Downton is Coming to a Theatre Near You

The new year has started off with a bang, not literally of course. But figuratively, with political fireworks and bad weather coming together in potent combination that leaves one feeling that the best move would be to stay in bed, under the covers, for the duration of the colder months—or until Trump and Nancy Pelosi come together to end the government shutdown. You know, whichever comes first.

Just kidding. The real reason to get out of bed will come later this year, when the Downton Abbey movie comes out, at a yet-to-be-determined date. See the nothingburger trailer here:

In this sneak peak we see that the Abbey still stands, the sweeping lawns as green as ever, and that the Downtonians still drive really nice cars and sleep in freshly-made beds. Other than that, we are adrift. No plot points or even a glimpse of Stone Cold Mary’s marble face is given to us, the proletariat who so enjoy staring at rich people using their fancy things and sitting upright on very beautiful couches.

BUT! All is not lost, at least for those of you with Amazon Prime video subscriptions. Jeff Bezos has provided access to a lovely series, featuring the legendary British baker Mary Berry. The show is called Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets and the first stop is Highclere Castle, where much of Downton Abbey was filmed. This new show offers ogling, voyeuristic viewers the chance to experience the world of Downton Abbey without having to hide a dead body, or have a secret baby, or glare at one’s enemy across the servant’s table while vigorously darning socks.

I thoroughly enjoyed having Mary Berry as my tour guide through Highclere Castle. It was as if The Great British Baking Show and Downton Abbey came together to produce television offspring of the loveliest sort, and for a brief, gentle hour, I forgot the political blizzard raging all around me on the internet and I forgot my ice-covered front stoop, the one that gives me pause when I consider leaving my house. I could stay home and watch Mary Berry’s Country House Secrets on my screen and rest easy, knowing that somewhere out there, civilization still exists.

 

 

Current Obsession: Nailed It

For a long time, I basically stopped watching stuff online. No more streaming Netflix at odd hours, playing an episode of Midsomer Murders while I was cooking dinner (an unhappy combination) or folding laundry while watching yet another season of Parks & Recreation just because the real-life Leslie Knope inside me was being destroyed by the many real-life Jeremy Jamms, and I needed the fictional Leslie Knope to cheer me up.

It was nice to take a break from wasting enormous amounts of time watching stuff on screens, and I was a better person for it. But now that break from Netflix is over (and I am back to being a terrible person again) and I am once more watching shows online. Right now I’m watching in small doses, and I hope I can keep it that way but probably not.

Here is one of my current Netflix picks:

Nailed It

A stupid, stupid concept based on an Internet meme (which is redundant) in which regular folks try to recreate a baking masterpiece they have seen on the Internet. Usually such inspiration comes from Pinterest, the site where people organize photos they discover online. The site is dominated by recipes, crafts, interior design – that sort of thing. Everyone acknowledges the inspirational nature of Pinterest, but it also must be acknowledged that most of us are complete failures when it comes to implementing any of the ideas we find online.

Nailed It invites three of these Pinterest-style losers to compete in recreating one of these Internet-photo masterpieces in real life. The show, as stupid as it is, is surprisingly charming, thanks mostly to its very weird host. Her name is Nicole Byer, and I’m not even going to google her to find out where she came from, but I had never heard of her until this show. Which makes it feel like I discovered her and I, alone, find her hilarious. She is truly a weirdo. Do you know how rare it is to see a bona fide weirdo (who is also funny, self-aware and smart, I should qualify, as run-of-the-mill weirdos are plentiful) on TV? It is rare indeed. It also means that the whole show is fully aware that its entire existence is a joke. But it is a good-natured joke, which makes Nailed It a sweet show.

Real life Nailed It. Source: The Internet.

Viewers root for the rotating roster of losers to pull off the challenge, because we relate to them, because we are most likely losers ourselves. There is money involved, however: a $10,000 cash prize, so in that sense the show is a serious endeavor indeed.

I’ve noticed that American reality shows always have money involved. Mabye Americans don’t compete unless money is at stake. Meanwhile over on The Best British Baking Show, winners of that grueling 10-week competition get a silver embossed plate or an etched glass cake stand or something. This is probably the basic difference between Americans and British people, and why we won the Revolution.

I have a few more shows I’m wasting time on, which I’ll share with you over the next few weeks, assuming I can tear myself away from a screen.

Rapunzel cakes. Netflix nailed it. Source: Netflix

An Event at the Rockport Public Library

I’m excited about reading A Day in Rockport at an event with my friend and collaborator in this project, artist Mary Faino. We will be reading the book, talking about the illustrations, and working on a book project with the kids attending the event. Also: A Scavenger Hunt. Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? Well, probably lots of people. But if you don’t like them, don’t let me know about it, because we’re having A Day in Rockport Scavenger Hunt! You can follow the clues and take the same path found in the pages of the book, from Millbrook Meadow to the Old Harbor. If you are in Rockport and of a suitable age, or just the kind of person who likes events of this nature, then please come to Rockport Public Library on Wednesday, July 20th at 2pm!

RPLbooksigningADinRKPT

ADayinRockportScavHunt

Kill The Beast

Memorial Day weekend is here. This is a time for remembering those who have died, a somber way to start the summer. Our town has a Memorial Day parade and ceremonies — one at the cemetery and another at the wharf, where those who have died at sea are honored. Memorial Day in Rockport is sorrowful, and momentous, and sometimes even funny — like that time a kid who was marching with the Middle School Band accidentally dropped his flute in the ocean.

After Monday, the summer truly begins, even if the academic year has developed the awful rhythm of extending into June — a miserable change in custom if there ever was one (won’t someone consider the poor teachers!). In our household, we pretend school is over the Friday before Memorial Day, even if truancy laws demand that in practice, the oldest kid still go every day until it is mercifully over and he is released into summer.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 8: Mary Has it Coming

It’s been a rough week here at my house, with bouts of flu for all five members of the family leading to pneumonia, ear infections and assorted other maladies. All of which adds up to the fact that I’ve been preoccupied and am only able to turn in a short(ish) late recap of the penultimate episode. But if any episode deserves a short and sweet recap, it is this one.

Season 6, Episode 8 was so generally awesome there is not much to say, except that it was almost (almost) like Season 1 all over again. Solid writing, substantive dialogue, more or less believable action, characters that you care about, scenes that make you cry — at least if you’re like me. Yes, indeed. I wept like a fool this week, pretty much from the middle of the episode until it ended. I even clapped a few times. And laughed. So basically, between the laughing, clapping and crying I looked like a lunatic.

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Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 7: The Circle of Life

In this episode Lord Grantham is out of bed and ready to tear the world a new one. In all my years of watching Downton Abbey, I’ve never seen him so lively. Maybe all of us should experience the benefits of an exploding ulcer and gain a new lease on life.

Along with Lord G finding a pep in his step, this episode offered other high points: namely, we discovered that Mary is indeed a human being. As readers of this blog will know, I have long suspected her of being an android, or a granite slab polished to high gleam, or a mannequin ingeniously fitted out with tiny mechanical parts that allowed her to move freely about the room and turn her head toward someone when he was speaking. Also she was able to glare at Edith with cunning mechanical hatred. But it turns out that she is a real person. In this episode viewers saw Mary weep actual tears while great, gasping sobs escaped her narrow frame. It was very moving. Even Tom was touched, letting her know that it is okay to feel pain. It is okay to feel at all, actually. It was a big moment, the one in which Mary might just have converted into someone relatable and even likable, which would be a wonderful way to end the series.

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