As the exciting new trailers herald with bright trumpet blares, the third season (or "series" depending on what side of the ol' pond you're on) of period soap Downton Abbey will soon be upon us. Though, it will be sooner upon the people of Great Britain than it will for those of us in the U.S. of A. See, ITV, the British network that produces the show, will air Downton 3: Tokyo Drift starting on September 13. But PBS, which carries the show in America, won't put the damn thing on until January. So we Yanks are left with a tough decision: Do we seek out bootlegs and torrents and all that illegal dirty business to watch the show in real-time with the Brits and thus (hopefully) avoid any spoilers, or do we patriotically wait to watch with the rest of our countrymen in January?
Last season we (that is me) could not help ourselves and watched the season in real(ish) time through the magic of the internet. And while it was certainly satisfying to know that we were seeing the show as soon as possible, it did create a strange, hangover-y kind of disappointment. That's partly the season's fault, but the feeling was also owed to the fact that once it was over, gobbled up quickly on the computer, alone and greedy, it all felt a little anticlimactic. There was every other good, patient American waiting calmly for PBS to ring the dinner bell, and we'd already stuffed our faces and had no one to discuss the meal with. And then by the time everyone else got around to finishing the season a couple months later, we couldn't really remember what had happened. Did we jump the gun?
In the spoiler-strewn realm of the social internet — Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, what have you — it does make some sense to watch a water cooler show like Downton as close to the original airdate as possible, lest anything be ruined. But what ruins the experience of watching of a show more, a few single plot details revealed too soon, or watching it in isolation and only having a few scattered people to discuss the experience with? It seems to us that maybe waiting until January and discovering the show alongside our friends and family — every text from my mother last season made me feel so oddly guilty, "Sorry Ma, I already saw that months ago..." — is the best thing to do. It wouldn't be easy, we'd have to avoid many internet traps, but as the Olympics mostly proved, it can be done.
But then again, there is that need to be completely up-to-date. The idea of the Brits knowing everything that happens on Sherlock and the like is a bad but bearable one, but with Downton Abbey, great swooning silly Downton Abbey? It's a bit harder to reconcile our spoiled hearts with that idea. If we're honest with ourselves, we doubt we'll be able to wait until January. Yes, it's likely a'torrenting we'll go starting next Sunday. But! We don't recommend, necessarily, the same for you. If you can stand the wait, it's probably better to enjoy the experience with everyone else. After all, what fun is winning if there's no one there to celebrate with you?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.