I feel a little like Louis XVI who infamously wrote “rien” (nothing) in his diary on 14 July 1789 (because the poor man hadn’t been informed of the attack on the Bastille yet – in this instance, at least, it was not a sign of lacking political acumen). You hear a lot these days about 2016 being a disastrous year. And it’s true, there were a couple of events in 2016 which I’d wished would have had a different outcome. But I can’t help feeling that there’s little use whining about it. It certainly makes no sense to say that “2016 can’t be over soon enough”. It’s in 2017 that we will face the consequences of decisions made in 2016, and then we will learn if we were right to moan about them in the first place. It must be very irritating for those who think that by and large people got it right in 2016 to hear all the “as we all know, 2016 was a ghastly year” comments, as if there were an unshakeable consensus about this. Let’s just see what happens. To quote Spamalot, we’re not dead yet.
What further complicates matters is that for me personally, 2016 was actually not such a bad year. Things got less hectic and more enjoyable at work. I acquired a new villain crush which, though a tad embarrassing considering said villain’s origin as a vicious fairy-tale gnome (at least he’s straight, which makes a nice change – and not a gnome, though still pretty vicious), helped me face the first Downton-free year since the series ended with equanimity. There was room for moral-uplifting travelling combined with binge book-buying. My gloomy thoughts about an end of the costume-drama boom seemed to be put to shame with the appearance of The Crown. Maybe the history in this series is a bit too recent for it to really qualify as a costume drama, but it feels like one and shows that there is still a market for TV series based on family spats in a period setting. At the beginning of the year, I had a lovely time with the marvellous though sadly Carker-free Dickensian. Book-wise, the year was a little more meagre: I didn’t discover some new favourite in my preferred genre of middle-brow historical fiction. Dictator, the final volume of Robert Harris’s Cicero trilogy, was great though.
On this shallow, cultural consumption level, the auspices for 2017 look more or less promising. This year at least, there’s bound to be a new Jasper Fforde novel – plus there will be more Doctor Who and Sherlock after an age of waiting. Apparently, a drama set in a London luxury hotel during WWII which sounds satisfyingly Downton-inspired is in the offing (it also sounds a bit clichéd, but at least someone is trying). There’ll be a new series of Victoria – I’ve finally watched the first four episodes of series one, and thoroughly enjoyed them, not least thanks to Rufus Sewell’s far-too-atttractive-for-historical-accuracy Melbourne. Harris’s new thriller Conclave about the election of a pope seems interesting: maybe there’ll be a worthwhile Cardinal villain in it. And who knows, maybe Julian Fellowes will finally get underway with his new period drama series The Gilded Age (I’ve all but given up waiting for a Downton movie).
With Louis XVI-like obliviousness, I’m resolved to be optimistic. Everything may yet turn out better than we feared in 2017. I may not have to fill out an ESTA form in order to enter the UK in future. Perhaps that sanctimonious cow Belle will even see sense in season 6 of Once Upon a Time and give her loving (if villainous) husband another chance – though that seems like the longest shot of all.