01/06/2014 08:30 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2014

Somebody Left Downton Abbey's Cake Out in the Rain

Whatever happened to the witty, sparkling show that surprised and charmed so many of us when it first debuted? The champagne has gone completely flat.

Yesterday's two-hour snooze fest lacked drama and wit, taking its dour tone from Zombie Lady Mary. Most of the characters seemed to be sleep-walking through the episode -- or worse, acting like animatronic versions of themselves in a Yorkshire Disneyland.

Lord Grantham blustered and blundered. Big surprise.

Barrow plotted against another servant. Yawn.

A fist fight broke out in York at a thé dansant. Wow.

Daisy tried out an electric egg beater. Stop the presses.

Mrs. Patmore broke its bowl. The horror!

Lady Mary changed out of severe mourning. Sigh.

Mosley got money to tide him over. Seeya.

Cora was peeved. Again. And again.

Mrs. Hughes went into Carson's trash bin and read a crumpled letter. The wench!

As one boring little subplot after another played itself out, I kept waiting for Maggie Smith, at least, to give the show some zest. No such luck. The show moved so glacially and had so little zest, it was actually a surprise when Lady Edith showed up in a party wearing red. You go, girl.

Maybe this was all meant to lull us into a torpor that'll be broken by Maggie Smith finally getting to say something witty, because it's been way too long. But Downton Abbey seems like it's on automatic pilot. The two hours felt like a pastiche of previous seasons, and worse, more of the same from dreary Season Three. I found myself longing for a scintilla of the wit of one of the early spoofs.

I'm told this was all set-up for real drama to come. Couldn't Julian Fellowes just have made fans a short podcast to prepare us, and gotten right to it?