American fans of Downton Abbey may want to temper their expectations for the show's Stateside return in January. Though season four's second episode had strong ratings in the UK on Sunday night, it is taking a beating in the British press, with fans and critics deeming the new season a drag. (We'll try to make this as spoiler-free as possible.)
Downton has never quite lived up to the promise of its wonderful, soapy, yet also artful first season, but it seems the show is now hitting a new low. The Mirror has deemed the show "Downton Shabby," with Nicola Methven writing: "Downton Abbey fans have branded the new series a TV turn-off thanks to its 'boring' storylines. Many lambasted Julian Fellowes’ drama for its 'hammy acting,' and 'plotlines thinner than Mrs Patmore’s gruel.'" Methven points out fans' complaints about anachronistic, repetitive, and simply illogical story lines. Things like Bates repaying a loan that would be an unreasonable amount of money in 1922, and Matthew Crawley not having left a proper will following his untimely death at the end of the previous season.
But that's nothing compared to the beating the show took at the hands of Katy Rink in The Guardian. "Series bore (sorry, Freudian slip), I mean four, is a mouldering old cow pat - fresh last summer - now cooled and crusted over, with just the faintest hint of the rich content that packed such a punch on delivery," Rink wrote. "It is iPad TV at best - the kind you have chirping away in the background to stave off the ghosts and home invaders, when you're on your own in the house browsing." Viv Groskop at The Guardian was slightly more optimistic. "Not a bad episode. Nothing disastrously cringeworthy happened. Low on anachronistic dialogue for once. (With the notable exception of someone going "back in my box".) But, heavens, was it boring," she wrote. "Where are the laughs? Where is the drama? You could feel Uncle Julian and his team of mouse scriptwriters resorting to desperate measures to make it seem like anything was going on."
There's still a long way to go before the season's over—Paul Giamatti still hasn't shown up!—but at the moment the once-lauded series seems to be continuing its downward spiral.