On Sunday (November 10), Britain’s ITV made the unsurprising announcement that it has renewed “Downton Abbey” for a fifth season, which was immediately followed by PBS’ equally unsurprising announcement that it will air that fifth season in the United States.
Production on the fifth “Downton Abbey” season will begin next year and, barring an unexpected revision of premiere strategy, it will premiere on ITV in 2014 and on PBS in early 2015. Once again, Julian Fellowes will serve as lone “Downton Abbey” scribe, with Gareth Neame executive producing for Carnival.
For English audiences, the “Downton Abbey” renewal came on the heels of a fifth season that averaged 11.8 million viewers, making it the country’s highest rated TV drama of 2013.
“Audiences have enjoyed their regular Sunday evening visits back to Downton once again this autumn and we are thrilled to produce a new series of the show next year,” Neame blurbs. “We promise all the usual highs and lows, romance, drama and comedy played out by some of the most iconic characters on television. All the actors and makers of the show continue to be humbled by the extraordinary audience response and want to take the show from strength to strength next year.”
Adds ITV’s “We are enormously happy to have ‘Downton Abbey’ on ITV and we are delighted to be announcing this new series. With Julian writing and Gareth and Liz producing we know it will be as warm, witty, romantic and dramatic as previous series and we can’t wait to catch up with our favourite characters again.”
British viewers only have the annual two-hour Christmas episode remaining this season, an installment that features the return of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson and the first appearance by Paul Giamatti as the previously referenced, but unseen Harold.
American audiences, however, have the entire fourth season ahead of them, with new episodes premiering on “Masterpiece” starting on January 5 and running through February 23, 2014.
“Like millions of other ‘Downton Abbey’ fans, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Crawley family,” states Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS. “We’re proud to be the home of this extraordinary entertaining series, and, along with our stations, we look forward to sharing Season 4 with U.S. audiences.”
Adds “Masterpiece” EP Rebecca Eaton, “As American audiences ready themselves for the January 5 premiere of Season 4, our devoted ‘Dowton Abbey’ fans will rest easy knowing that a fifth season is on the way.”
“Downton Abbey” won six Emmys for its first season, including a category fudging prize for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. It shifted over to the more appropriate Drama category in its second season and was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series and won a trio, including a trophy for Maggie Smith. This past year, “Downton Abbey” won only for John Lunn’s music, but picked up another Drama Series nod.
As always, I’d politely advise anybody not watching the show Across the Pond and not illegally downloading episodes to avoid Googling basically anything involving “Downton Abbey,” for fear of unavoidable spoilers.
And it’s only two months until another Television Critics Association press tour rolls around and reporters can ask Kerger why PBS doesn’t get closer to day-and-date with its “Downton Abbey” premiere and Kerger replies with a variation on this refrain or perhaps this refrain.
Excited? And remember: NO SEASON 4 SPOILERS!