Today’s Super Bowl clashes with public television’s powerhouse “Downton Abbey.” We can predict who’ll win the fight over the remote control, but we’ll still make a case for costume drama. (No, not the Super Bowl.)
On Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5), the real battle for supremacy may play out on your sofa. The second half of Super Bowl XLVI will compete with episode 5 of “Downton Abbey,” the wildly popular and much-ballyhooed British costume drama airing Sundays on WHYY-TV. (Latecomers, fear not! You can catch a marathon of the whole series on Feb. 19.)
“Downton” divas and “Abbey” aficianados who have spent their recent Sunday evenings with the Earl of Grantham and his family and servants are likely to find their seat warmed by a football fan this weekend.
Riding a tide of tweedy popularity, the “Downton Abbey” season 2 premiere earned an impressive 4.2 million U.S. viewers. That’s 1.28 million viewers more than “Mad Men” averaged in its most recent season.
That’s nice, but considering last year’s Super Bowl XLV broke records with a U.S. audience of 111 million viewers, the odds favor American gridiron over a post-Edwardian soap opera embodiment of noblesse oblige.
Maybe PBS will fare better on Pacific time.
We know the faithful will set their DVRs or watch online, but there’s no harm in giving our public broadcasting friends some help with our …
10 reasons to watch “Downton Abbey” instead of the Super Bowl
1. World War I had its share of giants and patriots, too.
2. The Eagles aren’t playing, so what do you care?
3. For the viewing party, cucumber sandwiches and gin and tonics are a nice change from pizza and lager.
4. The NFL never won a Golden Globe for costumes. They just keep trotting out the same tired cleats and spandex. And the women of Downton probably wear more equipment than the men of Lucas Oil Stadium.
5. It’s more fun to watch Maggie Smith’s dowager countess tackling her lines, O’Brien running interference, Mrs. Hughes sacking lusty housemaids, Vera Bates blitzing her husband, Branson committing personal fouls against Lady Sybil, and Carson throwing down penalty flags.
6. Those Coke commercials during the Super Bowl are just weird. (PBS doesn’t even have commercials!)
7. You can always DVR Madonna’s halftime show for later. With any luck, you’ll miss no wardrobe malfunctions.
8. A cheese plate at a Super Bowl party likely involves Velveeta and Kraft. A “Downton”-inspired cheese plate conjurs names like Ticklemore, Stichelton, and Lincolnshire Poacher — and has a much more earthy character.
9. The lilting Yorkshire accents are more exotic than the bombastic shouting match of the NFL color commentators.
10. It has been said that creating fiction is harder than creating nonfiction, because fiction has to be believable. Whatever the outcome of the Super Bowl, half the audience will be totally incredulous.
And if that does nothing to convince you, watch this video: