Two cosy national treasures have come into brutal conflict, in a clash that will test the loyalties of anyone who enjoys posh people making witty remarks and being adorable. Brace yourselves, because – Stephen Fry does not care for Downton Abbey.
“The excellent balance of Upstairs Downstairs stands up very well against the ghastly snobbery and tacked-on noblesse oblige of that horrible Abbey programme,” the QI host writes in his new autobiography More Fool Me.
“I say this guiltily, having actor friends I like very much who play in it, and play excellently, but truth must out.”
We can only imagine the level of raised eyebrow the remarks would receive from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess – but Fry has shown before that he has no qualms about criticising popular TV.
In 2010 at the Bafta Annual Television Lecture, he tempted the wrath of Whovians as he decried the “infantilism” of TV and dismissed Doctor Who as a programme for kids.
He said: “The only drama the BBC will boast about are Merlin and Doctor Who, which are fine, but they’re children’s programmes. They’re not for adults.
“And they’re very good children’s programmes, don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderfully written… but they are not for adults.
“They are like a chicken nugget. Every now and again we all like it. Every now and again.”
Fry’s new autobiography also attracted headlines some weeks ago for a tell-all approach to his years of cocaine addiction, which included doing drugs in Buckingham Palace, BBC Television centre and the Houses of Parliament.
In More Fool Me, he writes: “I take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly, to the owners, managers or representatives of the noble and ignoble premises and to the hundreds of private homes, offices, car dashboards, tables, mantelpieces and available polished surfaces that could so easily have been added to this list of shame.”
“You may wish to have me struck off, banned, black balled or in any other way punished for past crimes; surely now is the time to reach for the phone, the police or the club secretary.”
Fry can probably feel safe from police prosecution – but it’s doubtful any roles as a frightfully urbane Crawley cousin are going to be heading his way now.
Stephen Fry presents QI on BBC1 tomorrow at 10:00pm