Does it Really Matter if Our Entertainment Occasionally Fakes it?

20/12/2011 23:22 GMT | Updated 19/02/2012 10:12 GMT

The Downton Abbey special, to be screened on Christmas Day, has already come under fire for its misrepresentation of 20s fashions. Former editor of the Shooting Times, Tony Jackson has publicly berated the episode in the Daily Telegraph over a promotional still which shows a shooting party wearing leather gaiters. Disgusting, right?

To jog your memories, shooters around 1920 would, according to Jackson, have worn 'plus fours, stockings, leather boots and, possibly, light coloured spats'. They would not have worn leather gaiters.

Personally, I couldn't care less. I'll tune in for the will-they-won't-they relationship between Matthew and Lady Mary, the Dowager Countess's pithy putdowns and the perpetual car-crash that is Bates' and Anna's marriage. If, as in the past, the odd historically incongruent double yellow line or TV aerial is glimpsed in the background, I will ignore it and carry on.

After all, Jackson also pointed out to Radio 4's World at One that, were Downton factually correct, most of the men upstairs would sport moustaches. If Movember has taught us anything it is that lip caterpillars are not acceptable viewing matter.

I doubt Jackson's revelations will dint Downton's proposed highest festive viewing figures, though. Heck, its competition over on BBC 1, Eastenders has been hawking the same trite fiction that a man like Ian Beale could feasibly hold down a string of genuinely loving relationships, for years.

Similarly, I don't care if the BBC used a little artistic license by filming zoo-bound polar bears in preference to getting mauled for Frozen Planet.

And when people write to Points of View with quarrels of modern cars in The Royal, 42 inch widescreens in the background of a period drama, and the like, I rather feel they've missed the point entirely. I don't expect everything I see on telly to be factually correct - it's just a representation. Attenborough et al know what happens when polar bears give birth, the fact it's well night impossible to show wild polar bears doing it doesn't matter a jot to me.

Sofia Coppola had it right with Marie Antoinette. The 2006 film has the 18th century queen traipsing about in Converse high-tops while she shovels macaroons into her gob. The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Of course, were I planning an essay on the way in which French monarchs circa 1774 to 1792 dressed, I would doubtless look to more realistic journals. As a casual film viewer, though, I am no less entertained having read that Kristen Dunst's contact lenses are visible in several frames - I wouldn't begrudge my actor their sight for the sake of historical fact - just as I don't expect that the sex scenes were penetratively played out either.

I reckon it's is better to engage our imaginations than to take our entertainment verbatim. If I were Downton writer, Julian Fellowes, I'd be cracking out the All Stars as a mark of pride this Christmas.