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Image Credit: ITV/Brown Eyed Boy Limited

Ian McKellen auditions for 'Downton Abbey' on 'Vicious'

Season 1 | Episode 3 | Aired July 13, 2014 (PBS) 

Everyone needs advice from Freddie and Stuart in the third episode of Vicious. The couple’s best friend, Violet, is desperate to keep her Hungarian boyfriend, while upstairs neighbor Ash realizes he wants to pursue a new line of work. At once, Freddie decides Ash must be an actor, so Freddie can offer advice from his own mediocre acting career.

“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be an actor,” Ash marvels.

“So does Freddie,” Stuart chimes in.

But things are actually looking up for Freddie. He’s finally landed an audition for his favorite television show ever—Downton Abbey. Granted, it’s for the bit part of Cook Staff No. 4, but Freddie has already woven an elaborate backstory for the character, complete with conflicts, motives and hidden meanings behind his singular line, “I just wanted to put these potatoes away.”

This scene gives McKellen a splendid opportunity to play a bad actor, offering horrid advice to Ash. “When you have a very small part, your job as an actor is to make it bigger,” Freddie tutors Ash, as they flip through the Downton Abbey script.

In June, McKellen told EW.com’s Lanford Beard this was his favorite scene to film: “That’s a classic scene that kept making us laugh while we were doing it.”

ITV/Brown Eyed Boy Limited

ITV/Brown Eyed Boy Limited

But when Ash lands an acting gig in an independent film after just one audition, Freddie spirals into a jealous, self-loathing depression. He stops trading insults with Stuart, instead calling him “my love” and “honey bun.”

“He’s completely lost his confidence,” Stuart wails. “He’s become attentive and kind and loving. I can’t live like this!”

So, Violet and Stuart plot to convince Ash to give up his part in the film by making him feel fat, ugly and untalented. It works, but not before Ash gets fired from his movie because they wanted to go in a different direction. Ash leaves thoroughly depressed, putting Freddie in a delightful mood.


Stuart is the standout of this episode, setting up every joke for another character to spike it. Example: “Is your speech impediment part of your character?”

The episode wraps with Stuart cooing over Freddie’s breakout role on Downton Abbey, which takes about a second of screen time and features Freddie dropping a potato by accident. It’s a standard joke, but reliably funny, because it reminds us we’re all bad actors, with our patience and feigned excitement over our loved ones’ accomplishments, no matter how small.

Stuart and Freddie aren’t typical loved ones, though, and a few seconds later, they’re taunting each other again. Things are back to normal.

Derek Jacobi as Stuart and Ian McKellen as Freddie.

Derek Jacobi as Stuart and Ian McKellen as Freddie

How delicious was it to watch Freddie swooning over his close encounter on set with Dame Maggie Smith (McKellen’s longtime friend)?

Ian McKellen lands a wet one on Jimmy Fallon.

Ian McKellen, portraying Maggie Smith, plants a wet one on Jimmy Fallon.

“She told me she liked my jumper,” Freddie brags. “Most actors only dream of having Maggie Smith compliment their jumpers.”

Well, most actors only dream of being impersonated by McKellen on Saturday Night Live. Smith has that going for her.

Vicious airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on PBS.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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