First of all, I’d like to preface the following with a general observation that at this point, I’m giving everybody the benefit of the doubt. (With some huge exceptions, of course.)
Yesterday, a young woman got stuck at the parking garage exit gate, was so flummoxed by the multiple-ticket, pay-over-there-before-you-get-in-your-car system that she climbed out of her car, hands flailing, and came up to the six of us waiting behind her to apologize for screwing things up so completely. “It doesn’t take coins,” she said. And asked us all to back up so she could escape this little hell.
We all backed up, in an automobile square dance that took longer than you might think. It was a tight fit. “Good luck!” “You got this!” we yelled as she inched by.
So how does this relate to The Gilded Age, that newfangled offering from Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey?
I guess I want to give the guy a break.
He’s had no end of abuse from people about this series, which follows the goings on of New York’s Upper East Side, circa 1882. I don’t actually disagree with critics who say the plot lines are thin and predictable, that some of the actors are not qualified to be on TV or anywhere, that the sets and costumes are really weird and look fake.
The fact is, I’m watching it every week, and I’m going to keep watching it. (Season 2 is coming!) Maybe it’s the times, but my bar for entertainment has arrived at the place where I’m OK with things that aren’t all that great. The Gilded Age repeats many of the themes of Downton Abbey—upstairs versus downstairs dynamics, the creep of new technology, the tight corset of social expectation—all of which are enduring things to think about. Not all the actors are terrible—some are legends of Broadway, having a swell time hamming it up. Maybe it’s when Nathan Lane showed up as the arbiter of the social register, Ward McAllister, with the most baroque Southern accent I’ve heard (and I’m Alabama born), that I thought OK, this is going to be fun, and that’s enough.
In the Before Times, I’d go deep dive into the back story of how The Gilded Age came to be, try to analyze how a misfire like this could happen. Hate-watching is something I’ve done with relish in the past. (Those seasons of The Bachelor are seared in my memory.) But now, I’m just: Julian! You made a really elaborate TV show, and I’ll watch it. Good luck! You got this! I can back up my car if you need me to!