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by Alison Willmore
January 22, 2013 1:02 PM
4 Comments
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'Fox & Friends' Suggests 'Downton Abbey' 'Poses a Threat to the Left'

On conservative morning show "Fox & Friends" yesterday, British journalist and Fox News show host Stuart Varney claimed "Downton Abbey" "poses a threat to the left" because of its positive portrayal of the wealthy. "Rich people are prominently featured, they're generous, they're nice people -- they create jobs, for heaven's sake. They're classy, they've got style and we love them."

Varney claims that "the left says you've got to hate these people," which is your standard nuanced Fox News interpretation of liberalism, but that "Downton Abbey" challenges this by portraying the wealthy as lovable and invested in their community.

READ MORE: The Perverse Pleasures of 'Downton Abbey,' Where Progress Is The Enemy

Varney's not entirely off base in his read of the show -- Julian Fellowes is a Conservative member of the House of Lords, and his show offers, as we wrote yesterday, a deeply romanticized view of the way the upper and lower classes coexist in its titular estate, if one in which that stye of living is always in danger of slipping away. But Varney's claim that a depiction of the wealthy as anything other than evil is inconceivable to the left proved over-the-top enough that even his co-host Gretchen Carlson was moved to suggest that maybe the show's popularity owes more to the fact that "people are just sick and tired of stupidity on reality TV" and want to watch something smarter. Not addressed by Varney is the fact that those U.S. audiences are watching "Downton Abbey" courtesy of non-profit public broadcasting, or that shows about fabulous rich people make up a good chunk of current small screen programming. [via Mediaite]

4 Comments

  • Greg Ehrbar | January 22, 2013 4:04 PMReply

    The observation about TV's depiction of the wealthy is somewhat true, but perhaps not for political reasons. Most rich people on TV are outrageously decadent (reality shows), sneaky (Dallas/Dynasty), crazy/eccentric (The Beverly Hillibillies/Arrested Development) or shattered, bitter, lonely and "empty inside" (Rich Man, Poor Man, Mad Men).

    I've always theorized that it was to assure the average viewer to avoid too much accomplishment and success (as Peter Strauss' character did in "Rich Man"), which might entail long hours of study and effort -- and less TV watching -- and to stay where you are, in the comfy chair, buying the advertised products for short-term gains.

    My theory for the success of "Downton Abbey," besides being well written, well acted and very addictive -- as was its precursor "Upstairs Downstairs," is that everyone watching, in some way, identifies with the situation in modern terms. How different are the lord and lady of the manor than the top executives in your company, and how precarious is their existence as well? And within both the upper and lower echelon exist intrigues, connections and two-faced creeps like O'Brien and Thomas -- trust me, I've known a lot like them!

  • lillian mizrahi | January 22, 2013 3:43 PMReply

    Perhaps Mr. Varney should realize that "the left" does not preach hate and are safe
    enough in our identities to enjoy good programming no matter what it portrays...we are not
    quite as threatened as his friends on "the right" may be...and with good reason.

  • Joe | January 22, 2013 2:48 PMReply

    But what he forgets to mention is that it's nostalgia to a time when rich people were nice. Not like today's rich people. It's a bygone era. People liked watching the Sopranos. Did that mean they wanted to their businesses linked to mobsters?

  • No | January 22, 2013 1:17 PMReply

    This is a silly but good example of post-journalism: showcasing a non-issue or factoid. First, it is a basic dramatic consideration to make the leading characters "likable." If they weren't, I doubt that audiences would be interested in seeing a show of main characters being unrelentingly evil or crass (that's what cable and reality shows are for). That Varney is hyping it an anti-dote to liberal mischaracterizations of the rich underscores how utterly intellectually vacuous FOX is. However, as pointed out by the reviewer, the show is shown on that communist network: PBS.