Looking to tap into America's ceaseless hunger for British period dramas, HoustonPBS is launching an audience-driven talk show devoted to all things Downton Abbey — the massively popular series which kicks off its highly-anticipated third season this Sunday at 8 p.m.
Titled Manor of Speaking, the 30-minute live program will follow each new Downton episode this winter, offering everything from recaps and history lessons to discussions of English etiquette, cuisine and fashion.
While the idea of a TV show about a TV show may sound ridiculous for the uninitiated, a Downton rap session is long overdue for super fans like Ernie Manouse, who created Manor of Speaking last fall and will serve as the program's host for the next seven weeks.
"Things happen in each episode and you want to share your thoughts about the story and the characte rs. It's just that type of show."
"A few months back, I'd gone to Ireland to do a pledge special for PBS," Manouse explained in a recent CultureMap interview.
"I had my little digital media player with me there and watched all of seasons one and two straight through to get ready for the new episodes. Afterward though, it was frustrating when I realized I didn't have anyone to talk about it. Things happen in each episode and you want to share your thoughts about the story and the characters. It's just that type of show."
Manouse, who produces and hosts HoustonPBS's popular InnerVIEWS show, said he causally pitched the idea for a Downton talk show when he returned to his home studios at KUHT.
"Be careful what you wish for," he laughed. "Before I knew it, we were putting together a whole new production. It's exciting though to create this new experience for fans. The show will be a place where the viewers and audience members can have a chance to interact."
After starting with a brief overview of the most recent Downton episode, Manor of Speaking will use live Facebook and Twitter (#MOS) comments to help guide Manouse's in-depth character profiles and interviews with those involved in the series' production.
This week, the Lady Fiona Carnarvon — one of the owners of Highclere Castle, the stately South England home used for the setting of Downton Abbey — will join Manouse along with on-air panelists including former television personality Roseann Rogers, society caterer Jackson Hicks and Helen Mann, the former press official for the British Consulate General in Houston.
A Manor of Speaking airs Sunday at 10 p.m. on KUHT Ch. 8, immediately following the two-hour Downton premiere. Tickets to the live show and a full schedule are available through the HoustonPBS website.