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‘Downton Abbey’: Case study as to why the Emmy trumps the Oscar

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

With its Screen Actors Guild win for ensemble cast Sunday, “The King’s Speech” marched farther down the path to Oscar glory, or at least very close to it. And yet, on the very same night, there was evidence that this potential Oscar winner wasn’t even the best entertainment offering to come out of the U.K. this past year.

That’s because Sunday also marked PBS’ broadcast of the final installment of the first season of “Downton Abbey,” a project befitting the pubcaster’s Masterpiece moniker in its mesmerizing whirlwind of romance, drama and social commentary. (The final scenes are posted above.) Nothing against “Speech,” which for all its so-called made-for-Oscar qualities was my favorite film of 2010, but “Downton” made its story seem utterly small. (Note that you can still catch ‘Downton’ online at PBS through Feb. 22.)

Obviously, “Downton” benefited from having in the neighborhood of six hours to tell its stories — not to mention a second edition that is scheduled to begin production in March. Nonetheless, if you can make a convincing argument that the best in cinema is topped by the best of the smallscreen (putting aside the fact that other TV projects might be considered superior to ‘Downton’), can you not make yet another argument that the Emmy is due for recognition as the ultimate screen honor?

As Maggie Smith’s Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham would say in a fit of pique, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

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