I don’t mean to make rash generalizations, but I’m guessing that 70 percent of straight men who watch Downton Abbey were introduced to it by their significant others (that was certainly the case for me). I’m also guessing that, even if they won’t admit it, 50 percent of those men would probably still watch it even if they’re significant others were not. Is Downton Abbey a good show? Oh, God no. It might have been during the first season, but it hasn’t been since, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch. It’s gorgeous, addictive, and terribly written, but the fact that it’s British, that’s it’s a period show, and it comes from the poncy Jullian Fellowes gives us a certain license to ignore the many faults with Downton Abbey and immerse ourselves in the pretty. It’s historically inaccurate, full of anachronisms, thematically troubling, and basically a rip-off of Upstairs, Downstairs, but for a lot of us, it’s still a lot of fun to snark on with our friends and significant others. I wouldn’t even call it a hate watch because it’s so enjoyable to sit through.
But if you do want to justify your fondness for Downton Abbey, or if you need an excuse to tell yourself to feel more comfortable about joining the millions of Americans who are already checking it out, here’s a (very tenuous) list of similarities Downton Abbey shares with some of your favorite shows.
Sons of Anarchy (Plot Structure) — The most striking similarity that Downton shares with a drama in your regular DVR rotation may be Sons of Anarchy. Yes, one is about fancy English people, and the other is about an outlaw motorcycle gang, but the way that the stories are told are very similar in structure. Huge plots arcs are introduced that — in any other slow-burn series — should take at least a season to resolve. Yet, somehow, they are resolved within the episode, sometimes within a matter scenes in Downton. Like Sons, Downton also solves issues with Deus Ex Machinas, and like Sons, Downton has its own Otto, a prison inmate who makes up a major subplot. More importantly, like Sons, while the storylines frequently defy logic in their absurdity, Downton is almost always entertaining.
Game of Thrones (Succession Crisis) — It’s not nearly as intricate or bloody as in Game of Thrones (obviously), but there is a succession crisis at the center of Downton Abbey. It is somewhat subverted, however, in that in Game of Thrones, everyone wants to sit at the throne. In Downton, the heir almost actively wants to avoid ownership. Still, there are a lot of compelling subplots concerning rightful heirs, bloodlines an succession. (And to assure you that I’m not insane, someone actually wrote an entire piece claiming that GoT and Downton were the same show (she is insane).
Community (The Cutie Who Is Ungodly Sexy) — For those of you who watched Community from the beginning, you might not have noticed at first how ungodly sexy Annie Edison was until the debate episode, or until you saw Alison Brie’s Complex photoshoot. Likewise, Jessica Brown-Findlay was initially seen as a brainy cutie on Downton, but once they began featuring more of her décolletage and people began to find out that Jessica Brown-Findlay has actually done, well, topless scenes in the past, we all began viewing her in a completely different, less innocent kind of way.