If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know how I feel about PBS and their unfortunate habit of slicing and dicing the programs it airs on Masterpiece. I am not so high maintenance that I refuse to watch things through YouTube on my computer screen. RealPlayer allows you to download these videos and, if you have the capability, you can then burn them to a DVD and watch them on your television if you choose. But if I have the choice between watching it on the laptop and waiting several months for a sliced-and-diced version (regardless of how beautiful it is), I’ll choose the laptop every single time.
But I digress.
My fellow North Americans, it’s official. The Powers That Be at PBS really do think we’re stupid. Check this out: Downton Abbey Downsized. The author of the piece is incorrect when he says that several hours will be cut, but he’s not wrong when he says that there will be cuts. After all, PBS has to allow time for Laura Linney to explain the plot to us poor, thick-headed losers, and then there are all the commercials that they claim aren’t really commercials and all of the promos for other PBS programs that will also likely be edited for us stoopid North Americans.
These Powers That Be (or some other Powers related to them) forced YouTube to pull the series, so any of you who did choose to wait until PBS aired it are stuck. The region 1 DVD is supposed to be intact (which, as I’ve mentioned before, is not always the case), but I beg you not to buy it from PBS directly. Amazon and Deep Discount are both offering it for $16.99. PBS has it for $29.99. Granted, buying it from Amazon or Deep Discount still means that PBS will get some of your money, but the good part is that they won’t get as much. And, if you have the means to buy and watch Region 2 discs, then PBS won’t get a penny from you. As for any Canadian readers, you can’t get around PBS by buying it from Amazon.ca or Chapters Indigo, because they also sell the Masterpiece edition. PBS is pernicious and appears to have control of the entire Region 1 (a.k.a. North American) market.
Several people of my acquaintance have written to PBS and have asked them to stop this practice. They refuse to do so and blame the BBC or ITV for the cuts. But we all know that they wouldn’t require that the Beeb or ITV make the cuts if PBS didn’t want them. So, I beg you: hit PBS where it hurts — in the pocketbook. Don’t watch the series when it airs. Figure out how to watch Region 2 discs and buy them from Amazon.co.uk or Proxis.be or WHSmith.co.uk or any other reputable purveyor of Region 2 DVDs. If you can’t afford to buy Region 2 discs all the time, then consider lowering your standards a bit and watching the programs on YouTube instead of waiting to see them in HD on your flat screen. It’s certainly better than letting PBS determine what you see.
Edited 1/3/11 at 1:40 p.m. EST:
According to the wonderful blog, Enchanted Serenity of Period Films, PBS’s airing of Downton Abbey isn’t going to be as chopped up as we feared. But this still does not mean that will get the same film that was shown in the UK. They claim that we will get some scenes that had originally been left on the cutting-room floor.
I particularly liked the comment posted by Lauren (of Austenprose):
I have seen both versions of Downton Abbey. I don’t understand why Eaton thought it necessary to soften the entail bits. I do have the advantage over some of knowing what an entail is from my Jane Austen reading, and do concede that it is one of the most puzzling aspects about the novel that readers query, but if Laura Linney is explaining it at the top of the episode, so much the better. Don’t understand why it needed to be cut out. It is pivotal to the whole story. How can it be cut and still make sense??? It will be interesting to see viewers reactions.
Unlike Enchanted Serenity, I do not think that this is a tempest in a teapot — I still believe that PBS has some ‘splainin’ to do about their editing practices. I still think they are angry that viewers are learning about these practices and I also think they are bewildered that we care. But the world is changing, whether or not they like it, and an ever-growing contingent of viewers has access to the original UK product. And many of those who do have this access find themselves watching less and less PBS programming. If PBS wants to compete for my eyeballs, they really need to get their act together and stop editing the programs.