Love the British hit drama “Downton Abbey?” If you do, not only will American audiences get to see season four this January, but the show has already been renewed for a fifth season. The international PBS Masterpiece sensation from creator Julian Fellowes, will begin airing in America on January 5, 2014. The fourth season has just finished its run in the UK and averaged a staggering 11.8 million eager television watchers which made it their top-rated drama. “Downton” is also the number one rated show in the history of PBS.
What makes “Downton” such a worldwide hit? On paper, an upstairs/downstairs British drama set in the early 1900s about the wealthy Crawley clan and their pleasing servants, may not seem like it would attract such a universal audience. However, the show is smart, well-written and touches upon a time in the UK where aristocratic wealth and lavish homes like the mansion featured in “Downton” were coming to an end. It was also the start of an era when over excess and luxury were clashing with World Wars and economic down times.
The show was also not afraid to kill off its precious darlings. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU’RE NOT DONE VIEWING SEASON THREE. One would expect that shows like “Walking Dead” or even “Homeland” would feature key character deaths, because those shows revolve around danger. However, “Downton Abbey” was a total Kleenexfest last season. First, Syblil Branson, the youngest Crawley daughter died during child birth. And then in one of the most heartbreaking moments in television history, Matthew Crawley died in a car accident at the end of the season three finale, just after seeing his newborn son for the first time. Matthew and Lady Mary were finally happy! They finally got married! They finally had their heir! And then, out of nowhere, Matthew crashes his car and dies in a ditch.
Matthew’s death, which aired on Christmas day in the UK, was meant with rage and anger amongst its British fans. Loyalists accused writers of “killing my soul” while one fan even said, “I AM 100% DONE WITH THIS SHOW. I CAN’T BREATHE.” Some viewers even claimed to be so upset that they could barely speak.
It is difficult for Americans to avoid spoiler alerts from season four, since it has already aired in its entirely in the U.K. Matthew Crawley’s death was ruined for me. I stumbled upon an article on the internet about all the backlash from fans and why actor Dan Stevens (who played Matthew Crawley) decided to leave the show, just as I was popping in the DVD to start viewing season three. So I watched the entire season knowing the tragic ending. Somehow, the ending still shocked me, which is truly a testament to how powerful, well-acted and executed the show is.
Take a look at the trailer for season four (I promise, no spoilers here.)
You can join the countdown for the season four premiere on the Masterpiece website. The show’s narrative will pick up sometime after Matthew’s death. You can also take some “Downton Abbey” quizzes and see exclusive features there. Just please, try and stay away from spoilers. I know that I will.
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