Many fans of the TV series Downton Abbey may have wondered about the source of the turns and twists of plot, the historical inaccuracy and stunning anachronisms, the clashing strains of progressivism and traditionalism all present in the show. Just as with the apparent contradictions in Scripture, it turns out that good source criticism can lead us beyond the traditional construct of a single author to a deeper understanding of the historical Jesus or, in this case, Downton. Betsy Childs of Beeson Divinity School blazes the trail:
Readers familiar with the period drama Downton Abbey will have encountered it in final form as broadcast by PBS to an American audience. It is widely assumed that the screenplay for the mini-series was written by one Julian Fellowes of Dorset. This mistaken assumption, though promiscuously propagated by the press, evinces a lack of sufficient attention paid to the uneven, at times contradictory, nature of the narrative. It is patently obvious to this author and to those of a critical ilk that the so-called Downton Abbey storyline is the product of multiple authors with several different aims. . . .
This author proposes that there are at least three redactors behind the wildly popular series. These three authors do not, by any means, correspond to the three distinct seasons. These authors each redacted an original body of material, though it is unclear whether the alterations took place successively or simultaneously. We will call these authors the Aristocrat, the Moralist, and the Progressive.