James Parker Compares 'Downton Abbey' to a Steve Martin Movie

Deconstructing a scene from the British melodrama

This Sunday evening, American TV viewers will happily settle into a new season of Masterpiece Theater's most popular drama, Downton Abbey. James Parker celebrates the occasion with a January/February Atlantic column gently mocking the show and its characters — those with blue blood as well as those scheming in the servants' quarters below.

The show's first two seasons, writes Parker, have involved "births, deaths, Marxist chauffeurs, lubricious Turkish diplomats stalking the midnight chambers, every form of narrative contrivance whizzing and gurgling around the chandeliers of Downton—it’s like the ballroom scene in Ghostbusters." In this video, he shares a melodramatic scene between Lady Mary and her wheelchair-bound lover Matthew, followed by an outrageous episode from the comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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