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DEAR 'ABBEY'

The condition still claims the lives of 300 women a year, while 75,000 more experience ‘near misses,’ write Eleni Tsigas and Christine Morton.

American fans of PBS’s Downton Abbey might be in a state of shock after last night’s episode, in which beloved Lady Sybil Crawley gave birth and then died from “eclampsia.” While some of the hit show’s millions of viewers may dismiss the dramatic plot twist as unrealistic or express relief that women today no longer die so tragically in childbirth, those viewers would be mistaken on both counts.

Lady Sybil and Tom Branson, Downton Abbey Season 3

Lady Sybil and Tom Branson in ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 3. (Joss Barratt, Carnival Films/Masterpiece/PBS)

Eclampsia, first described by Hippocrates 2,400 years ago, is the medical name for seizures during pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a more common related disorder, is characterized by a large rise in blood pressure and failing kidneys. Every year in the U.S., up to 8 percent, or 300,000, of pregnant or postpartum women develop preeclampsia, eclampsia, or a related condition such as HELLP syndrome. Roughly 300 women die, and another 75,000 women experience “near misses”—severe complications and injury such as organ failure, massive blood loss, permanent disability, and premature birth or death of their babies. Usually, the disease resolves with the birth of the baby and placenta. But, it can occur postpartum—indeed, most maternal deaths occur after delivery.

For whatever reason, Downton Abbey portrayed an unrealistic lack of medical response during Lady Sybil’s eclamptic seizures. Both of her doctors stood by, presumably powerless, while her family cried desperately for help. Even in the early 1900s, some treatment for seizures would have been utilized. Magnesium sulfate has been around since 1906 and has since been proven to be a superior medication. It is cheap, cost-effective, and relatively easy to administer.

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Literary Estates: Other Downtons

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS

A Real ‘Downton’ Affair

Margaret Powell was a servant to the Wardhams at their Redlands estate when her friend Rose, the beautiful under-parlor maid, eloped with the family’s only son, Master Gerald. In ‘Servants’ Hall,’ Powell recounts the true story of the romance with her signature wit and humor.

Master Gerald had come down into the basement around 9 o’clock, just as dinner was over. He was wearing a dinner jacket, and had a button in his hand which he said had just come of the jacket—Mr. Hall reckoned he’d pulled it off. He’d wanted Rose to sew it on, but Mr. Hall the butler had intervened saying it was the valet Burrows’s job to take care of Mr. Gerald’s clothes; Rose was a parlor maid. Mr. Gerald had insisted that he wanted Rose to do it and had told Mr. Hall that rigid spheres of work were outdated, and in Rhodesia all the whites were equal and there was none of this Sir and Madam. White people weren’t servants, he’d said, they had the blacks for that. Despite Mr. Hall’s disapproval, Rose had sewn the button on; and Mr. Gerald said what nice slender fingers she had, and where did she live and was she engaged. All of this enraged Mr. Hall exceedingly, and when they were having supper he actually swore—and he’d never done that before in front of the female servants.

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The cast of Downtown Abbey Series 3 eating in the Servants Hall. (Gary Moyes/Carnival Film & Television)

“Who’s he?” Mr. Hall had said, red with anger, “to come down into our place talking about what he did in Rhodesia. Course they don’t have white servants when they’ve got all those bloody blacks who work for next to nothing. Who does he think he is coming down here and expecting my Rose”—as though Rose was Mr. Hall’s property—“to do a job that it’s not her place to do? I’ve never seen the like. I reckon being out there three years he’s forgotten what an English gentleman’s like. They’ve got their place upstairs and we’ve got ours down here, and that’s how it should be.”

“Lord help us,” said Mrs. Buller, the cook, “If it happens again, my advice to you, Mr. Hall, is to mention the matter to the Master.” She meant Mr. Wardham, not the Master up in heaven. I don’t think the butler did much communing with the One above. “Did anybody say anything to you Rose?” asked Mary, the under-housemaid. “Only Violette, and you know how she talks in her own language when she’s excited. She gabbled on and all we understood was the bit at the end, Rose est une belle jeune fille. And that didn’t please our Mr. Hall. Pompously he quoted, ‘Handsome is as handsome does,’ and Rose had no call to go against me. I really felt awful when he said that.”

