‘Downton Abbey’ Has a Link to ‘E.R.’ and ‘Chicago Hope’
Downton Abbey is a British historical drama that has earned acclaim as one of the most popular shows ever to run on television. It has inspired a cult following of viewers all around the world, as well as a major feature film.
With fans waiting on the second film in the franchise, many are looking to the original series, and all the elements that gave it such remarkable staying power. As the creator of the series recently revealed, Downton Abbey took a few nods from some high-profile American shows.
When did ‘Downton Abbey’ run on television?
Downton Abbey was created by Julian Fellowes and premiered on British television in 2010. Not long after the series debuted in England, it began running on PBS in America, attracting a new segment of fans.
Downton Abbey begins in the year 1912, telling the story of the Crawley family and their domestic servants and staff. The Crawleys are an aristocratic bunch, but as much as they try to hide their skeletons, scandal seems to have a way of finding the family regardless. The series depicts many major historical events, including the sinking of the Titanic and the beginning of the First World War.
With each successive season, Downton Abbey earned more acclaim from critics and viewers. Many praised the clever acting and inventive situations, and eventually, Downton Abbey scored more nominations than any international television series in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards. In 2015, after five years on the air, Downton Abbey aired the final season.
‘Downton Abbey’ is inspired by American shows like ‘Chicago Hope’
Fortunately, fans of Downton Abbey didn’t have to wait too long to immerse themselves in the world that had become so familiar to them. A major motion picture was released in September 2019, four years after the series concluded on television.
While many people have debated why the show has such staying power, especially with American audiences, it is very possible that, for many fans, it is because the format of Downton Abbey is a bit familiar.
In fact, according to show creator Julian Fellowes, American shows like Chicago Hope and ER inspired Downton Abbey. “Constructing Downton, I was consciously thinking in terms of those American structures,” Fellowes said. “I had liked E.R. There was something called Chicago Hope that I liked very much, and thirtysomething, with all these stories going at once.”
‘Chicago Hope’ and ‘ER’ are both television classics
Chicago Hope is a show that couldn’t seem more different from Downton Abbey, on the surface. Chicago Hope is a medical drama that ran on television from 1994 until 2000. It told the story of a group of residents and staff at a prominent, fictional Chicago hospital.
Featuring an ensemble cast with fan-favorite actors like Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin in the lead, Chicago Hope inspired many other medical dramas, including Grey’s Anatomy. To this day, reruns of the show remain popular, even with fans who were children when the series originally aired.
ER is another medical drama that started running on television in 1994. With actors like George Clooney in the show, ER quickly rose in the ratings, until, by the early 2000s, it was one of television’s biggest hits. It remained popular until 2009 when it went off the air.
On the surface, both of these shows don’t seem very similar to Downton Abbey — still, it is clear that Fellowes took direct inspiration from these shows when it came to handling multiple storylines at once.