I was actually torn about writing about this little online brouhaha at all, given that I think it’s kind of incredibly silly and mostly pointless, but since I know that many of you are fans of everyone and everything involved in this, it seemed worthwhile. And also it’s just really bizarre, even if I am Team Benedict in almost every general circumstance.
So, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has been making the press rounds the past week or so, ostensibly to promote his new BBC Two period drama Parade’s End, which also happens to be an Edwardian World War I series that’s not incredibly unlike another massive costumed hit that airs on a competing network.
This has led to an unexpected bit of a mess all over the British papers, thanks to an interview Cumberbatch gave (believe it or not) to Reader’s Digest magazine, of all places. This, in turn, immediately followed another bit of a Cumberbatch kerfuffle over an interview quote in which the actor complained he felt overly typecast because of his presumed “posh” background. Oh, Benedict. Just taking it on the chin this month, dearie.
Anyway, in this Reader’s Digest interview – which honestly I cannot believe we are about to seriously discuss something scandalous happening in Reader’s Digest, what year is this – while discussing Parade’s End, Cumberbatch allegedly had some harsh words for the second series of mega-hit Downton Abbey. “We’re living in a culture now that’s revering, or having a nostalgia trip with, the beginning of the 1900s,” Cumberbatch is quoted as saying. “Although Downton traded a lot on the sentiment in the last series…but we won’t talk about that series because it was, in my opinion, f---g atrocious.” Cumberbatch then goes on to insist that Parade’s End is “more sophisticated” and “more unusual,” claiming that “you rarely see a piece about this class of people that’s this accurate, funny and pointed.”
Cue the internet firestorm. Obviously, Downton Abbey has a huge fanbase, and folks who love the show were pretty justifiably ticked off. I get that – it’s hard to see criticism about anything you love, particularly when it seems to come out of the blue like this and from someone who is probably involved with something else you love, too (Sherlock). And, somehow, things just got even weirder from there. Click through to see the Twitter wars, read my thoughts on the whole mess and watch Cumberbatch's response on BBC's The One Show.