ok, just blowing off steam. finally watched the two-hour "Spanish Influenza" episode. at the end my wife turned to me and said "why did we watch that?". no good answer. i can't remember a series going from great to awful so quickly. i'm hoping that there is some kind of weird inside-the-biz explanation for it ... like maybe they decided that two seasons was too long for world war I to last (depressing!). that's what it felt like. the first season was soap-operay, but so was Dickens. the pleasure in it came from the way the story unfolded and the way you came to appreciate the characters and their nuances. this season, character exposition was two lines, then climax (insert conne sex joke here). it was like a parody. and yes, i'll probably watch the christmas episode, too.