Imagine volunteers at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network sifting through archives and storerooms in search of marketable paraphernalia as they prepare for an upcoming fundraiser. Among the treasures they unearth is a remarkable and hitherto unseen proposal for a television series dealing with the challenges of life in rural Maine. …
The proposed series is known internally as “Downeast Abbey” and never got beyond the discussion stage. Now, however, the MPBN board believes that both the script and concept may be of considerable value, given the stunning popularity of the high-brow BBC soap opera bearing the uncannily similar name, “Downton Abbey.”
While some members of the MPBN board are recommending legal action against the BBC to enjoin production of further episodes, others see opportunity. There are unconfirmed reports that MPBN Evergreen Friends – as well as those who donate their vehicles to MPBN – will be invited to audition for leading roles in a long-awaited television production of “Downeast Abbey” that would air this fall.
Aspiring thespians may find the following excerpt from the pilot episode helpful in preparing for their auditions:
[Scene: Exterior of a secluded luxury cottage in Downeast Maine, somewhere between Tunk Lake and T8 R3. The camera pans up an immaculate gravel driveway to reveal two Lexus SUVs parked in front of a three-car garage. A young man exits one of the SUVs and, bearing several bags of groceries, approaches a side entrance to the home. He is greeted by Mr. Clossey, a dignified man wearing a flannel shirt and sporting a faded Red Sox cap.]
Clossey (in a thick Maine accent): Didja get the lobstahs and groceries and imported beeah like I toldja, Duane?
Duane: Ayuh, but I couldn’t find any gluten-free fettuccine at the Irving. So I picked up some Spaghetti-O’s instead. When’s Doc Grantham due?
Clossey: Float plane should be landing sometime this afternoon, just before suppah. You’d best get those groceries to Mrs. Darling before she has a fit. She’s some nervous every year when the family arrives.
Duane: Oh, she’ll be fine. (He takes in the view). House looks nice. Got the dock all set up, I see.
Clossey: First thing I do, come ice-out. Doc Grantham likes his fishin.’
Duane: Well, I hope they’re bitin’ this summer. Plenty of flies about, that’s for sure. I laid in a supply of unscented Off! in the non-aerosol can for Mrs. Grantham.
Clossey: Good boy. Now let’s go set up the bah in the dooryahd. Be cocktail time before you know it. (They exit.)
[Action resumes in a tastefully appointed great room with vintage fishing tackle mounted on the walls, and cheery, overstuffed Maine Cottage Furniture adorning the space. A white-haired gentleman wearing L.L. Bean khakis, an Orvis fisherman’s vest and Sebago Docksiders swirls the ice in his cocktail glass.]
Grantham: Clossey, it is so good to be back. How’s Mrs. Clossey?
Clossey: Doin’ fine, Doc. Doin’ fine. Now, will you be wantin’ to take the skiff out tomorrow morning? I can have Duane stock the coolah. Gonna be a hot one.
Grantham: How well you know me, Clossey. I do intend to be out on the water first thing, right after Mrs. Grantham and I complete our Pilates routines.
[The doorbell rings. Clossey and Dr. Grantham exchange a look.]
Grantham: Now who could that be? We’re not hosting anyone this evening, are we, Clossey?
Clossey: Damned if I know, Doc. Let me go see. (He walks off stage. Voices are heard in the wings. Clossey returns.)
Clossey: Doc, it’s a Mister Vigue to see you. Here’s his business cahd. (He hands it to Grantham.)
Grantham: Hmm. V-i-g-u-e. That’s pronounced, “Veeg,” Clossey, in the French manner.
Clossey: Doc, around here it’s pronounced, “Vig-yoo,” in the Maine manner. I’ll go fetch him.
Vigue (entering the room and extending a hand): Doctor Grantham, I’m Pete Vigue. Good to meet you. I understand you’re the owner of this home.
Grantham: I am, sir. And may I ask to what I owe the pleasure of this visit?
Vigue: Well, it concerns a limited-access highway that I would like to see built across Maine, from New Brunswick on the east to Quebec on the west.
Grantham: Good Lord, man, have you taken leave of your senses? A highway across Maine? Do you know what that would do to my property values?
Vigue: I’m more concerned with Maine people who need to earn a living year-round than I am with rusticators like you, Grantham.
Grantham: Clossey, show this man out!
Vigue: Oh, I’ll be back, Doctor. I’ll be back.
[Camera fades to black.]
MPBN officials won’t say if or when filming will begin, but they stress that funding for future episodes of “Downeast Abbey” depends upon viewers like you. Consult your local listings for details.
Perry B. Newman is a South Portland resident and president of Atlantica Group, an international business consulting firm based in Portland, with clients in North America, Israel and Europe. He is also chairman of the Maine District Export Council. His website is perrybnewman.com/.