Letter from Simon Kelner: Here was I thinking we had all lost the 'Abbey' habit

 

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The Independent Online

It's been quite a week for Britain's entertainment industry.

First, Downton Abbey made an assured return to the screen and pulled in more than nine million viewers. (It's a commonly expressed thought these days that, with the proliferation of TV channels and the fracturing of traditional media, we as a nation rarely have a shared televisual experience outside of reality programmes. The return of Lord and Lady Grantham was as close as it gets to the time when we used to come into work in the morning and be able to discuss the thing we all watched the previous night.)

John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has opened to a deservedly enthusiastic reception from critics and the public alike. Produced by Working Title, and with a truckload of great British actors spanning the generations - from John Hurt to Benedict Cumberbatch, from the peerless Gary Oldman to Kathy Burke - it's a quite magnificent mood piece that keeps you attentive, even if you're not completely following every detail of the plot.

My first thought when I left the cinema was that I'd like to see it again almost immediately, if only to revel in the period details without having to worry about keeping up with the action. George Smiley's Citroën was the best use of a vintage car since Inspector Morse's Jag; I noticed on the credits that Sir Paul Smith had an acknowledgement, so he must have had something to do with the fabulous suits; then there were the cafés, the interiors, even the office furniture - the attention to detail was of award-winning quality.

And talking of awards, we also had Kate Winslet flying the flag (and taking the flak) for Britain at the Emmys. I think she's been very unfairly criticised for her acceptance speech. She's an actress, for heaven's sake! She knew she was odds-on to win for her marvellous performance in the title role of Mildred Pierce, so when she won she had to affect unexpected joy. (After all, that's what's expected.) OK, she may have hammed it up a touch, but nevertheless she remembered to thank all the key people and drew a message from the series in expressing gratitude to her mum.

She was a long way short of Gwynnie's lachrymose toe-curler at the Oscars, or Tom Hanks outing his gay teacher, or Halle Berry going completely over the top.

So lay off our Kate. And in any case, she'll always be a heroine to me for her hilarious self-parodic performance in Ricky Gervais's Extras. A movie star who takes the mickey out of herself ? How more British can you get?

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