I’m An Unapologetic Downton Abbey Bootlegger

A diehard fan of the popular British period drama refuses to wait until next year to watch the show on PBS

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Carnival Film & Television Limited

Last Sunday, 9.5 million people in the UK watched the season four premiere of Downton Abbey. It was the show’s largest opening audience and accounted for a 39.7 share of the 9pm–to–10:30pm Sunday time slot, which Entertainment Weekly pointed out is, as a percentage, twice as large as the American audience that watches Sunday night football.

Us sorry schmucks in the grand old U.S. of A. will have to wait until January to catch up with the goings-on of the Crawley family on PBS.

If that statement just caused you to let out a forlorn but accepting sigh and offer a quick prayer for Lady Mary’s distant happiness, then you and I are very different people. Because there is absolutely no way that I’m waiting a whole four months — almost twice the length of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphrey’s marriage — to get my fix of Downton.

There are two distinct types of television watchers: those law-abiding types who politely wait for proper air times — and those who laugh in the face of (cruel!) international broadcast agreements, searching the internet for illegal streaming and torrent sites, willing to sacrifice HD quality visuals to be up to date (and avoid having spoiled those delicious curveballs that series creator Julian Fellowes is known for throwing).

Heck, The Rolling Stones have even been known for finishing rehearsals early to watch Downton Abbey. You know that if Mick were touring stateside, a roadie somewhere would be finding working links on any number of sites that are (all too) easily accessible.

Think piece after think piece has been written about the ethical implications of watching Downton early — and PBS’s rationale for the months-late airing of what has become its highest-rated drama of all time.

But to Salon’s question “Is it OK to steal Downton Abbey?” I — and to be honest, most of my scruples-free, tech-savvy, millennial friends — answer with a resounding, “Well, how else am I supposed to watch?”

I don’t think that the television broadcast is dead, but in a 2012 study, nearly one-third of millennials said that they didn’t think that they needed TVs. In July, RapidTVNews reported that 20 percent of Netflix users cancelled their TV service.

While that seems steep, it does shed light on the ethos of the binge-watching  generation of television viewers who consumed Orange is the New Black  in one weekend to get over a breakup (or hangover).

I, myself, even sustained a Breaking Bad-related injury after a particularly shocking moment during last week’s episode caused my legs to convulse, sending my laptop computer catapulting from my bent knees — I was laying down in bed — onto the bridge of my nose. It left a mark.

And though I’m willing to acknowledge the negative implications of watching Downton Abbey in this manner — which is to  say, illegally — all I can remember is a day during summer camp, reading the latest edition of Harry Potter by some idyllic lake or tree when some soulless  muggle whose parents pre-ordered the UK edition sinisterly skipped over to reveal a cataclysmic plot point.

Never again, I told myself.

Never again.


You were in summer camp when the harry potter books came out? You just made me feel old. And I'm only 30. But yes, I too, downloaded my Downtons. And then watched them again on PBS! And I support PBS monetarily, too, so it's not like I'm really stealing from them. I just can! not! wait!


For a show like Downton Abbey, which is free to watch on PBS over-the-air, I feel no guilt whatsoever. "Premium" shows on cable, that's a different story. However, in both cases networks really need to stop airing content at different times of the year in different markets. This old-school model doesn't fly with me in 2013. For people who know how, we aren't going to wait for 4 months while the UK is already buzzing about Downton Abbey!


Hey, lighten up, previous commenters.  Are you tone deaf?  This piece is not about the power of PBS as a monopoly (which it's not).  Written in an arch, somewhat over the top, very funny voice, it's about a generation whose constituents are accustomed to communicating with one another from anywhere, at anytime, in real time, and getting their entertainment on demand, with truncated commercials and no spoilers.  Spoiled?  Maybe.  But perhaps no more spoiled than their great-grandfathers and grandmothers who grew up expecting the light to turn on in the split-second it takes to flip a switch rather than having to run out back to grab the kerosene, or their letters to arrive from across the country in a couple of days rather than weeks or months later.  Just as napster, et al. forced the music industry to change how it distributes its product, PBS may have to adapt its practices as this new demographic of its audience ripens.


This could've been an article on how little influence watchers have over television, since PBS doesn't give a crap it's largest audience ever wants simultaneous broadcast with the UK. US viewers are held hostage by PBS, since it's not like we can watch somewhere else. Why does a network that isn't exactly competing in US television market treat it's viewers so poorly? Isn't this an example of the argument against monopoly? If American viewers could watch Downton Abbey on BBC America or TNT with no greater delay than, say, one episode from the UK broadcast, would anyone be watching it on PBS starting in January?

Instead it's an article by a spoiled,  unethical  millennial brat about being  such a spoiled brat, she's neither embarrassed nor ashamed of being a thief, or being so lazy she won't even quote articles she linked, which begs why she bothered linking them.


"I, myself, ...." And that's to differentiate you from "I, the dinosaur ..." or "I, the sofa leg ..."? Jesus christ. Maybe the self-absorption of this article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But it comes across as desperate. It's official: Time.com is now Huff Post Lite.