Hastings claimed that when ITV series Downton Abbey is screened in America next week it is 'feared':
...viewers will be left baffled...the beautifully nuanced portrait of pre-First World War upper-class life could prove just a little too complex for the transatlantic audience...in the land of the notoriously short attention span.So the running time has been 'slashed' by two hours? Yet later in the article, Hastings says that Rebecca Eaton, an executive producer for the PBS network (which is broadcasting the series):
As a result, Downton, which ran for eight hours on ITV, has been slashed to six for the States.
insisted that any changes were minor and did not affect the quality of the programme.
A 'minor' change of cutting two hours? That doesn't sound right. And it isn't.
According to Jace Lacob, the TV Columnist of the Daily Beast, who was interviewed (and ignored) by Hastings:
To put it bluntly: it's simply not true.
While I would be incensed about the article to begin with--given that Hastings took up my time on vacation, interrupted me incessantly while I was answering his questions, refused to listen to me, clearly had an agenda of his own, and then had the temerity to quote my review without proper attribution--I'm most angry about the fact that I actually did the math for Hastings during the interview, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that there weren't two hours missing from the US broadcast of the series.
The only thing missing here are, in fact, the commercials themselves...
Let's take a closer look. PBS is airing Downton Abbey as four 90-minute episodes, bringing it to a run-time of roughly 6 hours. Removing the ad breaks, ITV's run of Downton Abbey ran for--wait for it--roughly six hours. (Two episodes ran as 60 minute installments, while five ran for 45 minutes excluding the commercials)...
The numbers that Hastings was using to make his case about widespread cuts failed to take into account the commercials, which don't air on PBS, even though he himself admits this in his piece.
Although there will be some minor edits (some to accommodate the change in the number of episodes), the missing two hours are, essentially, the ad breaks. It's not about the 'intricate plot' being removed to stop viewers being 'baffled'.
Also in the article, Hastings sneers:
PBS also believes its audiences will need an American to outline the key themes of the show. So before the first episode, actress Laura Linney will explain the inheritance principle.
In fact, Downton Abbey is being broadcast in PBS' Masterpiece strand which has been hosted by Amercians and Brits for forty years. Linney happens to present Masterpiece Classic, which is showing Downton. Lacob points out:
First, Masterpiece's hosts typically do explore the historical and social contexts for the series...Nothing new there as Linney is performing the same role that all of Masterpiece's hosts ably step into before each episode of a program.
Second, Linney might be American but her fellow hosts--among them, past and present, David Tennant, Alan Cumming, Matthew Goode, etc.--are not. So I'm not sure what to make of the "Americans need Americans to explain things to them" comment, which just comes across as ill-informed and mean-spirited.
Lacob also describes Hastings' article as 'messy' and 'wrong-headed' and said later it would be the 'last time I talk to a tab'. Given he told the truth about the running time and Hastings decided - for whatever reason - to ignore it, who can blame him?
(Hat-tip to Peter Bulkeley)