Upstairs, Downstairs vs. Downton Abbey—Downstairs Battle Royale!!!


Today I continue examining who has the upper hand comparing the lush “Downton Abbey” with the classic “Upstairs, Downstairs.”  Who is the stronger household—the Crawleys or the Bellamys?  Let’s find out!


NB—I tried to line up the roles as best I could.  Maggie Smith is beyond amazing, but I left her out of the mix because she simply has no “UD” equivalent.  Also, I tried to have the characters based on how long they held the role.  For example, Elizabeth Bellamy was indeed the only daughter in “UD,” but Georgina was in the show much, much longer.  Also, while Edward was valet, footman and chauffeur, I used him in the role of footman because that is the position be retained for the bulk of the series.

Downton Abbey Upstairs Downstairs Winner
Butler (Charles) Carson—A former vaudeville actor, Carson rises through the ranks to become head of the downstairs.  Maintains dignity and order in his household, even if there are a few stinkers under his watch. (Angus) Hudson—Career servant, also rose through the ranks to become HoH.  Maintains dignity and order in his household, even if there are a few stinkers under his watch. Upstairs—Sorry, Carson, but Hudson will always be the best
Cook Mrs. Patmore—Bustling cook, gives Daisy an unnecessarily hard time.  But has a good heart in encouraging her to marry William.  Grieves the loss of her nephew in WWI. Mrs. Bridges—Served the Bellamy for decades.  Rightfully hard on Ruby, but “adopts” her in the series finale. Upstairs—Love Mrs. Patmore, but Mrs. Bridges is the top chef, so to speak
Lady’s maid (Sarah) O’Brien—Scheming Irish maid to Lady Cora.  Smokes, tries to upstart Bates with Thomas.  Also causes Lady Cora to miscarry, which she does regret. Rose (Buck)—Career servant who rises through the ranks to become lady’s maid.  Quietly adapts to life as it comes and is generally content with her lot in life. Upstairs—Rose is the real deal while O’Brien is mostly just evil
Chauffeur (Thomas) Branson—Irish revolutionary.  While he falls in love with Sybil, he does the manly thing and marry her before anything else. (Thomas) Watkins—Welsh chauffeur who always aspired to more.  Knocked up parlourmaid Sarah, although he did right by marrying her. Downton—A revolutionary but a gentleman
Footman Thomas (Barrow)—Scheming and manipulative footman who constantly tries to get Bates fired.  Becomes Sgt. In WWI but back in the bottom of the food chain after the War. Edward (Barnes)—WWI vet and lives through PTSD.  Marries Daisy and rises though ranks to become butler in Lady Georgina’s home in series finale—Hudson passes the torch. Upstairs—Not even close!
Housemaid Anna (Bates)—Pragmatic housemaid.  Stands by Bates as he is framed for murdering his ex-wife.  Is the Crawley daughters’ downstairs confidante. Daisy (Barnes) —Pragmatic housemaid.  Stands by Edward as he suffers PTSD.  Rises through the ranks to become Housekeeper in Lady Georgina’s household. Tie—Both these woman are strong characters and are a vital thread in the tapestry of their households
Scullery maid Daisy (Robinson) —Arguably the hardest-working member downstairs, she pines after Thomas but marries William.  Competent but not properly recognized for her talent under Mrs. Patmore.  She has the moxie to stand up for herself and she gets promoted at the end of season two. Ruby (Finch)—Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she pines after Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks.  Competent but lazy.  “Adopted” by Hudson and Mrs. Bridges in the finale. Downton—Daisy has real talent, real heart and stands up for herself
Downstairs total 3 5
Grand total 6 6

So it’s a draw!  If you factor in “DA” has a primary matriarch (Maggie Smith), a housekeeper and a consistent valet, they would win more default.

To be honest, I don’t feel bad I stacked the deck in “UD”’s favor.  While it seems downright stodgy compared to the lush “DA” sets and costumes and superior acting, I think the characters in “UD” are a little less soap-opera-esque and are more true to actual people you would have found alive when the series was set (1903-30).  Even if it seems very 1970s in its production values, many people who were alive during the Edwardian era would have been inspiration for the show, perhaps.  I don’t know.  “UD” is my sentimental favorite, and I’m not apologizing for that!  🙂


4 responses »

  1. I can’t get into either of these shows which is probably just as well as I already watch about tow hours of TV a day 🙂

    • LOL I only watch about two hours of TV a week. My family & family watch a lot more than I do, so I head to wikipedia to catch up on plot summaries. It takes me just a few seconds to get the recap and I at least know what they’re talking about. “Upstairs Downstairs” takes a real commitment to watch but at least “Downton” is a little lighter. Thanks for your comment! 😀

  2. Googled “Downton abbey copies upstairs downstairs plot 1970s” and found your blog. Have seen every single Downton Abbey in order. Now watching Upstairs downstairs in order from the 70s on netflix. I feel like Downton really lifted some of these plots. Gay guy visitor corrupts servant, new housemaid is pregnant, etc etc. too many similarities to say that Downton was original. Love both. But, Downstairs upstairs 1970s seems like deja vu right now.

    • You know, even with that blog post, I never really thought about how many plots were kind of lifted from ‘Upstairs Downstairs.’ I prefer Downton Abbey for better production values and acting (Maggie Smith is the best!!!), but I prefer ‘Upstairs’ in terms of storytelling. It will be interesting to see with the new season what lies in store 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment and even bigger thanks for letting me know ‘Upstairs’ is on Netflix. I haven’t seen an entire episode in almost 15 years now, so I will definitely go relive those before Downton season 5! 🙂

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