A quick survey of my friends' status updates on Facebook Sunday night confirmed what I'd suspected for weeks: 200% of them were watching something called Downton Abbey.
Season 2 just debuted on Masterpiece Classic on PBS, you see, and people responded with an enthusiasm usually reserved for when some members of the royal family embark upon another loveless cosmetic marriage.
No less a smart-ass than Patton Oswalt was live Tweeting the proceedings, which at first I took for him to be "taking the piss" (as I believe they say in Perfidious Albion), but it turns out he's a pretty big fan himself:
Reading those, two things come to mind. The first? I have no idea what any of that means. And second, they got to him, too.
Who's "they?" Take your pick: series creator/writer Julian Fellowes? Production company Carnival Films? Television network ITV? A nefarious cabal comprising all three? More importantly, what do they have in common? They're all British. And as we all know, the British hate America.
This has been percolating for almost 250 years, ever since Washington forced Cornwallis's surrender at Gettysburg or wherever. And at first they were probably all like, "Go ahead, take your stupid colonies. They're full of poison ivy and coyotes and fluoridated water. You'll be sorry." But now, having tired of shepherd's pie and inferior European-style "football," they want back in. And Downton Abbey is just one of their avenues to do so.
[Oh, and don't make the mistake of calling it "Downtown" Abbey, either. Even in jest. For your inbox will soon be overflowing with the haughty recriminations of righteously indignant PBS viewers (is there any other kind?). I like to imagine people correcting me in a posh, upper-class British accent. It really enhances the experience.]
What, exactly, is their plan? Remember that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where the Ktarians got everyone addicted to that holographic game so they could take control of the Enterprise (everyone except Wesley and his girlfriend Robin -- played by Ashley Judd -- who reactivated Data and ended the alien threat)? Of course you don't, because you're not a goddamn nerd like I am. But that episode was significant for two reasons. One, it marks the last time Wil Wheaton has ever spoken to Ashley Judd. And two, it provides a perfect template for what's currently going on with this Downton Abbey hysteria.
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It makes sense: the escalating fanaticism, the popularity among seemingly disparate groups of people, the strangely cathartic reaction to watching the show (go read more of Oswalt's Tweets). All signs point to a nefarious psy-warfare plot to take back the United States originating at the highest levels of the British government.
And that plot includes other popular Brit shows like Sherlock and Torchwood. Both of which have similarly enthusiastic -- some would say..."rabid" -- fanbases. All geared towards preparing the American people for the ascent of their British overlords and assimilation into the world of horrible pop music and EastEnders.
But I can be your Wesley Crusher, people. I can lead our country out of the darkness and shake off the virtual shackles of our Anglo-Saxon oppressors. Just find Ashley Judd and have her give me a call.