Downton Abbey may be slipping into the stream of television history following its last ever Christmas special last month, but the characters will live on in our imaginations.
Few programmes in recent years have managed to capture the affection of the viewing public in quite the way that Downton has. A series that itself harked back with more than a whiff of nostalgia to a bygone age is now set to be wrapped in the misty-eyed sentiment of happy days gone by. That Christmas special was a perfect way to bring down the final curtain.
Of course the colourful list of characters will stay with us. They are TV folklore now.
And just as we might remember them from particular episodes, it is possible to imagine them cast into more contemporary scenes, dealing with more modern issues and coming to terms with a technological world that is a million miles away from their simple Edwardian era. Imagine Robert Crawley getting to grips with talking to Siri on an iPad or Lady Violet having to operate the self-checkout machine at a supermarket. You have to smile.
Imagine the troupe assembled around a 2016 card table, brought up to date and immersed in a much more contemporary scene. Of course the game would be poker and this time, it wouldn’t be restricted solely to the gentlemen, as in the third episode of Season 4. The world is now a much less segregated place than it was back in the day.
The Emotional Spectrum
It goes without saying that Bates, if he could bring himself to play, would be deadly serious about the business of working out his hand. And you just know that he’d take a dim view of anyone calling him or raising his bet.
By the time players have to show their cards to determine the winner, in what players characteristically call “the showdown” in poker lingo, Bates could be predicted to be in a distinctly frosty mood. Bates is not someone you’d expect to play just for fun.
In contrast, Mrs Patmore would likely be the worst poker player in history, as even on a good day she struggles to suppress her emotions. It would be not so much touch-and-go as to whether she could contain herself if she thought she was holding a winning hand as when she would go into meltdown. The stresses and the strains of kitchen life would be nothing compared to the competitive angst that keeping a poker face would bring her.
Downton is not short of formidable females. One woman for whom keeping a straight face would be no trouble at all would be Martha Levinson, famously portrayed in Season 3 by Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine. Martha Levinson is brash, forthright and thoroughly modern in every aspect and you just know that when the chips were down she would be a formidable opponent.
That aggressive American ambition and forward-thinking nature would make her quite challenging to beat and also probably the most likely candidate to spend her earnings on new technology, like the remote-controlled drones that are all the rage right now.
It goes without saying that Violet Crawley would be involved and very invested in the game. With her uncanny knack for reading between the lines and knowing precisely what’s afoot, Violet would be a good bet to do well when it came to spotting who was bluffing and who was trying to contain their excitement. And although she might pretend not to approve of all the new-fangled ways of carrying on, she’d be sure to enjoy every single minute of it – even if she might not admit it openly.
Lady Sybil Crawley’s bright eyed optimism would surely make for a peppy sense of feel-good and can-do around the table, even if she might only have the faintest idea about what was actually going on. She’d be delighted at everyone else’s success, but the chances of her walking away with the money are about as slim as a champagne flute.
The Arch Manipulators
You certainly wouldn’t think that about Thomas Barrow. Some would say he’s sneaky, shifty and untrustworthy; others would call him a clever master of manipulation. Whichever way you’d choose to call it, you could be pretty sure that Thomas – played by Robert-James Collier would be a good bet to take something tangible away from the table. Clever is as clever does and Thomas could certainly be relied on to play his cards with a shrewd sense of how the odds were panning out.
And speaking of manipulation, Mrs O’Brien is another Downton regular who takes some beating when it comes to getting her own way. Expert as she is at delving into the motivations of those around her, anyone entering into casual conversation with Mrs O’ would need to be on their guard – and it might be more than just an insight into the cards that she’d eke out of them. Mrs O’Brien is not someone to underestimate, as the series has proven time and time again.
It goes without saying that the entire cast of Downton Abbey would make for a pretty crowded card table. Maybe they would have to stage their own tournament or even all organise themselves to play online – if they’re not too busy picking up all the honours the show has garnered.