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(L-R) Laura Carmichael as Edith Crawley, Jessica Brown Findlay as Sybil Crawley, and Michelle Dockery as Mary Crawley of ‘Downton Abbey.’ (Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for Masterpiece)

Is Lady Mary the fairest Crawley of them all? Or is it the rebellious Sybil? And what of poor Edith? The Daily Beast debates the merits and flaws of the Sisters Crawley.

Lord Grantham’s fretting about money, Lady Mary is waffling over a relationship, the dowager countess is being surly. Yes, Downton Abbey is back, and with its return to U.S. airwaves comes renewed debate about the British costume drama. Do we hate Thomas or love to hate Thomas? What exactly is Lady Cora’s accent? And, most important, which of the Crawley sisters is the best?

Passions are high, as three of The Daily Beast’s biggest Downton devotees make their cases: Lady Abby of Haglage for Team Mary, Lord Kevin of Fallon for Team Edith, and Countess Caitlin of Dickson for Team Sybil. Let the debate begin. 

Abby Haglage: Lady Mary Crawley is more than just resilient—she’s ruthless. In 1920s England, where women are virtually treated as second-class citizens, her strength isn't simply for display, it's for survival. Mary's stubbornness is matched only by her sophistication, her boldness by her elegance. She's a fighter, a leader, a one-woman tour de force. Plus, she’s like, really pretty.  

It’s no secret who came out of the Crawley gene pool triumphant. Sorry not sorry, sisters. She got the beauty, the brains, the wit—but most importantly, the moxie. Call her arrogant, elitist, mean. But facts are facts. Lady Mary is a bonafide badass.

Spoilers!

Inside ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 3

Cast of Downton Abbey Season 3

Season 3 of 'Downton Abbey' airs over seven Sundays on PBS beginning in January 2013. (Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for Masterpiece )

Jace Lacob talks to the creator and cast of ‘Downton Abbey’ about what’s ahead for the Crawley clan and their servants in the highly anticipated Season 3, beginning Sunday in the U.K.

Downton Abbey viewers are anxiously awaiting Season 3 of the addictive British costume drama—which arrives on U.K. television on Sunday (although not until Jan. 6 in the U.S., when it returns to PBS’s Masterpiece)—searching for televised methadone to tide them over until Downton Abbey’s third season kicks off.

One problem: there isn’t really another show like Downton Abbey on television. Between the exquisite costumes and lavish sets (including real-life Highclere Castle), the now-familiar characters and turbulent plots, Downton Abbey has captured the imagination of a broad range of viewers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Season 3 of Downton Abbey will unfold over roughly two years, but unlike in previous years, Season 3 won’t be structured around historical events like the sinking of the Titanic, the start of World War I, or the Armistice.

“It’s not bookended in that way,” creator Julian Fellowes told The Daily Beast. “One of the reasons for starting with the Titanic is that it’s a piece of shorthand. If you start something with the Titanic going down, everyone in the world knows we’re just before the First World War. It’s symbolic, and you don’t have to waste any scenes on exactly where you are in history. But we don’t need that anymore. It’s really about the personal journeys, in a way, of the characters.”

Dear ‘Abbey’

‘Downton’ Returns to Form

Jace Lacob reviews the sensational third season—and the highly controversial finale—of the British period drama, which returns to PBS’s ‘Masterpiece’ on Sunday. WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead!

Downton Abbey is back.

Downton Abbey Season Three

Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in an episode of Downton Abbey Season Three. (Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE)

For some, that’s incentive enough to tune in to the award-winning British period drama, which returns to PBS’s Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, Jan. 6, for another season of soapy intrigue with the Crawley clan and their servants. Other viewers, who like me were disappointed with last season, will take more convincing. They should take heart: Season 3 of Downton is a return to form for the show, recapturing the dazzling wit and sweeping romance of the now-classic first season.

