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    TV chat: ‘Downton Abbey’ is a soap, a good soap

    Siobhan Finneran stars as Miss O’Brien in Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey.”
    Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE
    Siobhan Finneran stars as Miss O’Brien in Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey.”

    Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert chatted with readers Thursday on Here are excerpts.

    Q. Thoughts on “Downton Abbey” season 3?

    A. I like it. Look, it IS a soap opera. That’s what I like about it! It’s a pretty, nicely written, well-acted soap opera. I’m tired of hearing people complain about how it’s a soap opera now. I think the plotting of season 3 is better than season 2, in that there are no wheelchairs.

    Q. I love Thomas and O’Brien against each other on “Downton.”


    A. O’Brien! I think her face and expressions are so campy. Check out the actress’s IMDB site. She looks a LOT better in real life. Thomas’s plot gets very interesting and moving this season, by the way. I was glad to see that.

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    Q. I’m not really enjoying the Bates story line. He’s so negative when Anna has ideas to help him.

    A. Poor Bates. I wish his wife had been around longer. She was a great villain. I love that actress, Maria Doyle Kennedy. She was also excellent as Catherine of Aragon on “The Tudors.” She had a season on “Dexter,” as his nanny, but the writers hardly used her. It was criminal. It was a perfect opportunity to pull a character from the background.

    Q. Speaking of “Dexter,” are they going to go there with Dexter and Deb??

    A. Oh my. I just crossed myself, and I’m a Jew.


    Q. I love “Happy Endings,” but what the heck is with “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23”? It is not funny. Did Whitney Cummings create that show as well?

    A. Ha! Whitney! I partly agree with you about “Don’t Trust the B.” I do think the James Van Der Beek stuff can be funny. I wish the show were only about him and Krysten Ritter. “Happy Endings,” on the other hand, is ON these days. The ensemble has a real spark. I loved the way the writers made Jane’s ex a woman. Too bad so much of that episode had her husband drooling over the lesbian thing. It’s as old as the idea of giving Jane a female ex is fresh.

    Q. Do you like “Deception”?

    A. Pressing dislike button. I think it’s lame. The set up is ridiculous, and the characters have no charm. That’s where “Revenge” succeeded in its first season — the characters were fun to watch.

    Q. How dumb is “1600 Penn”?


    A. I’ve seen three episodes, and I was surprised that it got better as they progressed. I’m keeping an eye on it. NBC sitcoms often morph and improve in their first season – “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Community” are great examples.

    Q. Thoughts on “Elementary”? Some episodes are better than others, but I’m liking it.

    A. Yes, I mostly agree with you. It’s not bad. But I do find Lucy Liu underwhelming and hard to buy; and Jonny Lee Miller’s overacting gets on my nerves in a way that Benedict Cumberbatch’s overacting on PBS’s “Sherlock” doesn’t. I put “Elementary” in the same category as “Castle” and “The Mentalist.” Not a bad way to kill an hour, but not must-see either.

    Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.