Downton NOT being downsized - Shame on Daily Mail

I came across an article yesterday that ruffled some feathers on this side of the pond. Seems that British reporter Chris Hastings chose to be selective about details that he posted about the upcoming American broadcast of Downton Abbey on PBS Masterpiece. If one reads his article, it is plain to see that his attempt was to insult American viewers as seen by his suggestive title: "Downton downsized... by two hours because American TV executives fear its intricate plot will baffle U.S. viewers".

First off, let me clarify (since the Daily Mail seems unwilling to do so) that 2 hours have NOT been cut from the series. The British telecast on ITV had the equivalent of 2 hours of commercials over the 7-episode run. So as far as editing scenes for the American broadcast, there should be minimal changes. I've been informed by Evangeline Holland of Edwardian Promenade, who has seen both the British and American versions and she explained, "I like the cuts they've made... The pacing is better since they've cut a lot of the repetitious dialogue and scenarios... And I was worried about the cuts as well, but PBS did a very, very good job of retaining the flow of the plot." Holland also points out there are extra scenes not in the UK version: One with Edith where she and the Earl grieve together before the fireplace and another with Matthew and his mother regarding his treatment of Moseley at the end of the episode 1.

I was also informed by an American tv reviewer, Jace Lacob (Televisionary and The Daily Beast) that when he was called for an opinion by Hastings, he pointed out that the difference was due to 2 hours of ads but The Daily Mail chose to ignore that in the article. Hastings also included an unattributed quote from Lacob's review of Downton Abbey. I find it odd that The Daily Mail took the time to point out that "On ITV, the series, ...ran with advertisements, while PBS - the Public Broadcasting Service - is free of commercials" and yet they still ran with the headline and the premise throughout the article that 2 hours have been sliced.
Update-Read Jace Lacob's reply:
In Defense of Downton Abbey (Or, Don't Believe Everything You Read)

Last evening, there were no comments posted regarding the Daily Mail's article when I posted a comment to them. Today, I notice multiple comments are now shown but they chose not to post mine. No big surprise there.

With regard to comments made by Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of PBS, I'm surprised that she's not giving the American audience more credit since I believe she's aware of the type of highly-discerning viewers that frequent PBS.

Eaton explains, 'American audiences are used to a different speed when it comes to television drama and you need to get into a story very quickly. We also wanted to get to the point where Matthew Crawley [the family's middle-class cousin and unlikely heir] arrives on the scene much faster than in the British version. He is a pivotal character and his arrival brings with it drama and conflict. 'In the British version he doesn't arrive until episode two. In our version he is there in episode one.'

However, this point of Matthew appearing in Episode 1 seems evident to me since the British telecast was only 65 minutes long so it only makes sense that we would in fact see Downton's heir in PBS's first episode of 90 minutes. (Personally, I did not find the first episode on ITV to be lacking in any way considering we only get a glimpse of Matthew in the final minutes. Not all of us were interested in Dan Stevens' character as a romantic lead. There are other interesting fish to fry, not to mention the plot revolving around the rest of the cast including the presence of Dame Maggie Smith!)

Eaton also said, 'We thought there might be too many references to the entail and they have been cut. It is not a concept people in the US are very familiar with.'
Modified to add: I've just previewed the first episode on PBS and there are still scenes which reference the entail so not all scenes have been cut including one of my favourite moments between the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) and Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern)!

So to Mr. Hastings, who described America as the "land of the notoriously short attention span", I'd just like to say that don't take it for granted that we can still read between the lines!

FYI: Although there might me minor edits for the PBS telecast,
the DVD is the original and unedited UK version

Link: Daily Mail article
In Defense of Downton Abbey (Or, Don't Believe Everything You Read)


  1. Well, shame on the Daily Mail! That's just poor journalism. And shame on them for making it look like Yanks are all ADD idiots. But I am glad to hear that we'll see the full series. I was ready to go out and buy the DVD on Jan. 11 and watch it uncut (though I'd probably sit glued to the TV and watch the entire thing in one day -- not such a bad idea, actually!)

  2. CB, thank you so much for taking the time to straighten out this mess. We are immensely grateful to you, even if The Daily Mail is not. Looking forward to hearing what you think about these changes.