I was intensely critical of Season 2 of Downton when it aired last year. The sophomore season lacked the deft plotting and nuance of the first year, to say nothing of the disastrous “Patrick Crawley” subplot or the miraculous recovery of paralyzed heir Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), who nearly leapt from his wheelchair to dance the foxtrot. Such miscues mired the show in histrionic soapiness, upsetting the delicate balance between domestic drama and social change. Downton, after all, functions best when it focuses on small moments—a missing snuffbox, a snow-swept proposal, a knock on a door—not over-the-top plot twists.

Period Drama

Elizabeth McGovern Cuts Loose

Elizabeth McGovern talks about Season 3 of ‘Downton Abbey,’ which returns to PBS on Jan. 6, period drama ‘Cheerful Weather for the Wedding,’ and her band, Sadie and the Hotheads.

While most viewers today recognize Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, the Countess of Grantham on PBS’ recent English drama hit, Downton Abbey, the American actress has long been a fixture in the acting community. Graced with a seemingly ageless beauty, McGovern admits to experiencing many “dream factory moments” in her 30 plus year career.

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora

Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Cora is shown in a scene from the second season of "Downton Abbey." (Nick Briggs/PBS, via AP)

There was the phone call from Robert Redford when she was 18 to tell her she was cast as the sweet high school girl in his Oscar winning movie, Ordinary People. A year later, she was walking the red carpet as an Academy Award nominee for her role as Evelyn Nesbit in Ragtime. Then there was the time Robert De Niro wined and dined her as a live orchestra played “Amapola,” and Italian director Sergio Leone trained his camera on her youthful, open face and bright blue eyes in Once Upon a Time in America.

“That was a pretty big ‘Am I dreaming?’ feel,” the 51-year-old actress/singer told The Daily Beast this autumn.

Shirley MacLaine, slumming across the pond in ‘Downton Abbey’, talks with Sandra McElwaine.

As the brassy, bitchy American heiress Martha Levinson on the coming third season of Downton Abbey, Shirley MacLaine defies British tradition and rattles the hallowed hallways.

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey Season 3

Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine plays 'Martha Levinson' in Downton Abbey Season 3. (Courtesy of (C) Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE)

The 78-year-old Academy Award winner is permed, primped, swathed in fur and armed with a collection of lethal zingers as Martha Levinson, the candid mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham. Levinson arrives from New York for a family wedding and creates a certain amount of chaos as she casts withering aspersions on the stuffy formalities of the English gentry.

Her two-episode appearance turns into a clash of wills—a delicious and sometimes malicious sparring match between MacLaine and Lady Violet, the acerbic Dowager Countess played by the formidable Maggie Smith.

Character Study

My Tea With Mrs. Patmore

Jace Lacob sits down for tea with ‘Downton Abbey’ star Lesley Nicol to discuss Season 3—which returns to PBS’ ‘Masterpiece Classic’ on January 6—and a potential romance for Mrs. Patmore, posing for Bruce Weber, and the Mrs. Patmore doll.

No, Mrs. Patmore cannot cook. It’s a question that is frequently asked of  Lesley Nicol, the 59-year-old actress who plays the uppity cook on PBS’s sumptuous costume drama Downton Abbey.

Lesley Nicol as Mrs Patmore

Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore in "Downton Abbey" Season 3. ((C) Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE)

“There’s a thing in the U.K. called Celebrity MasterChef,” Nicol says, sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. “I’ve been asked several times to go on that. I keep saying, ‘No, you have to be at a certain level before you even think about that, and I’m not there at all. When you look really hard, I’m doing a bit of seasoning, but I make sure I don’t do anything that will look really wrong.”

Over a lengthy afternoon tea service, she tells me a story of a disastrous dinner she cooked for her husband, to whom she has been married six years (“He came to me later on in life,” she says), an attempt to make a prawn risotto that backfired magnificently when she opted to substitute arborio for brown rice.

PRETTY COSTUMES

‘Downton’ Creator Developing NBC Drama

‘Downton’ Creator Developing NBC Drama Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

‘The Gilded Age’ will be set in 1880s N.Y.

Welcome to America, Julian Fellowes. The celebrated costume-drama-wunderkind (otherwise known as the creator of Downton Abbey) is developing a period drama for NBC tilted The Gilded Age. Fellowes has signed on to write and produce the series, which will chronicle the soapy lives of millionaires living in 1880s New York. In addition to Downton, which will premiere its third season on PBS in January and was just renewed for a fourth, Fellowes has also been busy penning the screenplay for the upcoming adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. We can already hear the music swelling.

