‘Downton Abbey’ vs. ‘The Walking Dead’


In 2013, while discussing the Emmys, I mentioned that I thought “The Walking Dead” was a better show than “Downton Abbey.” I got more than a few irate emails from folks who wondered how I dared compare the two. So I wrote this list to explain, exactly, how I dared. And I stand by my original conviction, especially in light of that year’s Emmy nominations, which once again shut out a better-than-ever “Dead” while giving the very weak third season of “Downton” way too much love. So here is the list again, updated a bit.


It’s the end of the world:

‘Downton Abbey’: Faced with the pre- and then post-war upheaval of traditional hierarchy, a disparate collection of Brits struggles to find their place in the new social landscape.


‘The Walking Dead’: In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, a disparate group struggles to find their place in the new world order.


Main threat to old ways:

‘Downton Abbey’: Newly ambitious servants, women and working class.

‘The Walking Dead’: Newly voracious flesh-eating zombies.


Bad time to have a kid:

‘Downton Abbey’: Lady Sybil dies in childbirth; baby offers hope.

‘The Walking Dead’: Lorie dies in childbirth; baby offers hope.


Perils of leadership:

‘Downton Abbey’: It is revealed that Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) has run Downton into the ground.

‘The Walking Dead’: It is revealed that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is seeing ghosts and hearing voices.


Everyone has a nutty female in their past:


‘Downton Abbey’: Lady Edith’s “suitor” has a wife in an asylum.
‘The Walking Dead’: David Morrissey’s “Governor” had a zombie daughter in the closet.


Surprising voice of reason:

‘Downton Abbey’: Violet, Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). Her former aristocratic snobbery has softened over time, but she’s still quick with well-aimed barbs.

‘The Walking Dead’: Daryl (Norman Reedus). His former redneck viciousness has softened over time, but he’s still quick with the well-aimed arrows.

Forbidden love:

‘Downton Abbey’: Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) runs off to marry the Irish chauffeur (Allen Leech) despite her father’s objections.

‘The Walking Dead’: Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) falls for Glenn (Steven Yeun) despite her father’s objections.



Disruptive love triangle:

‘Downton Abbey’: Bates’ ex-wife (Maria Doyle Kennedy) threatens his relationship with Anna (Joanna Froggett). When she winds up dead, Bates (Brendan Coyle) goes to jail.

‘The Walking Dead’: Shane (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s former partner and Lori’s former lover, threatens Rick’s relationship with Lori and the group. Shane winds up dead, because Rick kills him.

Housekeeping issues:

‘Downton Abbey’: Lord Grantham is perpetually broke and wondering how he can sustain life at Downton.

‘The Walking Dead’: There is never enough food or medical supplies and Rick wonders how he can sustain life at all.


Great costumes:

‘Downton Abbey’: Period dress of all classes provides a window on early 20th century Britain.

‘The Walking Dead’: Shreddy-to-wear and covered with gook evokes a truly rotten world.


Technological difficulties:

‘Downton Abbey’: Rising age of automation and mass communication upends gracious manorial living.

‘The Walking Dead’: Loss of electricity and mass communication upend modern life.


Rising Alpha female:

‘Downton Abbey’: Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) finds a spine and surrenders to love.

‘The Walking Dead’: Michonne (Danai Gurira) finds Andrea (Laurie Holden) and surrenders to no one.

Lots of extra work:

‘Downton Abbey: Unwashed masses for mob and street scenes.

‘The Walking Dead’: Unwashed zombies for mob and country scenes.

No character is safe:

‘Downton Abbey: Sybil dies; Matthew Crawley (Dan Smith) dies.

‘The Walking Dead’: Lorie dies; Andrea (Laurie Holden) dies; Merle (Micheal Rooker) dies.

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