Monday, January 19, 2015

PBS Sunday Night Reaction: "Great British Baking Show," "Downton Abbey," and "Grantchester"

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Lately on Sunday nights, I've had my butt parked on the couch, watching PBS. Last night, I watched three hours of PBS programming! 

I have to laugh at myself, because that is exactly what my grandmother, in her 80s, is also doing on Sunday nights, but I can't help it if PBS is playing some really delightful British programming! Also, the fact that they don't have commercials during their shows makes me much more likely to just turn it on at 8 p.m. and know I'll be solidly entertained for three hours.

So, let's take a little look at what was on last night: "The Great British Baking Show," "Downton Abbey," and "Grantchester."

(Mild spoilers ahead.)
The Great British Baking Show

Last night, when everyone else apparently was watching the Indianapolis Colts getting annihilated by the New England Patriots, something much more dramatic was brewing: Bingate! 

I had heard that there was a controversy on this show (called The Great British Bake-Off in the U.K. - I have no clue why they changed the title in the U.S.).

Anyway, their showshopper dessert was supposed to be Baked Alaska, and, of course, it was really hot out that day, and since the baking takes place in a tent that caused huge issues. Everybody's desserts were melting, causing a surprising amount of tension for a baking competition. And then, when it turned out that his ice cream was melted, Iain pitched it in the bin! (American translation: threw it in the trash!). 

Drama, I tell you!

I turned on "The Great British Baking Show" as kind of background noise the first week it was on because I like reality competitions like that and it was on before "Downton Abbey," and now I am totally hooked. I finally relented and put it on my DVR in case I decide to have a life on a Sunday night (unlikely) and miss turning it on at 8 p.m.

I really like the bakers, who have a great mix of backgrounds and stories; the hosts, who are, I think, genuinely rooting for the contestants; and the judges, who are critical but also supportive. And the baked goods all look so good! 

Downton Abbey

Then it was time for "Downton Abbey," which is so delightfully soapy so far this season. 

As usual, there were some storylines that weren't as exciting, like the continuing Bates drama, but the nice thing about "Downton Abbey" is that it almost always moves quickly enough from plotline to plotline that a few dull plotlines doesn't detract from the overall delight of the show.

I am enjoying Lady Mary's exploits quite a bit, because I kind of love Lady Mary. She's like the British aristocrat version of Scarlett O'Hara - spoiled and actually pretty horrible most of the time, but with an independent streak and a survival instinct that I have to love. Also, fabulous bitchface. She may be my favorite character, other than maybe the Dowager Countess, who is so fabulously cutting all the time. Also, she has a past with a Russian prince. Yay!

My favorite moment, though, was a swoony-worthy moment between Mary & Tom. I have been kind-of shipping them since pretty much the moment Matthew kicked the bucket, and the show really made that relationship seem truly plausible last night. 

I was like


I decided to stay tuned after "Downton Abbey" for the new Masterpiece Mystery! show, "Grantchester." It had been getting good reviews, and then I saw the main actor, James Norton, who plays Sidney Chambers, aka the world's hottest vicar.


He also solves crimes, bicycles around the British countryside, and, by the end of the episode, owns an adorable puppy. It's kind of perfect, really.

And "Grantchester" turned out to be good other than these elements, too! The mystery was satisfying, there's a romantic subplot, and the police officer Sidney's working with is wonderfully grumpy, plus they have a great rapport. I highly suggest catching up with the first episode this week and watching it next week. 

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