Read it at The Hollywood Reporter

SWEET RELIEF

‘Downton Abbey’ Renewed by PBS

‘Downton Abbey’ Renewed by PBS Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

For fourth season.

Here’s some news to be thankful for: the Crawley family and their staff will be returning for a fourth season of Downton Abbey, U.K network operator ITV announced Friday. The fourth season will return in the fall of 2013 and will take place in the 1920s, ITV said. “Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair, and romance,” Gareth Neame, managing director of NBCUniversal said. The third season has averaged a whopping 9.7 million viewers at its competitive Sunday night slot, beating out popular shows like the X Factor. Now that's classy.

Read it at Hollywood Reporter

CREATORS DISH

Our Strange ‘Downton’ Addiction

Peter Jukes on Tina Brown’s interview with the ‘Downton Abbey’ creators at London’s National Gallery.

At first it looks like total mismatch. Why would a British series about an aristocratic country house a century ago become the most successful foreign series ever imported to the United States? Downton Abbey, the returning miniseries set in the Yorkshire country house of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, first broadcast on ITV and then aired on PBS, has garnered more Primetime Emmy nominations than any other non–U.S. TV series—27 in total. In the U.K., the beginning of the third series, which aired two weeks ago, gained record audiences.

The setting for Monday night’s interview with the creators of the show, writer Julian Fellowes and producer Gareth Neame, only emphasized the anomaly. The joint event by Credit Suisse and Newsweek and The Daily Beast, hosted by editor in chief Tina Brown, was staged in the room of London’s National Gallery that features a portrait by Joshua Reynolds of a so-called British hero of the American Revolution.

One can understand a British fascination with its faded imperial past, but why would the U.S., the country that prides itself on meritocracy and mobility, find itself addicted to the sclerotic nobility of the turn of the last century?

Downton Abbey. Series Two.

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary in Season 2 of ‘Downton Abbey.’ (Nick Briggs / Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television )

Dressing For Dinner

Inside ‘Downton’ Fashion

DOWNTON ABBEY COSTUMES

Carnival Film & Television Limited / Nick Briggs

‘Downton Abbey’, whose third season premiered in the U.K. on Sunday, promises sumptuous fashion. Isabel Wilkinson talks to its costume designers about Mary Crawley’s love of Vogue, Pippa Middleton’s set visit—and the hotly anticipated wedding dress.

A new season of Downton Abbey offers up the sprawling British countryside, eye-rolling maids, and a sharp-tongued Dowager Countess. But if you ask some of us what we’re most looking forward to with Downton’s return, the answer is simple: the costumes.  

The third season of the Emmy-nominated series, which premieres in the U.S. on January 6 , continues with the show’s tradition of lavish period fashion. Since it premiered in 2010, Downton has secured its place in the fashion world: Ralph Lauren themed his fall collection around the show, and recently announced a sponsorship of Masterpiece. The show’s fashion has received so much attention that its fashion designer, Susannah Buxton, was nominated for an Emmy Award this year. Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) has appeared in countless fashion glossies; Anna Wintour has given the show her seal of approval; and even Pippa Middleton is a fan, visiting the set with her parents last season for a guided tour. “I explained to her that the costume tries to reflect personality and class of each character, and she was really interested,” Buxton says.

The show’s second season introduced World War I, and the upper-class Crawley family was forced to adapt to the changing times. “There was a question of how we would portray them,” Buxton says. “There were constrictions on the availability of good cloth. They weren’t able to indulge their fashion desires the way they would previously. In the daytime they dressed more somberly, but behind the scenes in the evening, all the diamonds came out.”  

But since the finale of Season 2, a lot has changed. For starters, the war has ended. And Buxton is gone; now the costume department is run by her former assistant, Caroline McCall.  “I just felt the time was right,” Buxton tells The Daily Beast. “You can lose your initial passion for it.”

Abbey’s Road

‘Downton Abbey’s’ Emmy Bid

Can ‘Downton’ topple ‘Mad Men’ at the Emmys later this month? Jace Lacob talks to creator Julian Fellowes and the cast about the show’s popularity and its 16 nominations.

