GUEST COLUMN by Alice Maltin
When I was young, I dreamed of living in a castle. You do that sort of thing when you grow up in a small, one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Well, I did, anyway. I escaped through my imagination into “The Queen Game.” I’m not certain where it came from; perhaps it was from watching The Three Musketeers (the 1935 version) on TV, or The Man in the Iron Mask. I know both films were about French royalty but to my young and impressionable mind—and because most of the actors were British and I only saw kings and castles—I wanted to consider myself an English subject of the Realm. Kings and Castles.
In 1971, PBS broadcast an English series titled Upstairs, Downstairs. This show heightened my adult fantasy to lead a different life. I could be a grown-up and still go about my business while The Queen Game helped me get through the day. I didn’t live in the Bronx but in a grand English manor with so many servants I couldn’t remember them all. No matter that the manor was a killer to heat (Hugh Bonneville said he was always cold while filming in Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle)…or the constant threat of having to sell the estate for taxes. Reality has never entered my Queen Game. Life is real enough.
All of the above leads me to the 4th season and DVD release of Downton Abbey. I have a good life here in Los Angeles; it’s a dream come true. However, it’s still good to escape for a few hours with this very upscale soap opera. I’ve come to know everyone below the stairs and above. I feel the concern Robert and Cora Crawley have for their daughters. I want people like Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes to take care of my family as if we were their own. Is Mrs. Patmore available to leave Downton and cook for me in Los Angeles? At the same time, I could do without Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham. I do love the inestimable Maggie Smith. Her character understands all that is happening around her. Still, those sniffs of distain and saber-toothed retorts remind me of being back in school and terrified because I did not do the assignment. Just how low could you sink down in that seat to hide from view?
It’s only a TV show, you say, and I should snap out of it? Well, you’re right. But what is the harm in imagining myself walking the halls of Downton and joining that sterling cast? Season 4 does not disappoint and I hope you’re already enjoying it on PBS, however, the DVD of Season 4 is also on sale now. I love the show and its wonderful characters. I want that castle but only if it comes with proper heating and all those servants. What will happen next? Who will live and who will not survive season 5? So many questions with too much time to dwell on them.
I guess it’s back to my imaginary Queen Game.