This year ‘Downton Abbey’ exploded in popularity. For many people that doesn’t come as a shock since the show has been a British staple since 2010 and it’s only just now caught on stateside. Still the point remains the period drama is a force to be reckoned with and today it was revealed that will continue into the foreseeable future.
International distributor ITV announced this afternoon that they have renewed “Downton” for a fourth season comprised once again of 8 hour long episodes in addition to the supersized Christmas episode. Creator Julian Fellows has always maintained he expected “Downton” to run at least four seasons, but that was before it became a phenomenon. Production will resume in February, but the question still remains if the entire cast will return.
The problem is that many foreign territories don’t operate on the same USA based distribution model which sees in many cases over 20 episodes produced every season. In numerous cases a successful international series could run as a single 6 to 8 episode season and be done or even just have 4 to 6 episodes split over two years. As a result the actors attached are able to do other work in that time and not be tied to a specific series.
In the case of “Downton,” the show’s massive ensemble is a large part of the reason why it works and losing any of its more prominent members would cause a ripple effect. Producers sensed that back in March when they signed the majority of the cast to extensions through season five, but there have been a few key holdouts.
Most prominently Emmy winner and British acting royalty Dame Maggie Smith has been quite vocal about wanting to move on, however her character is a fan favorite. As the sharp-tongued grandmother of the Grantham estate, Smith steals every scene she’s in and the show wouldn’t be the same without her.
However Smith isn’t the only cast member who’s alluded to wanting to exit as a number of “Downton’s” stars have seen their stock rise in the USA and are hoping to capitalize. The catch is that “Downton” is pulling in record-breaking numbers on both sides of the pond and everyone involved behind the scenes isn’t ready to close up shop.
The most recent season has averaged around 9.7 million viewers and may experience more when season three’s two-hour Christmas episode airs next month. The series has also experienced growth across each of its three seasons and this year earned 16 Emmy nominations, including at least one in every acting category and for Best Drama.
Season three which features the introduction of Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine to the cast will make its US debut January 6th on PBS (which is also expected to also air season four, though no official announcement has been made.) In the meantime PBS will air “Downton Abbey Revisited” a season 2 recap/season 3 preview special this Sunday night.
So what’s your take New York? Are you a fan of “Downton?” Are you excited for the renewal? Hit the comments and let us know.
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