  3. Thanks for setting the record straight with this post.

    Like you, however, I'm a little miffed that PBS isn't giving its viewers more credit in understanding issues like entail or thinking that we need faster pacing. Maybe a regular viewer of something like The Biggest Loser or The Bachelor needs faster pacing and dumbing down (I don't mean to be negative towards those shows but...), but PBS viewers are used to British programming and have different expectations. Would we all be tuning in otherwise? Even though it's not to the point that the Daily Mail writer makes it out to be, it does feel a bit like PBS is selling us short.

  4. Since Google lags behind in one crucial aspect of Blogger (editing comments!), I deleted my previous comments because it created more confusion (and exposed my horrid maths, lol). To be short and succinct, the PBS broadcast is edited for greater clarity and pacing, as well as to fit into Masterpiece schedule for 2011. Nothing vital to either the plot or the characters has been lost, and the US broadcast actually added a few things which make Downton Abbey even better. Hopefully, the Dail Mail and its ilk will read this post and when the show premieres next Sunday, all of the pot-stirring will amount to naught.

  5. You go girl! Glad to hear that you are out there clarifying the issue and standing up for us poor addle-brained North Americans. I do have to say that I do not always agree with the editing that PBS-Masterpiece
    does on it`s shows (as in cutting scenes from Northanger Abbey-even in the DVD release!) but I hope in this case, they have done a good job.
    In any case, I can`t wait for Sunday nights in January. Cuddle up!

  6. Shame on the Daily Mail all around, for misquoting and creating controversy, AND not posting your comments CB. Bad form and not in the spirit of good journalism. Thanks for the research. My friends at PBS must be scrambling to explain this one, or better to choose to ignore it.

    I have seen both versions of Downton Abbey. I don't understand why Eaton thought it necessary to soften the entail bits. I do have the advantage over some of knowing what an entail is from my Jane Austen reading, and do concede that it is one of the most puzzling aspects about the novel that readers query, but if Laura Linney is explaining it at the top of the episode, so much the better. Don't understand why it needed to be cut out. It is pivotal to the whole story. How can it be cut and still make sense??? It will be interesting to see viewers reactions.

  7. Thanks for the information! I am so looking forward to this new series. We sure don't have enough of them. My favorite are the Cranford series. Love love love the costumes and they are an inspiration for my doll's dresses!
    Take Care,

  8. Clearly the Daily Mail must have been hurting for content, if that's the article they printed. Masterpiece Theatre used to show British dramas that were sometimes 17 episodes, so it's not only our attention span that has gotten shorter over the years. I'm surprised to about the cuts Eaton said they made. American viewers who watch Masterpiece probably know a great deal about entails etc. The Great thing is that you can either buy the American or British DVD if you have the machine to watch it.

  9. Daily FAIL strikes again! I've just watched the marathon they had on ITV1 this afternoon! Still in love.

  10. Don't know what an entail is? P&P is required reading in most high schools in America. I'm sure a lot of people know what an entail is and the majority of people who don't know are not watching Masterpiece Theatre. Besides, I can almost guarantee that the host is going to explain it before the show even starts.

    We can also compare this to Harry Potter. The first film was very sanitized for American viewers, but by the last few they don't even try anymore to switch out the slang; hasn't stopped people from rushing to movie theaters.

  11. You mean we are not still being punished? ha ha!

    I've seen a lot of discussion on this subject but I'll have to take whatever PBS has to offer and be happy with it.

    The fact is many of Masterpiece Theatre's programs are edited versions and "it stinks". (thanks to YouTube, we see what's been cut) I hope it's not because we Americans are too dense. Masterpiece's followers deserve better.

  12. I decided to wait before commenting until I had written my own response to this kerfuffle on Jane Austen's World. I agree that the edits are minor. However, PBS routinely cuts a few scenes out of BBC and ITV shows in order to make them fit a timeline. I am, frankly, baffled, as to why we don't receive the same length shows. (PBS does offer 2-hour specials, so why is Masterpiece confined to 90 minute segments?)

    As for Chris Hastings attitude towards American viewers, Sarah Crompton from The Telegraph provides a wonderful riposte.



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