To recap: “Downton Abbey” is the hit British period drama about an aristocratic family and its servants. “Downton Arby’s” is the hit Web spoof from the Yahoo! Screen comedy channel Sketchy that features a similar cast of characters, but is set not at a countryside mansion but in a fast food franchise. It’s a delicious combination of landed gentry and the need for horsey sauce. More on that later.
The Yahoo! Screen comedy offering has already been viewed more than one million times. Said producer Corey Moss, who has created other successful segments for the channel, “I just knew it was a special one... I had a feeling this would be big. And I’m excited and thrilled by the response.”
It all started with a simple -- and simply hilarious -- idea. Says Moss, “(Writer) Josh Weiner sent over just two words: ‘Downton Arby’s.’ I loved it. He wrote the script, I loved it even more.” Luckily, the folks at Arby’s liked the concept, too, so much so that they shut down a restaurant for a day of shooting. As Moss pointed out, “Smart of them, right?”
Arby’s has certainly gotten plenty of play thanks to the video -- as has the original PBS series, which recently concluded its second season. Weiner, a fan of the British soap opera, had many of the parts cast in his mind when writing it. The wonderfully talented Richard Kind from “Luck” does a buffoonish Lord Arby. Matt Walsh (“The Hangover”) is a ringer for Mr. Bates, walking stick included.
Watch "Downton Arby's" right here:
As Moss pointed out, “Everyone in the cast was a fan of the show, so they knew exactly what to do.” He added, “And of course we’re all fans of Arby’s, too, and they were kind enough to cater lunch!”
The short’s premise mirrors the actual show: The Crawleys are in desperate need to marry off one of their daughters to a male heir or they will lose their Arby’s franchise.
Weiner (sort of) joked, “It was really important to me to be accurate about the specifics of the show and horsey sauce.” The mild horseradish features prominently in one scene in which Lady Edith (unloved even at Arby’s) can’t figure out how to open a packet or drink from a straw. And there’s a condiment moment when Lord Arby asks a customer to marry his daughter when all the guy wants is more horsey sauce. Awkward.
It’s fair to say the directors have taken the viral success of the Web short in stride. Directors Chris Van Artsdalen and Jefferson Dutton wrote in an email, "We're thrilled by the response to ‘Downton Arby's.’ It's rare for a Web parody to be considered greater than the original, but the people have spoken. Sorry, PBS!"