As I nursed an upset tum last night, I turned to the comfort of mindless TV. In rapid succession, I fell into Gossip Girl, set in modern times on the upper East Side, and Downton Abbey, set in early 1900s England. After they were both over I realized how alike they were: chronicle rich families and dress them in exquisite costumes as they do everything the common folk do. But underscore that with a few common folk to balance the shows. I’m sure someone could mine a PhD thesis out of our fascination with the struggles of the super rich. If I were still academically inclined, I’d zero in on the propaganda value of the masses thinking that the rich are not much different from us as they suffer the slings of outrageous fortune (yes, Willy mined the class war very well).
Instead, what I would enjoy is combining Downton with Gossip Girl in one spectacular movie. Imagine the cast mixing it up and bringing havoc to one another. Blair Waldorf, meet Lady Mary. Steal her guy. Send the guys from Gossip Girl off to war and inflict a few non-societal wounds on them. You’ll wonder how the rich folk on Gossip Girl ever got by with just one maid. You’ll notice how they all really have big hearts, even though they are filthy rich. Not at all like Mitt Romney, who seemed happy to let 47% of his people die in sickness and poverty–as long as they did so quietly.
Remember the main message of TV period drama, whether set in New York or England: sit still, be quiet, and don’t change the channel.