The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

August 16, 2013

Class act? 'Downton Abbey' enters fray

LONDON — Forget “Mad Men” modernism. This season’s style is all about “Downton Abbey’’’s Edwardian opulence.

Millions around the world have been seduced by the strait-laced but stylish world of the British historical drama. Soon they’ll be able to take some of that style home, getting lips as soft as Lady Mary’s, wine inspired by Lord Grantham’s favorite tipple — and even walls as gray as Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen.

Since it premiered in 2010, the series about the family and servants of a grand English house in the 1910s and 1920s has become a television juggernaut, sold to 220 territories around the world.

The program’s makers have arguably been slow to exploit the commercial potential of that popularity through merchandising, selling little more than DVD sets, wall calendars and desk diaries. But that is about to change. Along with the fourth season starting on British TV next month, and on PBS in January, comes a range of merchandise that includes a board game, homewares, clothes, beauty products, and even “Downton” wine.

All in the best possible taste, of course.

“We haven’t rushed into it,” executive producer Gareth Neame told The Associated Press this week. “We don’t want to carpet bomb the retail sector.”

In keeping with the program’s posh-frothy image, the products being rolled out aim to be quirky rather than kitschy.

This fall, British retail chain Marks & Spencer will be selling a “Downton Abbey” beauty line, including soap, nail polish, lip gloss, lotion and scented candles. The items are whimsically packaged and adorned with quotations from the series, including the advice offered by Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham in the first episode: “No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”

“Downton” merchandising in the U.S. and Canada is handled by Knockout Licensing, which has struck deals for a jewelry range from Danbury Mint and “Downton”-themed Christmas ornaments from Kurt Adler — both going on sale later this year.

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