By Tom Gliatto
January 13, 2014 12:00 PM

Downton Abbey

PBS, Jan. 5, 9 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings) |


Season 4 of Downton Abbey, now advanced to 1922, returns to PBS’s Masterpiece deprived of some of its best characters: Lady Sybil, Cousin Matthew and even O’Brien, the duplicitous lady’s maid who always looked like the evil twin of Alice from The Brady Bunch. The show must carry on, and of course it does, but rather sluggishly. Although some deep, dark story lines develop, too much time is expended on Matthew’s now-unemployed valet Molesley (Kevin Doyle), a proud but charmlessly awkward man of less dramatic interest than one of Mrs. Patmore’s sauces. At least you worry whether the Crawleys will turn up their noses at a bad sauce. With cooingly lovely Sybil gone for good and her widowed sister Mary (Michelle Dockery) in a state of grief not much different from her usual air of aggrieved boredom, the upstairs narrative puts new focus on Edith (Laura Carmichael). I am sad to say she is the Molesley of the British aristocracy. Overall the acting from the ensemble remains strong enough to sweep you along from episode to episode. Perhaps the finale will make it all gel. Then, with any luck, season 5 will bring us to the Great Depression, and Lord Crawley will have to do something excitingly desperate, like polishing his own cuff links.

The Spoils of Babylon

IFC, Jan. 9, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


This parody of bad vintage miniseries is asinine – it’s supposed to be – and from time to time hilarious. Tobey Maguire and Kristen Wiig, unrelated but raised as siblings amid the trappings of wealth, are in love. Then he rashly brings home a British wife, played by a mannequin with the voice of Carey Mulligan. You also have Will Ferrell, padded out like Orson Welles and constantly drunk-Ron Burgundy as Falstaff. He’s terrific.