Sarah Millican: Downton Abbey lost me for ever

“I want lavender on my pillow – not this,” says Millican

Finishing things is hard. I have a banoffee pie in the fridge that is going to go off before it gets eaten. That kills me. I’ve had two slices (quarters) in the last 24 hours and I’m a bit banoffee’d out.


We have a box of bran flakes that may never get finished. Partly because they taste like poorly cornflakes, partly because the box is so huge, it won’t fit in any of the cupboards. It just sits on the bench, staring at me while I knock back a second bowl of Frosties. I should put it in the toilet roll cupboard to remind me why they were bought in the first place.

“To do” lists are impossible to finish. I suspect I’ll die with a piece of paper in my old lady hand that says Post Office, Finish Script you’re stuck on and Exercise scrawled on it. When can I cross exercise off? When I’ve done ten minutes on the exercise bike or when I’ve finished it for good?

Relationships and jobs are easier to finish but still tricky. I’ve always ended them well for fear of needing a reference at some point. A friend of mine had more bottle. He left a shoe shop that had treated him badly and swapped all of the shoes around in the stockroom. Another friend announced at his leaving do how much he’d hated it. I’m much safer than that. Even when I left the civil service to be a comedian, I knew I may need to go back and just be funny in the office again.

It’s probably good that no formal relationship reference system exists. That fella I dumped by post would not give me a glowing report. Or the one I dumped after two dates when it turned out he wasn’t as nice as I’d imagined him to be for the two years I’d watched him walk past my house.

As an adult, friendships rarely end officially. As a child, every day. But when you get older you tend to drift apart and eventually one of you gets the message. When I started doing well in this job, two friends (who didn’t know each other) emailed me a day apart to say they no longer wanted anything to do with me. Out of the blue. I was upset. My fella said, “It’s not really a pattern until it’s three”. Sometimes his mechanical way of looking at things is very helpful.

Favourite telly programmes are hard to leave. Generally, they leave you. Manimal, Howard’s Way, Fame. I hankered for more of all of those. Or you drift apart, record them and never watch them and then one day realise you haven’t seen Emmerdale for four years.

But then someone is raped in Downton Abbey. A show you adore. Have always adored. A show that is the balm to the end of your rashy week. A sorbet between busy weeks. I cannot see the reasoning behind it. I clapped my hands when I saw that it was to be Nigel Harman’s first episode. I’d read he was a cad. We like cads on the telly. And downstairs, too, so attainable for the likes of me.

I sat down at 1am to catch up after a lovely gig in Leeds. Cuppa in hand and a bit of Downton before bed. Like lavender on your pillow. But then, like someone being raped in Bake Off, someone was raped in Downton. And with that, they lost this viewer for ever.

Knowing Julian Fellowes’ attention span (he’s para- lysed! He feels a twitch! He’s walking again! All in the space of an hour), he may well have forgotten what’s happened in the weeks to come. I hope the cad gets what he deserves. But I will not be there to watch it.

My bathtime dance with death

I watched Strictly in the bath the other day. Really builds up the tension when you know you’re seconds from killing your iPad for good.

The Sarah Millican Television Programme is on Tuesday BBC2 at 9:30pm


Sarah’s stand-up DVD, Thoroughly Modern Millican Live, is available at