This post contains spoilers for season 6 of Downton Abbey.
Beloved British period drama Downton Abbey is in the midst of its sixth and final season. While many fans may be reaching for kerchiefs to dab their welling eyes, Shannon Bowen, Therese Shechter, and Brandi Sperry—the ladies behind the long-running Downtown Gabby podcast—are savoring every moment.
And unlike the buttoned-up characters they so adore, these women aren’t afraid to say their piece.
“I think we have an audience that wants to hear the funny, foul-mouthed female perspective on media,” Bowen told the Daily Dot.
“We had a gentleman reach out to us on social media and ask us to tone down the salty language, and we said, ‘Fuck him,’” added Shechter.
Indeed, the ladies haven't shied away from foul language or crude descriptions. But all of this is done with purpose.
In episode 42 of the podcast, "Let's Get It On," Shechter describes the opening scenes of the season 6 premiere: "So, Mary's got a giant horse between her legs, setting the scene for this latest round of attempted slut-shaming." Later, when describing Mary's response to a blackmailer, Shechter quips, "Mary's like, 'Bitch, please, I've been blackmailed before.'"
Much like demure ladies of another era, the trio met through a series of written exchanges. But in lieu of the post or carrier pigeon, they traded their 140-character pleasantries on Twitter.
“We met because of the Anna and Bates storyline,” Shechter said. She laughed recalling the melodrama of the plot. “One goes to jail and then the other goes to jail and one is framed for murder and then the other is framed for murder. And now, if they have a baby, we think the baby will be framed for murder.”
Despite being separated by many miles—with residences in Brooklyn, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles—the three delighted in one another’s wit. Soon after meeting, they realized they had more than 140-character musings to share. “We were like, ‘Let’s take this offline and put it on the air,’” said Bowen.
The resulting podcast is a playful yet thoughtful approach to one of television’s most beloved series. Whether the women are speculating about why publishing careers feature so prominently in rom-com storylines, rooting for Edith to finally have a smile on her face in every scene, or lingering over the surprising sultriness of old-timey wedding vows, you can tell these co-hosts have a deep affection for all things Downton.
“Downton Abbey is such a sweet spot of a show [because] there are all these great topics to talk about, but it’s also quite silly,” said Bowen.
“It has a soap opera structure and it follows a lot of melodrama, and we have fun with that,” added Sperry.
The women poke fun at the soap opera-esque dips and dives of the show, but they also use it as a lens for examining feminist issues, both past and present.
“It’s not just about the way that women are portrayed on the show, but the ways that women are talked about in the media,” said Sperry. “There are a lot of shows where things are taken as much more relevant because [those shows are] about men.”
“Shows like Downton Abbey get dismissed as fluff or stuff for girls, but there are some very real issues here,” said Shechter.
“[For example], Edith has inherited a magazine and she is the boss of a male editor who disrespects her and we’re watching her [and] we’re just like, ‘Oh, fire his ass already,’ but also, ‘Sorry, Edith, it’s not that different today.’”
When, in episode 3 of season 6, Edith finally dismisses her insubordinate editor, the women rejoiced. They also appreciated the subtle choices in how the long-awaited moment was portrayed.
Said Bowen, "She was channeling some major Peggy Olson vibes."
Sperry added, "I loved that [Edith's] secretary looked so smug and happy when she fired the editor. It was like, wow, girl power all around. You're being a role model and you don't even know it."
Shechter agreed. "That was a really nice touch actually that she's sitting at her desk listening and just sort of smiling... I hate when women fight with each other for absolutely no reason," she said. "So that was great."
As for the final episodes of Downton Abbey, the women are bracing themselves for the end.
“We did this experiment called Downton Gabby Off Season," said Shechter. "We would talk about the media we were watching while waiting for the next season, and we’ve been getting a lot of clamor for us to continue that once Downton Abbey ends."
“We’re sad," Shechter added. "We’re very sad."
“I’m still waiting for them to announce a time jump into the '40s and Downton Abbey 2: WWII, because I would totally watch that,” said Sperry.
"We know there won't be any surprises, but we can dream," said Shechter.
"I also just want Thomas to board a steamer ship for America where he can have a cowboy boyfriend and just be happy, finally," said Sperry.
Now that's a happily ever after we can all root for.
Downton Gabby is available on iTunes.
Photo via Bas Sijpkes/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)