It’s hardly a surprise that the Television Academy would shower some love upon PBS’ Downton Abbey. After all, the Julian Fellowes–created drama—which airs in the U.S. on the 41-year-old anthology series Masterpiece—walked away with the Emmy Award for Best Miniseries last year, and scored a staggering cumulative audience of 17 million viewers for its second season. And Downton is now competing for a Best Drama award, ahead of the launch of its third season this weekend in the U.K.

Downton Abbey. Series Two.

Courtesy of Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

The British soap will battle for the top prize with such critics’ darlings as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones, all of which hail from cable networks HBO, Showtime, and AMC. But, in a year when not a single broadcast network drama is being represented, Downton’s 16 nominations and its departure from the movies and miniseries category and into the fiercely contested Best Drama race is even more of a feat.

“We were going up against the giants of American television,” creator Julian Fellowes told The Daily Beast. “We were hoping for a look-in and we got 16.”

Splitting Heirs

6 Best ‘Downton Abbey’ Spoofs

PBS’s white-hot British import, nominated this year for 16 Emmy Awards, is now a bona-fide cultural phenomenon—with its own spoofs. From Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Downton Sixbey’ to the ‘Mean Girls’-‘Downton’ mash-up, Jace Lacob on the six best.

While devotees of costume dramas instantly fell under the spell of Downton Abbey when it first premiered in the U.S. in January 2011 on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic, it took a second season for it to truly permeate popular culture.

Nominated for 16 Emmy Awards this year—including Best Drama, Best Actress in a Drama, Best Actor in a Drama, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and seemingly a billion others—Downton Abbey has become deeply entrenched in our collective consciousness. It is no surprise, then, that the show has prompted a slew of parodies, turning up everywhere from Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon to an Arby’s commercial.

Fans, meanwhile, have taken to performing their own takes on Downton, spoofing the show with paper dolls, zombies, dogs, and stuffed animals. There’s even a “boyfriend’s guide” to the period drama that educates reluctant viewers about the difference between a “batman” and the Batman. PBS’s Sesame Street, meanwhile, plans to follow up its True Blood and Mad Men spoofs this fall with “Upside Downton Abbey,” described as “a chaotic manor house where gravity is inverted with Big Bird and Cookie Monster trying to maintain order.”

On Twitter, there are accounts dedicated to Lady Mary’s Eyebrows and to lady’s maid Miss O’Brien’s Bangs (@OBriensBangs), which seem to have a life of their own. The latter was created by comedian and actress Kate Hess, who also wrote and stars in her own Downton-themed one-woman show at the Upright Citizens Brigade.

One on One

The Stars Dish

Shirley MacLaine Rattles ‘Downton Abbey’

Shirley MacLaine Rattles ‘Downton Abbey’

Shirley MacLaine, slumming across the pond in ‘Downton Abbey’, talks with Sandra McElwaine.

Period Drama

Elizabeth McGovern Cuts Loose

Character Study

My Tea With Mrs. Patmore

Michelle Dockery Talks Fashion

In episode 6 of "The Look" Laura Brown sits down with 'Downton Abbey's' Michelle Dockery to talk all things fashion.

Presented at Court

Not Just For Foreigners

Downton Abbey’s Royal Fans

Downton Abbey’s Royal Fans

The second season of the U.K. hit is on in Britain—and Prince William and Kate Middleton are addicted.

Posh

Juiciest Bits

The Real Downton Abbey

The Real Downton Abbey

Séances, a Rothschild secret, the Curse of Tutankhamun. Inside the real setting for the British TV drama.

LOL

Splitting Heirs

6 Best ‘Downton Abbey’ Spoofs

6 Best ‘Downton Abbey’ Spoofs

Jace Lacob looks at the six best spoofs of PBS’s ‘Downton Abbey,’ nominated this year for 16 Emmy Awards.

Not a Fan?

What Else is On?

18 Shows to Watch This Winter

18 Shows to Watch This Winter

Jace Lacob offers a look at 18 new and returning TV shows, from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Carrie Diaries.’