The uncanny similarity between two of television’s most beloved shows.
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They don’t work. They scheme and plot. They complain incessantly. They’re obsessed with status. And they have an army of personal assistants who do everything for them. But enough about Downton Abbey, let’s talk about the Kardashians.
Downton Abbey, the venerable PBS drama, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the worst advertisement for mankind since Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, have a surprising number of similarities.
Let’s start with the coincidental. Both shows focus on three daughters who may or may not get along with each other depending on what day it is. Kim and Lady Mary are stubborn and gorgeous, and they have each had a sex scandal and a marital debacle. (Does that make Kanye the modern Matthew Crawley? Well, they both survived near-death experiences and are rich and dress very fancy.) Kourtney and Lady Sybil are both romantically involved with loudmouths whose souls will probably be crushed by their new families. Lady Edith and Khloe are annoying.
Sadly, there is no Dowager Countess in the Kardashian clan, although Lamar Odom has been known to make a withering comment or two.
As for the parents, they’re reversed. Bruce Jenner and Lady Cora are outsiders. Cora is an American who married into staid Britain, and Jenner is a world-class athlete who married into a family that sits on giant couches all day. Robert, Earl of Grantham, and Kris Jenner are both masters of their houses, devoted to their children, and they’ve occasionally cast a glance outside their marriages.
Both Calabasas and Downton are located miles from civilization—just ask any Angeleno who ever tried to take the 405 North to the 101 at rush hour.
And if the Chicken Littles are right, and this era marks the end of American dominance in the world, then both shows are also about privileged families at the height of their nation’s power. In either case there is a lot of champagne being consumed.
The biggest difference—aside from one family’s proper use of the English language—is that while Downton Abbey is an “upstairs/downstairs” show that focuses on the family and its servants, Kardashians only fleetingly shows the downstairs help, which is a pity, because one suspects the family’s personal assistants have much more interesting things to say about the Kardashians than the Kardashians do.
What’s not a coincidence is the broad appeal of both shows. They’re both series about families who quarrel but always come together in the end. And that’s more or less how to make a family-based TV show – fight, come together, roll credits – whether that family rides motorcycles (Sons of Anarchy), sells drugs (Breaking Bad), are animated (The Simpsons) or in the mafia (The Sopranos).
Were the Kardashians and Crawleys to meet (imagine them doing so at a night club at the county fair), they would probably get along fine—that is until the Dowager Countess made a cutting comment about Rob’s neurosis. Then the Kardashians would come together to defend Rob, and the Crawleys would come together to defend the Dowager Countess, and there would be a big fight and mean things would be said but then everyone would get along in the end. Roll credits.
Joe Donatelli is managing editor of DAME. He watches Downton Abbey and married into watching the Kardashians. Follow him @joedonatelli.
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