Beverly Abbey via In the Powder Room

Beverly Abbey

If you are a Boomer who is addicted to Downton Abbey, like I am, that show might remind you of a wildly popular TV show of our youth, a 1960s classic that reflected the essential culture of the country that produced it, just as Downton does now.

I’m thinking, of course, of The Beverly Hillbillies.

081215_17_BeverlyHillbilliesTakingARideHas anyone else noticed the many similarities between the two shows?

Both are about close-knit families who didn’t earn their vast wealth, but instead lucked into it.

The Earl of Grantham and Jed Clampett are both patriarchs of clans made up of independent-minded family members whom they often find difficult to control.

Elly May Clampett and Lady Mary Crawley? Both attractive, yet unattainable. Avidly pursued by countless suitors, neither proves to be an easy catch.

At odds with the world

The theme of both shows? A family struggles to survive, while at odds with the world around them. For the Crawleys, the challenge is to maintain their aristocratic values in an increasingly democratic world. For the clan from Bugtussle, it’s maintaining their simple country ways amidst a materialistic “swimming pools and movie stars” culture.

We see the Crawleys through the eyes of their servants, the Clampetts through the eyes of their bankers.

Yes, Jed is a widower, whereas Cora is alive and well. And you’ve got Cousin Jethro rather than sisters Edith and Sybil.

But Granny Clampett and the Dowager Countess of Grantham? Practically identical! Both are feisty old ladies who speak their minds, happily manipulate family members, and offer sage advice to the “young ‘uns.”

dowager and granny

Keeping them straight

As similar as the two shows are, there are, of course, a few differences:

DA: No banjo playing
BH: No jazz vocals

DA: More elegant costumes
BH: More laughs

DA: Isis the dog
BH: Elly May’s “critters”

DA: Tragic, snooty, cold-hearted Lady Mary
BH: Warm, sexy, tender-hearted Elly May.

BH: Texas tea
DA: Actual tea

But the most important difference between the two shows? Driving skills! Jethro Bodine never once totaled that truck. Matthew Crawley, alas, wasn’t as lucky. (Weird fact? The Hillbillies’ vehicle was a 1921 Oldsmobile. The year Matthew Crawley shockingly perished behind the wheel? 1921.)

Valuable life lessons

Besides “Drive Carefully,” both shows offer valuable life lessons.

Downton Abbey:

  1. Marry for money. Resist change. When in doubt, ring for a servant.
  2. A stiff upper lip will get you through anything.
  3. The family that pulls together will triumph and endure.

The Beverly Hillbillies:

  1. Enjoy life. Stay true to your roots. When in doubt, cue up some bluegrass.
  2. Who cares about class? Just strike oil and you, too, can live in a mansion.
  3. The family that pulls together will triumph and endure.

The special episode I’d love to see? After Jethro invents a time machine, the Clampetts travel back in time to weekend with the Crawleys. Elly May bonds with Lady Mary and gets her to loosen up a little. Jethro falls for Lady Edith, who finally gets a sexy dude of her own. Jane Hathaway and Thomas Barrow both come out of the closet. Granny and the Duchess of Grantham trade confidences over tea and moonshine, while Jed and Lord Grantham go hunting together.

The Aristocrats and the Hillbillies learn that they’ve got more in common than you’d think, including a pronounced skill at getting terrific ratings, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Ya’ll come back now, Blimey!

 

First published by Broad Street Review and reprinted with permission In the Powder Rooma division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. 

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Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection Of Library Humor. She writes for the New York Times, the Funny Times, the Jewish Forward, the Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post. She’s also been featured on the Today Show. (Twice!) Connect with her on Twitter @WriterRozWarren.

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