North Americans may not be graced with new "Downton Abbey" on PBS until January 2013, but that doesn't squash the excitement of getting two clips from the upcoming season.
Earlier this year it was announced that Shirley MacLaine would be guesting on the British series as Martha Levinson, mother of Cora(Elizabeth McGovern). However, no announcements, photos, or bootlegged previews could possibly prepare fans for the impending face-off between MacLaine's character and the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), who are arguably aristocracy's "The Odd Couple."
Of course, the battle of mother-in-laws isn't unique to TV, but what trumps the series' existing drama is the battle of wits between two on-screen legends. Throughout seasons one and two, viewers were treated to the one-liners of the sharp-tongued Countess, whose comic relief was a much-needed reprieve from "Downtown's" romantic themes. But regardless of how fast-talking the Dowager may be, she may very well be overpowered by the stone-faced American.
So, who will emerge victorious? While "Downton Abbey" is no stranger to drama, the tension between Smith's and MacLaine's characters will undoubtedly trump even Lady Mary's quick temper. Finding a worthy opponent for the Dowager Countess couldn't have been easy, but considering Levinson is introduced through heated dinner discussion (and has been mentioned with disdain in previous episodes), audiences can prepare for some (not-so) serious tension.
Obviously, if it weren't Shirley MacLaine playing villain to Maggie Smith, Martha's effect wouldn't seem so pronounced. But it is Shirley MacLaine, who may not have been a pillar of Hogwart's School of Magic and Wizardry, but has honed a career so impressive that she was honoured with an American Film Institution award for lifetime achievement just this May. From the minute her impending arrival at "Downton" was announced, fans geared up for a lesson in empowerment, especially since the Dowager Countess not only schools opponents in one-liners regularly, but holds her own as the head of the family. A trait that's especially refreshing since her granddaughter Sybil is the only other character who seems to challenge conventional roles.
Well, until Martha Levinson arrives, that is.