BANGOR, Maine — In an effort to prevent potential family fights and remote control riots that could erupt between football fans and devoted TV drama viewers Sunday night, Maine Public Broadcasting Network has created a conflict support phone line.
With a definite conflict looming between the latter portion of Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, and the third season’s third episode of “Downton Abbey,” a British period drama series which has gained a cult following among public TV viewers, MPBN officials decided to call an audible to prevent any potential disputes.
“We recognize that the New England Patriots game may extend past 9 p.m. and Downton Abbey fans may not have control of the remote control at that crucial time,” said Cory Morrissey, MPBN’s marketing director in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “We want ‘Downton’ fans to know when and how they will next have access to this episode.
“Its a solution we believe the Earl of Grantham would endorse.”
Neither the Earl nor Patriots Coach Bill Belichick were reached for comment.
MPBN’s automated line — 207-330-4549 — will direct callers to alternate viewing times for the current episode of “Downton Abbey.”
The idea for the support line came from a recent internal discussion within MPBN’s marketing group.
“Yeah, simply because we try to keep our viewers updated as much as possible, and this audience really lives and dies with this show,” Morrissey said. “This is unquestionably our highest-rated program.”
As a Rhode Island native who grew up 20 miles from Foxborough, Mass., the home of the Patriots, Morrissey would seem to be a safe bet as far as having his TV tuned to football game.
But in a South Portland household he shares with his wife and two daughters, he is not immune to the quandary many New England football fans may find themselves in.
“There’s bound to be that kind of uh-oh moment between 8:30 and 9 p.m. I’m definitely a Patriots fan, but I’ll probably be watching ‘Downton Abbey’ because I’ll be outvoted in my house,” he said. “My wife’s a big fan as well as my 13-year-old daughter.”
In other words, if Morrissey commits any illegal motion and tries to grab the remote, he will likely be intercepted, and penalized.
“Are you married?” he asked with a chuckle. “They’re champing at the bit. My oldest daughter doesn’t care either way, so I’ve got no allies.”
Not that Morrissey’s not also a fan of “Downton Abbey,” which he calls a modern version of the classic BBC 1970’s series “Upstairs, Downstairs.”
MPBN will post Sunday’s “Downton Abbey” episode on the Video On Demand service found at MPBN.net on Monday, Jan. 21, and rebroadcast the episode at 8 p.m. on Sunday Jan. 27, just before the regular airing of this season’s fourth episode.
MPBN operates five TV transmitters around the state including one for WCBB (Channel 10) in Augusta, WMEA (Ch. 26) in Biddeford, WMED (Ch. 13) in Calais, WMEB (Ch. 12) in Orono, and WMEM (Ch. 10) in Presque Isle. It also operates seven radio transmitters for WMEH (90.9 FM) in Bangor, WMED (89.7) in Calais, Camden’s WMEP (90.5 FM), Fort Kent’s WMEF (106.5 FM), Portland’s WMEA (90.1 FM), WMEM (106.1 FM) in Presque Isle, and WMEW (91.3 FM) in Waterville.