Downton proves Julian's a jolly good Fellowes.
THE moment his polished shoe crunched gravel on the manicured drive you just knew it.
His hosts waited patiently to greet him. The whole household lined up in welcome.
But this guest was clearly a cad, a bounder, a bad hat, call it what you will.
No pantomime moustache could have said it better. Here was the villain of the piece. Perhaps for one episode only, but who cares? The real delight of a TV series such as Downton Abbey (Sundays, ITV) is that it is a bit like peeling an orange. Week after week writer Julian (for he's a jolly good) Fellowes will pare back another layer revealing more of the secrets of an ancient family as it battles to save its future.
For those who missed last Sunday's opener, kick yourself.
Yes this is ITV, not the good old royalty of costume drama, the Beeb. But shock horror, the commercial boys can do period properly too. Downton Abbey is limbering up to be one of the contenders for, thank goodness, its autumn star status. After all this is often the season that can be depended upon to introduce a bit of beef into our TV diets.
I've always wondered if TV executives take a corporate view that the nation hangs up the gone fishing sign in summer and frankly, as long as we sports fans are catered for, they don't need to fret too much about what's on our screens on light summer evenings.
Or perhaps that's the time they are actually busy planning comfort food for the brain as we all hunker down for winter.
Not that I'm complaining mind. Downton Abbey put its hooks out early.
In a series of trailers it was clear that it was packed with good eggs.
Dame Maggie Smith is always fantastic value for money. That ramrod posture seems to suggest a woman on full alert. No bounder will get past this Dowager - unless she wants them to for a cunning plan of her own.
And for my money, Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham is a must for his ability to add the warmth and sheer humanity often missing in the cold, emotionally chilly corridors of great houses.
Below stairs the servants are, on the whole, a petty and pretty acid lot. The funereal features of Jim Carter as the butler offer an image of a man who must wonder what a chap has to do to get decent staff.
Temp agencies in 1912 might have been genteel but perhaps didn't do the personality and psychological tests which might have weeded out the real rotters - and driven a hole through the plot!
Above stairs, bickering, bitterness and personal jealousies thicken the air like autumn fog.
It wraps round you like a familiar blanket and you just know that you are in for a satisfying series of Sunday nights as the meanies get their comeuppance and everything else works out to general satisfaction. Not that Oscar winning Mr Fellowes has yet teed up many surprises. Yes, there was a dramatic opener with the sinking of the Titanic taking with it two family members and the Granthams' self-possession. The tragedy of the Titanic slid the Earl of Grantham's family into the cold waters of uncertainty. With just daughters who cannot inherit, some distant relative suddenly becomes heir to the title, the estate and the fortune which propped it up courtesy of the Earl's glamorous American wife.
Cue country-ish cousins, doubtless as poor as the chapel mice at Downton Abbey, and Sunday's viewing figures are assured.
As the layers peel away, like wrapping paper from a Christmas present, perhaps we will all realise what a drama gift this series may turn out to be.
So thanks ITV, but I confess I'll be doing a bit of channel hopping this weekend. Ryder Cup Golf is another costume drama on my unmissable list.
* DECENT CHAPS: Jim Carter as the butler and Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham in ITV's new drama series, Downton Abbey