Living in a large country house in England in 1920 apparently is not much different than living in a large white house in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
A fiscal cliff seems to be around the corner for old Downton, where the best offering from a rich American from Newport is throw a buffet picnic for the aristocracy when the stove conks out.
Shirley MacLaine showed up as Mrs. Levinson, the ugly American whose motto is never to touch the capital.
Lord Cawley has lived beyond his means-and now the bills are coming due. It didn't help that his credit cards are maxed out-and his American wife's family won't save the family jewels, let alone the crown jewels.
The more things change, the more they seem to remain the same. If you want escape from financial ruin, you can no longer find it in the manor house at Downton. The bills have mounted like a congressional junket.
The servants are scrimping without pay raises, and the upstairs is beginning to look like the cast of Boardwalk Empire, the HBO gangster show of the same era. Even the old Countess (Maggie Smith) can't tell a waiter from her son without a drink.
The main difference between the Brideshead crowd and the Capone gang is that no one is offed with improper etiquette, though big bucks are still at stake.
Young Matthew Cawley refuses to save his wife's legacy with blood money. We foresee more trouble as she peeked at him on the morning of the nuptials, against all that aristocratic tradition.
Shirley MacLaine stormed through the opening episode like Sweet Charity and Irma La Douce on a bender. We will miss her guest appearances during the remainder of Season Three.