While Downton Abbey is on hiatus until the third season begins on PBS this fall, bereft fans of the series will need something to sustain them Sunday nights during the interim, so I have taken the liberty of devising my own miniseries from the outtakes of Upstairs/Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, and Downton Abbey:
Lady Brideshead: Dear me, I rang seconds ago for the footman to move this foot stool to the other end of the drawing room? Whatever can be keeping him?
Lord Brideshead: Come now, my dear, we mustn’t be too harsh with the staff. It is World War I, you know, not to mention this nasty Spanish Influenza business. Perhaps you could move it yourself. Good footmen are terribly hard to find these days.
Lady Brideshead: I recognize that, Charles, but Wilson has been highly unreliable of late.
Lord Brideshead: I suspect he may be dallying in the pantry with the new undergarment maid, Betsy.
Lady Brideshead: My word, I wasn’t aware we had hired a new undergarment maid. Why wasn’t I told?
Lord Brideshead: You were busy discussing next week’s menu with Mrs. Ramekin about what to serve when the king comes to dine on Thursday.
Julia (their eldest and least attractive daughter): Oh, no — not the king again. He can be such a dreadful bore.
Lord Brideshead: Yes, and he’s become quite a freeloader since the coronation, but all in all he’s a decent enough chap.
Margaret (their conniving middle daughter): Is the Duke of Mannerly coming to call today? I was thinking of marrying him.
Lady Brideshead: I’m afraid he’s already engaged to Julia.
Julia: No, no, mother, I keep telling you — I’m engaged to Sir Basil Goodbody.
Margaret: Oh, then perhaps I shall marry the Duke, assuming he has a large enough endowment to keep me from being cast out into the streets.
Julia (titters): I assure you, he is quite well endowed!
Lady Brideshead: I am so sorry, my dear, for forgetting your engagement to Sir Basil. Is he that dark haired fellow with the smirk or the slender blond chap with the lisp?
Margaret: Oh, mother, you’ve simply become impossible!
Lady Brideshead: You must forgive me — I have so much on my mind, what with the upstairs maid falling out the window…and before I was fully dressed, too. That girl always did have such cheek! We really must arrange for her funeral soon.
Lord Brideshead: I supposed this means we had best engage a new upstairs maid to serve you breakfast in bed.
Lady Brideshead: Yes, I do so detest having to take my breakfast downstairs. I’m just exhausted afterward. Dear, will you be riding to hounds this afternoon?
Lord Brideshead: I suppose so. First, though, I must have a word with Chauncey about forgetting to lay out my cravat yesterday. He seems to be getting awfully forgetful.
Julia: But papa, he is 104.
Lord Brideshead: So he is, so he is. The old boy’s been here so long I tend to forget.
Lady Brideshead: That’s no excuse for neglecting his household duties. Perhaps we should engage a younger man if Chauncey is unable to carry out his assigned tasks.
(Door opens; Manfred the butler enters): Will there be four for luncheon today, m’lady?
Lady Brideshead: I shan’t be dining in town, Manfred, but Lord Brideshead will be foxhunting so kindly ask Mrs. Ramekin to pack a basket for the master — perhaps quail and cucumber sandwiches. It will only be myself, Julia and Margaret today.
Lord Brideshead: And Manfred, if you could tell Mrs. Ramekin to heat the boiled quail this time.
Manfred: Of course, m’lord. Will that be all?
Lady Brideshead: Quite so (he leaves). Margaret, you seem to be weeks behind on your knitting. Have you been consorting again with the chauffeur?
Margaret: Oh, mama — please! Dawson is a dear friend.
Julia (sniffs): Oh, is that what you call him! I saw you two headed for the caretaker’s shed.
Margaret (hesitantly): Well, then, it’s probably time I told you all. I am pregnant.
Lord Brideshead: I suspected as much. I’m not a bit surprised. You’ll be disinherited, of course, and banished from the house at once. Please get your things and go!
Julia: Ooh, goody! Then I shall inherit Margaret’s share of the family fortune.
Lord Brideshead: I’m afraid there is no more fortune. I was at my club yesterday and learned from our solicitor, Sir Humphrey, that our estate is bankrupt.
Julia: But I was counting on marrying the Earl of Marmalade. I do so adore Earls!
Lady Brideshead: He’s two notches beneath our social class, my child. If you marry him, the Brideshead name shall be tarnished forever and the scandal would ruin us.
Lord Brideshead: I fear we’re ruined already, my dear.
Margaret: It serves you both right. You’re all an insufferable lot of snobs!
Lord Brideshead: I had better tell Manfred that there will only be three for lunch now that Margaret has been banished from the Brideshead manor.
Margaret: You mean I can’t even stay for lunch and bid farewell to the downstairs staff that raised me from an infant? (stamps her foot) How frightfully beastly!
Lord Brideshead: I’m afraid not, my dear. You must leave at once, and you too Julia.
Julia (weeping): Maybe I acted too hastily, papa. I’ll renounce the Earl of Marmalade and cancel my engagement if only I can stay for lunch.
Lady Brideshead: Very well, child. Do as you please. This is all so tiresome.
Margaret: After thinking it over, I’ve decided that I won’t have the baby, after all, but I will have lunch. I’m dreadfully sorry to have caused such confusion.
Lord Brideshead: So that will now be two or three for lunch? Oh, dear, I fear Mrs. Ramekin will be beside herself. This means she will have to reset the table.
Lady Brideshead: I’m really quite exhausted by all of these changes of plans before lunch. Kindly make up your mind, girls. The future of the Brideshead name may depend upon it! (theme music swells and scene fades).
(Laura Linney: Next week on Upstairs/Downton Revisited: Lord Brideshead: “Good God, Manfred — my cufflinks are nowhere to be found and the king is due here for dinner in 15 minutes!”…”I’ve looked everywhere, m’lord. I fear they’ve gone missing!”)