Of Bald Eagles and Brit TV

& It was a few years ago, maybe three or four. I was doing a friend a favor and editing something for posting in our local online paper, The Abiquiu News. (I’m sure I’ll write later in this Log about Carol and Brian Bondy’s nice little effort to do something important for our community. If I forget to, remind me. In the meantime, you can subscribe.)

The copy I’d been sent had something to do with the annual volunteer mid-winter count of bald eagles hanging around the big lake behind the Abiquiu reservoir. When they say mid-winter, they mean mid-winter. This year, it’ll be January 9th. It’s beyond me why people unsnuggle from their warm beds on a weekend morning to go sit in rubber boats freezing their patooties and peering through binoculars at big birds. It ain’t for the free coffee, is it? Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad they do it. They tell me results of this bird-peeping helps bring those big bald bombers back from the edge of extinction. That’s good. I like bald eagles. (Someday, I’ll write about one of those guys, too — remind me if I don’t.)

The point of all this, though, isn’t bald eagles or frozen butts.

I was starting to tell you about this copy I was editing. It was an appeal for volunteers to participate in the bird watch, and assuring readers that it would be done-and-over-with in plenty of time for everybody to get back home and watch our sometime-resident starlet, an up-and-comer named Shirley MacClain, in her first appearance on a popular PBS tv series. The writer of the copy, however, had spelled the name of the show wrong, so I corrected it to Downtown Abbey.

Aside from breaking blah-blah on cable, the World Series and some other championship sports events, I don’t watch a helluva lot of television (let me tell you about local tv news, someday – pu-leeese don’t let me forget), and I particularly shy away from those “series” shows, where they hook you with a mystery in the first episode and drag you through eight weeks of inane sleep-inducing red-herrings and plot-rehash until they unveil final solution, which any single-celled animal has figured out by the end of week two. That is to say I was clueless when it came to the New World of television soap operas, and particularly unaware of Downton Abbey. Hadn’t heard of it.

Be assured I heard about it.

To assuage my cluelessness, I felt obliged to watch the next installment. I haven’t missed one since. Which means I was securely settled in my chaise this evening, wondering if I had missed Laura Linney (oh, the lovely Laura Linney) introducing us to the first installment of the final season of the soap-opera-to-end-all-soap-operas, Downton — and I don’t mean Downtown — Abbey.

In the British Isles, of course, they already know how this all ends. Over There, they aired the concluding nine weeks of the final season last fall, ending with must have been a satisfying finale (how could Downton Abbey be anything but satisfying?) as a Christmas present to Brits, Scots and Irishpeep. Over There, the damned Redcoats already know the answers to a million questions we now have Over Here: Can there be honor among blackmailers; can true love trump wrinkled old bodies; are glorious young women forever doomed to exist as corporate crones; is Mr. Green’s murderer in fact somebody we love; will auctioneers feast on the detritus of Downton; can tormented gay footmen finally find peace; and can gentle old souls can be happy with cold old maids.

And, dammit, Over There they already know who dies in the next eight weeks. Somebody’s gotta die. Julian Fellows, who created this theater of masterpiece, is nothing if not cruel. But Julian: Not Maggie Smith, I hope. Without her, who would be left to utter Violet’s marvelous acerbic one-liner causticisms, such as tonight’s question to the do-gooding Isobel: “Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”

I’m staying away from Brit Twitter, which doubtless will give me all the answers too soon. But I’m not avoiding single-cell organisms — they don’t have a clue. Bring it on, Downton, I’m awaiting answers. The bald eagle count will have to wait.

& Still wondering what the hell happened to Laura Linney, I’m outta here.



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