Did Benedict Cumberbatch Seriously Take A Swipe At Fellow British Phenomenon Downton Abbey?

Benedict Cumberbatch Downton Abbey insult quote Parade's End

Here’s another reason to love Benedict Cumberbatch: In the upcoming BBC/HBO miniseries Parade’s End, he plays an overweight civil servant, but he didn’t ugly himself up just to get the accolades. It’s clear that it’s a passion project, and a wholly new character he’s excited to play while taking a break from shooting Sherlock. But if The Sun is to be believed, in promoting Parade’s End Benedict made a catty, veiled remark aimed at another revered miniseries, Downton Abbey. It doesn’t help that both series are about the lives of servants, and that they’ll be squaring off in the ratings. The Sun quotes Benedict as saying,

“You rarely see a piece about this class of people that is this accurate, funny and pointed, but also three-dimensional. We’re not serving purposes to make some clichéd comment about, ‘Oh, isn’t it awful the way there’s this upstairs-downstairs divide’. It’s a little bit more sophisticated.”

It certainly sounds like Benedict is unapologetically sniping at Downton, which has garnered quite the fanbase since coming to the States… much like him, actually. It doesn’t help that he seemingly ragged on the series once before, after it nabbed a Golden Globe for season 2. At the time, he defended his joke by saying that he’s close to creator Julian Fellowes, and it was all in good fun. But that just adds fuel to quotes like this.

Of course, you have to consider the source; someone who makes a “Cumber bitch” joke that’s not about Benedict’s devoted fanbase doesn’t seem too concerned with reporting accurate quotes. The much more legitimate publication The Telegraph just published a lengthy profile of Benedict and Parade’s End, and no such remark appears even as he talks in-depth about his character and why his wife (Rebecca Hall, his real-life friend since they were in grade school) wants him to fuck off. I’d much rather be leading with a quote like this:

“Fame is a weird one. You need to distance yourself from it. People see a value in you that you don’t see yourself. So when I’m told of my sex-symbol status and all that nonsense I find it laughable, silly. I mean, look. [gestures at his face] I’m 36 and I’ve been looking at this same old mush all my life.”

But alas, all we’re ever able to focus on is the potential for drama and catfights. So, I’m gonna give Benedict the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was either misquoted or wasn’t attacking Downton. And for all you Downton fans, here’s a brief peek at season 3:

Photo: BBC/HBO

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    • The Servant

      Parade’s End is not about “the servants”…

    • Danielle

      If he did say this I seriously hope he does not apologize. There’s no law that says he has to like that show.

    • mjdoyle

      Amazingly enough, a whole lot of people did not Think Downton Abbey was very good the second time around. They are entitled to discuss that issue, and so is Mr. Cumberbatch. Is there any reason why he CANNOT voice his opinion? Is there some reason why the media would even see this non-issue as something to publish? Come on people, be relevant, you must have something more newsworthy than this to talk about….

    • Guest

      Did you see the second series? It was awful and even the actors in it are known to belittle it. I’m glad Benedict Cumberbatch dissed it as thoroughly as he did. No, he wasn’t misquoted. Yes, he did attack Downton Abbey. Yes, it deserved the severe tongue-lashing he gave it. Yes, many people muttered the exact same thing in front of their television sets when it was shown in Europe. I know I did. This disease of lately where criticism is banned is ludicrous. How can you claim Benedict Cumberbatch insulted Downton Abbey when the makers of that show are guilty of insulting us, the viewers? Let me give you a couple of examples of how bad Downton 2 is. I wrote this earlier as comments on two websites:

      “He is being more than kind. Series 2 is utter garbage. There should be a penalty for destroying a good show with a badly written rush job.

      Everyone went on and on how they all hated the war as though it was 2012. Patriotism had its heyday back then and talk like that would have made you a traitor.

      But that is not all. Matthew’s instant disease and recovery?
      Lavinia’s strange and oh so rushed death?
      Mary’s odd coupling with a sleazoid newspaperman?

      The lord’s unbelievable groping of the dull as dishwater maid while his wife lay sick?
      Sybil’s marriage to the boring driver was simply cringe worthy in its “Oh, of course you can go marry a socialist, my pet! What could be wrong with that?” Again 2012.

      But worst of: all the overly obese soldiers. Eating most have been really good in the trenches to manufacture that many lovehandles. When ww1 soldiers have manbosoms and a gut in their uniforms I find it a little hard to imagine it is 1914. Couldn’t they
      have placed Matthew, Thomas and especially William on a strict diet a couple of months before shooting?

      Oh god, I forgot the William-Daisy torture! “But I didn’t love him!” Insert scream here.”

      “…(Atrocious) along with sentimental and clichéd sums up the scene where Mary
      sings for the wounded soldiers, and Matthew comes down the aisle towards her, also singing. I kept thinking: For the love of everything holy, make him stop singing.
      Alas, he didn’t.”