aftermath of her third Emmy nomination, actress Christina Hendricks has admitted she would rather swap her sixties beehive for a Dowager Countess updo.
"I'd love to do a guest spot on 'Downton Abbey,' she said.
Gangsters, Affairs and Richard Curtis
"What about women's suffrage? Where does the family stand? Conflict over giving women the vote. Matthew's mother, Isobel is sent to prison after handcuffing herself to the King's horse (she loves good causes).
And Cora has an affair with an American gangster from Chicago who is making a mint from prohibition."
"What about Lord Grantham have a fling with a maid?"
"We did that in Series 2 and anyway we've done the flighty maids thing to death."
"OK so a wealthy American lady, maybe. I see, um, say Christina Hendricks in the role."
"This is getting better people. I like General strike, prohibition, the women stuff. Lets not be too worthy though. Lets leave historical accuracy, values and good causes to the BBC.
The Beeb love to educate the public in return for the licence fee. We survive only if we make a tidy profit. What else?"
"Sybil returns from Ireland without Tom and becomes a nurse once more (remember Series 2?) and embarks on an affair with Matthew who still lives on the estate."
"We've already established that both Sybil and Matthew are dead. Please leave the room now and i'll see you at 4.00pm in my office," interrupted Peter, icely.
"Anna could be promoted to Head Housekeeper and Bates to Butler. Beryl Patmore (the cook) could have an affair with one of the 'upstairs' house guests."
"Good stuff people. Well done. Any more?"
"Why not make the scripts a bit lighter? More romantic. Funnier. Could we not get Richard Curtis to write for us?"
"You are joking aren't you?" Said Peter. He paused then said, "You were being serious weren't you? Saint's preserve us from popular culture. I'm going to call time on this one. The rest of you, thank you for your inputs."
Downton Abbey Series 4 Poll
Series 3 is set in 1920 and 1921. What time period do you believe Series 4 will span?
Downton Cast Quiz
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Joining the BBC
"Liz, come back to my office and we'll have a quick chat," said Peter wearily.
"Close the door."
"So what do you think?"
Liz explained how she thought they should stick with authentic period drama with good story telling and not sell out to racy plots. Clearly the popularity of the show and the awards it had already received suggested the current formula was working.
"I agree totally," said Peter, "but that isn't what the networks want.The trouble is that, fine though Downton is, and it gets the audience numbers, it isn't an advertisers dream vehicle.
Why do you think the US networks won't take it? Its ironic isn't? We make it in the UK and hang ads on it while in the USA it ends up on PBS. Meanwhile the Beeb with all their worthy idealism fail utterly with 'Upstairs Downstairs'.
Julian is a superb story teller but he isn't interested in writing for advertisers. I admire that. That's the problem with period drama. 'Think Sex in the City'. We all know its was crap but it sold products. Clothes, fashion , makeup, hair removal not to mention rejuvenating creams. About the best you can do with Downton, in terms of advertising, is nostalgia. Hovis ads and cruise holidays and the like.
Let me share a small secret with you. I'm about to join the BBC. I haven't told Fanfair yet. You probably won't see me again. Here's my card. If you fancy a try for the BBC, then just give me a call."
Liz took the card and left Peter's Office. That how she came to join the BBC. She told my daughter this story after a wild celebration on getting the BBC job. Of course Liz denied it the next day but my daughter is convinced she was telling the truth.
So there you have some solid clues about what might be in series 4 of Downton Abbey. Meanwhile enjoy series 3. Incidentally, for an Isis (the dog) focused view of Series 3 read this.