The Emmys aren't presenting a Best Butler award, nor did I ever think I'd want to lobby for one, but Carson (actor Jim Carter), you've been robbed. The fact that I have such strong feelings about a fictional character is one testament to what's already become a cultural phenomenon.
There was no reason, when it premiered this past January, to think Downton Abbey could be this good - initially set in pre-WWI England, it's essentially an Upstairs/Downstairs redo, and from the promos had a starchy-dull Masterpiece Theatre look (didn't help that you could barely pronounce the name of the damn thing without stumbling). Well, think again: impeccably cast, beautifully crafted, and absolutely gripping, the six-part high-flown soap opera, written by Gosford Park screenwriter Julian Fellows, hooked even the most period drama-resistant American viewers, and has already garnered awards elsewhere round the globe.
Tonight it's up against the nice-try-but-ultimately-lackluster Mildred Pierce mini-series, but if there's any justice (and there isn't much), it really ought to bring home an Emmy. Devoted fans, while keeping fingers crossed for such an outcome, might enjoy this profile of Fellowes, this photo-studded blog post preview of Season 2 (which includes the Vogue photo shoot spread), and inevitably, the viral video parody that's also turning into a series, online; the not-yet-initiated should skip this good take on the Season 1 finale.
Writers in any form will appreciate the inarguably top-notch character-driven writing in Downton; it's a textbook proving the homily that "there are no small parts." If you're late to the show, it's not too late to catch up before Season 2 begins: the 1st season is presently available on DVD... while us Downton addicts will apparently have to wait until January 8, 2012 to get our long-awaited fix. Anyone got a time machine handy?