The third season of Downton Abbey premiered on PBS last Sunday with a record audience of nearly eight million viewers. While there was much talk about changing times at the dawn of the 1920s it was evident that life at Downton is still firmly rooted in the past. Two amusing examples are the negative reactions to the appearance of the dinner jacket in mixed company in episode two.
Due to a behind-the-scenes feud between valets, guest Matthew Crawley’s tailcoat is damaged and he must settle for a tuxedo at dinner that evening. When the mother-in-law of the estate’s lord, a modern American millionairess, comments on the more relaxed standards in New England high society, the lord’s staunchly conservative mother can’t resist firing off one of her trademark retorts.
Martha: Newport’s not a jungle, not at all. But it is a little less formal.
The Dowager Countess: Matthew obviously wants you to feel at home in his playclothes.
Soon after this incident the valets’ spat escalates, forcing both Matthew and Lord Grantham to don black tie for a dinner party thrown for the local aristocracy. Even worse, the latter has to settle for a regular dress shirt. When the men arrive for preprandial cocktails the reaction by Grantham’s mother and mother-in-law is one of the few occasions when the two women agree on anything.
Martha: Oh, you two are dressed for a barbeque.
Lord Grantham: I feel like a Chicago bootlegger.
The Dowager Countess: I don’t even know what that means but it sounds almost as peculiar as you look.
Something tells me the Dowager Countess will not adapt well to the coming decade.