Hamill’s Beat - We’ll miss the big house comedy on Sunday nights

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Typical! Just as we were starting to get the hang of ITV’s ‘Downton Abbey’, the latest series finished on Sunday night.

If you watch TV at all, it was hard to avoid Downton. Well, there isn’t much else to do on Sunday nights. Even if you tried to avoid it, probably someone in your house would be watching, so the toffs would be annoying you in the background. You might as well watch them.

It was such a lavish costume production I assumed it would be accomplished. It wasn’t. Call me a slow learner but it only gradually dawned that it was worth watching because its story lines were so ridiculous. It was ‘good’ because it was so bad. It was a soap-opera but with story lines too implausible for Coronation Street’ and that’s saying something. It was always good for a bit of mockery to fill a space in this column.

In the last couple of episodes it tipped into pure sit com. There was, for instance, the introduction of a completely cod Irishman. He was Tom Branson’s brother who turned up for his niece Sybil’s christening. (He’s actually Ruairi Conaghan from Magherafelt.) We might have been cross about the stage-Irishman if it weren’t just pure comedy. The christening was in a Catholic Church, much to the annoyance of the Earl of Grantham but then his grand family had to suffer the indignity of a photographer arranging them for a photograph with a Catholic priest looking over their shoulders. Now that was funny.

Later they appointed on-the-run IRA man Tom (the Earl’s son-in-law) to take charge of farming the estate. Tom was perfectly qualified because his grandfather had been “a sheep farmer in Ireland”.

The action even had the comic timing of a bedroom farce. For instance, one male servant planted a kiss on the lips of a sleeping male colleague just as another boy walked into the room. Naturally the particularly posh boss of the servants, Mr Carson had to sort out the repercussions from that one.

We’ll miss laughing at the antics of the toffs and their overly-familiar servants in the big house.