My friend Not Zombies and I got into a minor Twitter spat today over the existence of any similarities between Downton Abbey and Friday Night Lights because we are HUGE DORKS. I say the two shows are very similar and he says I ought to ‘ave me ‘ed checked. This is my case. Mr. Not Zombies is welcome to offer a rebuttal. (Update: My good friend BRIAN had offered his rebuttal.)
1. The central unifying theme of both shows is integrity. I know many shows aim for this goal, but both Friday Night Lights and Downton Abbey succeeded, and are among the few shows that ever have, which earns them the right to be compared. Both shows are about right and wrong. Overlook the fact that they are set 100 years apart in different parts of the world. The main characters from both shows follow–or don’t follow–a moral code and they suffer or reap the consequences as a result.
2. Realism and romanticism. Friday Night Lights and Downton Abbey offer characters that show both how people really do act and how they should. This is why the characters on both shows are beloved. On another show about power and morals, West Wing, you had characters who acted like Aaron Sorkin wished people would act, but seldom realistically. On The Wire you had people acting like journalist David Simon really thinks they act, which is seldom romantic. But on these two shows, some characters act as people should act and some act as people really do and how this affects their relationships makes for great stories.
3. Strong, older female lead. I would like to go out for margaritas with Cora, Countess of Grantham and Principal Tami Taylor sometime.
4. Strong, older male lead. I would also like to have a scotch with Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham and Coach Eric Taylor.
5. All local life revolves around one really freaking important building. Downton Abbey and Panther Stadium.
6. Many characters fighting for access to opportunity. For example: Smash Williams and Gwen Dawson.
7. Neither show is over-written. There are many “small” moments and scenes with unspoken dialogue.
8. Viewers actually care about the characters. Neither is a ratings monster, but both are beloved because of their excellent characters.
9. A strong-willed oldest daughter who is often inexplicably stupid and naive. Julie Taylor and Lady Mary, both of whom would break some hearts and probably get arrested if they went on spring break together.
10. Each show has a character who has a handicap. Jason Street and Mister Bates.
11. Texas and 1916 England are both conservative at a time when the rest of the world is changing. Lots of pride in England and Texas, a feeling of being on top, and lots of reluctance to see things change.
12. Both shows were created by actors. Peter Berg and Julian Fellowes.
13. War figures prominently into the lives of characters. WWI and Iraq.
14. Both shows revolve around dynastic heirs. To the Crawley fortune and to the position of QB1 for the Dillon Panthers.
15. Both shows feature strong marriages. The Crawleys and the Taylors.