Downton Abbey series six: an open letter to creator Julian Fellowes

"It’s time Robert had a bit of saucy action with a passing strumpet", says Radio Times' TV editor Alison Graham

My dear Julian,


I’m sure you are terribly busy packing up the linen and tableware and closing the shutters at Downton Abbey (though we’re all looking forward to the Christmas special and George Clooney in the Text Santa fundraiser), but can I beckon you over, just for a few minutes? Because I’m going to be terribly presumptuous by making a few suggestions for series six. Hope you don’t mind!

Pep Up Lady Mary’s Love Life – Or Leave Her Alone

The magnificent widow Lady Mary might as well have been squired by a couple of fence posts in hats. What were their names again? You know, those two blokes engaged in a phoney war for her affections. It was the dullest triangle since Pythagoras called out to Mrs Pythagoras: “Wow, just look at this hypotenuse!”

We Need To Talk About Cora 

Perhaps an old mineshaft on the Downton estate that no one knew about could open up beneath Lady Cora’s dainty feet and she’d disappear forever. She’s a drip, she’s wetter than a blanket that’s been left out in the rain and then tossed in a rinse cycle. When Robert told her that Edith’s lover was dead Cora didn’t shift from her sofa, but in her most candyfloss voice simpered: “She must be so upset,” while fixing Robert with those injured-otter eyes. Really, you think so? She’s your daughter, comfort her, woman. Cora must go – it’s time Robert had a bit of saucy action with a passing strumpet. Speaking of which…

Oh, Robert

Well, he’s had a bit more to do this series than he did last, when all he did was enter the library to announce he was “catching the train to London” before vanishing in a big coat. For a start, he’s worn his uniform a few times (sexy!). He’s a handsome fella and he needs a bit of fun. Robert’s eye has roved in the past (a silly dalliance with a servant), it needs to wander again.

Give Us The News

Stop doing big stuff off camera. When Lady Edith’s editor came to Downton with Bad News (ie her dullard, disappeared ex-lover was dead) we didn’t catch a word. Robert had a manly chat in another room and reported back to the family, and us. Hang on, we want to hear, too!

Remember Your Place!  

I know Downton Abbey is terribly civilised and everyone is just simply marvellous friends, but can we catch a glimpse of what it was really like for masters and their servants? Give the upstairs/downstairs chumminess a break, let’s have a bit of “know your place, peasant”.

Pull Yourself Together, Lady Edith

She’s had a terrible time, setting fire to the Abbey in the first episode then moping about or barging in on that blameless farmer and his frosty wife with whom she came to that weird accommodation over hapless moppet Marigold. Edith’s returned to the “magazine” now so maybe she can at last have a bit of focus and get back to being a writer. Oh, and by the way, Edith, there’s more to being a magazine journalist than wearing a pinafore dress. Seriously, there is.

Murder Most Tedious

Either solve the murder of Lord Gillingham’s valet Mr Green, the swine who attacked Anna, or forget about it. We have, or we would have, if not for the weekly visits from that lumpen local sergeant and his questions. It’s boring. End it.

By Heck!

Downton Abbey is supposed to be in North Yorkshire so can we actually see a wee bit of North Yorkshire, please? A peek of York Minster, perhaps, a glance towards Ripon Cathedral.

Was That Wotshername?

Stop wasting guest stars on thudding plot-pushing parts. Richard E Grant, Sue Johnston, and particularly Anna Chancellor, who had a ludicrous role in episode one solely to manoeuvre the departure of footman Jimmy. Pointless.

Dear Daisy

The attempt to turn kitchenmaid Daisy into Vera Brittain was jaw-dropping. She read a couple of books and was suddenly discoursing on the shortcomings of Ramsay Macdonald’s Labour government. This is Daisy we’re talking about. Daisy.

Let’s Be Friends

A joy of this series has been the spiky, affectionate friendship between Isobel and Violet. Don’t split them up. Isobel must reject her stuffed-shirt suitor and Violet the attentions of that Russian bloke. (And what was all that about?) Was he supposed to be Count Vronsky to her Anna Karenina? Violet and Isobel must become the Mapp and Lucia of Downton!

Your faithful servant,