The current series of Downton Abbey finally roped and hogtied me this week so I sat down (reclined, actually) to wallow in the sudsy splendor of all four episodes broadcast on PBS to date. Kinda fun.
The problem had been seeing Christmas Special, which concludes this series, first --- so I know how it's going to end. Yes, William's going to die. No, evil footman Thomas and shrewish maid Sarah are not going to get their comeuppances. Will Matthew and Lady Mary find happiness? Wait and see (or do a little online research; there are plenty of spoilers out there).
The star of the show is Highclere Castle, the grand "Jacobethan" seat of the Earls Carnarvon. The place photographs beautifully, when masquerading as the Abbey, but as it turns out there's a good deal of keeping up appearances involved here, kind of a soap operaish subtext.
In reality, the current earl and his family live in another house on the estate and struggle to keep the castle from falling down. Large parts of it, out of public view, are uninhabitable.
You can read more about that aspect of things in this Two Nerdy History Girls blog post or in this lavishly illustrated 2009 article from The Mail. Appearances can be deceiving, as it turns out.
Iowa Public Radio is midway now through a week-long series entitled Being Gay in Iowa which, like the dog that talked, is more remarkable because of the act than for the content. Actually, that's a little unfair to IPR, which does a more consistent job of covering gay-related issues that its televised counterpart, Iowa Public Television (where Lawrence Welk is still alive and well; this week's episode will feature the Lennon sisters boating down a Venetian canal singing "Sana Lucia" and Joe Feeney singing, "O Sole Mio.").
Monday's episode, Marriage, broke little fresh ground; nor did Tuesday's episode, Religion. Wednesday's installment, Coming Out, was better --- no need on this one to haul out in the interests of "balance" the evangelical Christians and Roman bishops to reprise "love the sinner (in a twisted kind of way) but hate the sin." Today's episode will be "Bullying" and Friday's, "Children."
Broadcast times are 5:50 a.m., 7:50 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on, in central Iowa, 640 WOI-AM and 101.7 KUNI-FM. You can also listen via streaming content or by looking later under the "newsroom" tab at the Iowa Public Radio Web site.
So far, in two out of three, the series has been as much about being heterosexual and hostile in Iowa as it has been about being gay. We'll have to wait to see what the final score will be.
On a more positive note, the Washington state Senate approved a marriage equality bill 28-21 last evening with crucial support from four Republican senators. The bill is likely to pass in the House within a few days and will go to Gov. Chris Gregoire for signature (she introduced the bill). When that happens, Washington will join Iowa, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia on the equality side of the equation.
Opponents are expected to launch a drive upon signature of the bill to put a measure rescinding it on the state's November ballot. If enough signatures are obtained, same-sex couples could not marry until after that election. Otherwise, marriages could begin during June.