Downton Abbey takes center stagePublished 7:35am Monday, January 14, 2013 Updated 9:37am Monday, January 14, 2013
With its returning cast and Oscar-winning guest star Shirley MacLaine, Downton Abbey is a TV phenomenon enjoyed by viewers in Otter Tail County and across the nation. Season three runs Sunday evenings through Feb. 17 on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).
MacLaine, according to theater critics, gives viewers some delightful showdowns with Downton Abbey matriarch Maggie Smith.
Author Tor Constantino and WCCO Radio host John Williams are among those who give rave reviews to Downton Abbey, proving that the show’s popularity is not just with female members of the audience.
“It’s a bit awkward for me to admit that the television show that I’m most looking forward to, Downton Abbey, has no explosions, gun play, bank heists or slapstick,” said Constantino.
Downton Abbey is a British television series created by Julian Fellowes. It first aired in the United Kingdom in September 2010 and on PBS in the United States in January 2011 as part of Masterpiece Classic anthology.
The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. TV viewers follow the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V.
The first series spanned the two years before World War I, beginning with news of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which set the story in motion. The second series covered the years 1916 to 1919.
Series three covers 1920 through the fall of 1921. The Downton Abbey phenomenon shows no signs of stopping.
Great houses, as noted on the Masterpiece website, were crippled psychologically and financially in the wake of World War I. In the current TV series the owners try to maintain homes at all costs. Nothing is assured, and even the Crawleys are faced with a new battle to safeguard their beloved Downton.
The Season three premiere this month of the World War I-era British epic on PBS drew 7.9 million viewers, its highest total yet, according to Nielsen.
That figure is four times PBS’ typical nightly average and nearly twice the 4.2 million who viewed the Season two premiere last January.
Downton Abbey has received critical acclaim from television critics and won numerous accolades. Included was a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries.
It was recognized as the most critically acclaimed English-language television series of 2011. Downton Abbey received the largest number of nominations in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards, 27.
The series became the most successful British costume drama series since the 1981 television serial of Brideshead Revisited. By the third season, Downton Abbey had become one of the most widely watched television shows in the world.
According to TV analysts, many regular viewers of Downton held their breath wondering whether Series three could possibly keep up the very high standards of the previous episodes.
“We need not have worried,” said one analyst. “Few viewers seem to be disappointed with the latest series. Rave reviews are coming in.”
Stay tuned through Feb. 17.