“Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971) is a series about the events of a British aristocratic family, set between years 1903 to 1930. It follows the lives of the masters and the servants. The series ran for five seasons with thirteen episodes for seasons one to four, and sixteen episodes for the season five. Season one first aired in 1971.
After a few weeks of watching “Upstairs, Downstairs” seasons one to four, I wonder, is Downton Abbey taking too much notes from the show? Let me count the ways…
- A strict old fashioned butler who’s adamant at keeping old traditions. Has a secret private life and got caught. Gave his notice but was rejected.
- A homosexual footman who got involved with guest master, who got caught in the act. (shown in the first episode).
- Staff who got involved with a family member and joined their ranks.
- A meddling grandmother.
- A very warm and caring wealthy Ladyship.
- A fortune hunter husband.
- His Lordship losing his fortune.
- His Lordship suddenly found new fortune.
- Installation of modern utilities in the residence.
- Hunting in the country. Lady on a horse jump over a fence.
- Staff’s day at the beach.
- A rebel daughter who keeps on getting involved in social movements.
- A rebel daughter wearing a radical dress – a style with influence from the East.
- First daughter who got involved with a rich gentleman – who end up saving the estate.
- A footman who frequently teases the female staff and is way too chatty.
- An overreaching family friend (or cousin) who volunteers the family’s resources for charity and other social obligations.
- Death of a family member due to the Spanish flu.
- A family member or friend who insist in letting abled male staff to enlist.
- A footman who end up enlisting to take part in the war.
- A food supplier who took interest with the chief cook, who turns out to be a lady’s man.
- Residence being used for a play to raise money for the war effort.
- A Lady’s maid who found love.
- Grand family wedding.
- A family member who became a nurse.
- A dysfunctional relationship between scullery maid and chief cook.
- A staff who left to take on another job.
- Using the residence as refuge (or convalescence home).
- A family member who went missing in action during the war.
- A family member who got injured in a blast at the war front.
- Family pulling strings to bring home a family member who got injured in the war.
- Birthing at the residence.
- Dismissal of a nanny after being deemed unfit for service.
- A family member who got involved romantically with a cousin.
- Trooper who was taken in as a footman.
- Family member who died in the sinking of the Titanic.
- Mention of Canada and India.
- Staff member’s death at the residence.
- A cousin who was taken in and became a member of the household.
- The family is about to lose their home due to a tragedy. The Lordship and Ladyship set out to find a new home. The house got saved by their daughter’s lover.
- A staff member got imprisoned for trying to keep their master from getting in trouble. The family used its influence to get the staff member out of prison.
One could argue that any aristocratic family back in the 19th century will likely share similar events in life. Sure, but to me, there’s way too much similarities with the details. Even Lady Sybil looks strikingly like Lady Georgina – her parents died in the Titanic and was taken in by the family as one of their own.
I don’t mind if “Downton Abbey” would say that the show is a reimagining of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” I had the impression that Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton, created the show based on his knowledge of the aristocracy through his wife, who is of noble blood. But now, it just seems he watched “Upstairs, Downstairs” and made his own version, albeit, glamorized.
I am sure I’ll find more similarities later on. So the answer to both questions is… Yes. But don’t take my word for it, watch both shows.