Did Downton Abbey Steal Arrested Development’s Signature Love Story?
Netflix released Season 4 of Arrested Development early Sunday morning, and as we busily marathon-watched all 15 episodes — we know, stop judging us — we were struck by something odd.
And no, it wasn’t a frozen banana covered in nuts. What struck us was the realization that two of the characters on Arrested Development are extremely similar to Downton Abbey’s central lovebirds, Matthew and Mary Crawley.
In fact, we’re fairly certain that Downton’s Matthew and Mary are basically alternate universe versions Arrested‘s George Michael and Maeby. Their personalities, their love story: It’s all the same. Oh, and did we mention they're both cousins? Yeah. Eww.
We know that at first glance, Arrested Development (which first premiered in 2003) couldn't seem more different from Downton Abbey (which debuted in 2010, making it the potential copycat in this situation). One is a quirky 22-minute comedy set in Southern California with plots so random they often border on belovedly absurd. The other, a critically acclaimed, hourlong British period drama set in the 1920s and thriving on prim accents and gritty realism.
But take a close look at the two couples. AD’s George Michael and DA’s Matthew are both the prototypical everyman: very nice guys, perhaps a bit bland, and certainly not very assertive.
Then come Maeby and Mary. Each is a tempestuous beauty who instantly captures her cousin’s heart. Strong willed, assertive, she's too involved with some grand scheme or plan to notice the boy quietly in love with her.
Both men are heirs to a once-great (and now quickly disappearing) fortune — The Bluth Company and Downton Abbey, respectively — and both are struggling to gain respect and authority from underneath the shadow of a domineering father figure. (Yes, George Michael is totally doing that now, too. Have you started watching Season 4 of Arrested Development?)
In both cases, the men fall in love first. The women's affections take a bit longer to develop. (Though, thanks for the help with that, Ann/Lavinia. You're too bland and righteous for us to actually like you, but you accomplish the goal of your story well enough.)
The unfortunate part about this whole scenario, though, is that Matthew met a brutal and bloody death in Downton's most recent episode. George Michael is still very much alive. And unlike Mary, Maeby is not a grieving widow and mother, but an indifferent student whose most jarring life trauma is a recent ostrich attack. Hey, no comparison is perfect.
At the core, they're both just two sets of cousins in love — though "cousin" is a bit of a loose term in both cases. With Downton off the air in the U.S. until January 2014, we're going through some major withdrawals, and relief is starting to come in very unexpected places.
Now, if you'll excuse us, the Dowager Countess just started screaming that she's been attacked by a loose seal, so we should probably go check that out.