January 19, 2013

'Downton Abbey' vs. Patriots conflict splits Maine families

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Jim Britt did not want to tell his wife that Sunday's episode of the super-hot PBS drama "Downton Abbey" will be on TV at the same time that the New England Patriots will be playing for the right to go to another Super Bowl.

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Which will you be watching Sunday night?


Downtown Abbey


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Gillian and Jim Britt have solved their differences on whether they'll watch 'Downton Abbey' or the Patriots in the AFC Championship on Sunday: Using a picture-in-picture feature, they'll watch both.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

He wanted to have a strategy in place first.

"I kept it to myself for a while. I've been strategizing. I think I've figured out that I can use the 'picture-in-picture' feature of the TV, and I'll let her watch ('Downton Abbey') on the big screen," said Britt, 45, of Cape Elizabeth. "Hopefully by the time it comes on, the Patriots will have their game well in hand."

Britt's wife, Gillian, confirmed Friday she had no idea that Tom Brady and "Downton" chauffeur Tom Branson would be competing for viewers Sunday.

But if she had known, her strategy would be different than her husband's.

"I would have just assumed we wouldn't watch the Patriots," said Gillian Britt, who runs the gBritt PR firm with her husband.

All across Maine on Sunday night, couples, families and individual viewers will be struggling with whether to watch football or footmen, battles over the pigskin or battles over pride, the glory of an overtime win or the glory of opulence on parade.

That's because a convergence of pop culture phenomena will occur Sunday night. First, at 6:30 p.m. on CBS, you've got the Patriots – much of New England's favorite pro football team and arguably the best pro football team of the past decade – playing in the AFC Championship game for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Then at some point late in the game, at 9 p.m., a brand new episode of "Downton Abbey" will air on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. "Downton Abbey" is just about the biggest thing to come out of England since the Beatles: a smart, melodramatic period piece that has captured the imagination of American TV viewers like few shows before it.

"Downton Abbey" is a costume drama set in the fictional British country estate of Downton Abbey during the reign of King George V. The show follows the aristocratic Crawley family, headed by the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and their servants against the backdrop of historically important events, such as the sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic.

It's a show of epic scope, and Sunday it'll be competing for viewers with a football team hoping for an epic season.

The viewing dilemma has people all over Maine strategizing like the Britts, seeing if their spare TV is still working, checking to see if they signed up for DVR service.

Anything to make sure they don't miss their beloved Pats, or their beloved Crawleys.

Fans are also strategizing to make sure they have the best view of whatever battle matters more to them -- Pats versus the Baltimore Ravens or the rapier wit of the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) versus all in her path.

Julie Otte of Falmouth, for instance, has already decided that since "I rule in this house" she will watch "Downton Abbey" on the large HD TV in the living room. She will then relegate her teenage son and husband to the den, to watch Brady scramble over the confines of a 19-inch screen.

"It's the great acting, Maggie Smith's snide comments, all the clothes," said Otte, when asked why she likes the show so much.

In some cases, the conflict over what to watch Sunday night is not just husband versus wife, or parents versus kids.

The "Downton"/Pats dilemma for some is internal.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: TV choice

Which will you be watching Sunday night?


Downtown Abbey


View Results



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