SHOCK! (Not Really) ‘Downton Abbey’ Renewed By ITV For Fourth Season

EDITOR’S NOTE: By the time this piece has been published, the first episode of the new season will already have aired in the U.K.  Since we in the U.S. are convinced that the rest of the universe revolves around us, this is irrelevant.  That being said, U.S. audiences will see season three to air in January and PBS is looking for ways to bring the season four premiere closer to its U.K. counterpart.

Via Press Release:

ITV Commissions a fourth series of Downton Abbey

Published: Friday, 23 November 2012, 4:43PM


Laura Mackie and Gareth Neame talk about the phenomenal success of the drama, the Christmas Day 2012 extended special episode and the new series commission.

Downton Abbey will return to ITV1 in 2013 for a fourth series of the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning drama.

Filming of eight new episodes for autumn 2013 plus an extended special episode for Christmas 2013 begins at Highclere Castle and Ealing Studios in February next year.

The opening and closing episodes will again be feature length with series four continuing the story of the Crawley family and their servants in the early 1920s.

Gareth Neame, Managing Director of Carnival Films, the show’s makers and Executive Producer of Downton Abbey said well-loved characters both above and below stairs will return along with the arrival of some new faces.

“Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance.”

Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome back a drama series that has become a much anticipated part of all our lives every autumn and achieved success around the globe.

“Creator, writer and executive producer Julian Fellowes and the production team, led by Gareth and the producer Liz Trubridge, never rest on their laurels and have exciting plans for the fourth series.”

But first fans of the hit drama should prepare for both laughter and tears in a two-hour special to be screened on ITV1 at 9pm this Christmas Day.

“We hope the Downton family of viewers will gather together to watch this major TV event as a shared Christmas night experience,” said Laura.

“Last year’s special episode set the nation talking on Boxing Day and 2012’s Christmas Day episode is no different. As ever, Downton will take its audience through a whole range of emotions.  All of life’s experiences will feature in this episode.

“This is one episode you will want to see live with millions of others – and best have the tissues ready.”

It sees Lord and Lady Grantham and family heading for a summer break in The Highlands of Scotland, leaving most of their servants back at home.

The annual visit to his Scottish cousins at Duneagle Castle, where the piper calls the tune for breakfast and dinner, is the highlight of Robert’s (Hugh Bonneville) year.

Duneagle is the home of young, headstrong Lady Rose (Lily James), who was sent home in the last episode of series three after her dalliance with a married man.

The castle is a grander step up from Downton, with deer stalking and fishing also on hand in the stunning surrounding Scottish countryside.

During the special episode Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) discovers that newspaper editor Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) also happens to be on holiday in Scotland and may not be there just for the sketching and fishing.

While Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) disagree about Mr Gregson’s motives towards unlucky-in-love Edith.

Personal servants John Bates (Brendan Coyle), his wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Molesley (Kevin Doyle) and O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) accompany the family on their trip north.

O’Brien discovers a kindred spirit below stairs in the form of her opposite number, Susan’s lady’s maid Wilkins (Simone Lahbib).

But who will be left reeling at the Gillies’ Ball?

The Scottish scenes were shot on location at Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell.

Meanwhile back in Yorkshire, estate land agent Tom Branson (Allen Leech) has stayed behind at Downton with young daughter ‘Sybbie’.

In spite of the family’s attempts to integrate the former chauffeur into their world, he continues to live between the Crawleys and the servants below stairs. He’s still grieving for wife Sybil, the youngest daughter, who died after giving birth to their first child.

Butler Mr Carson (Jim Carter) faces the task of keeping the household servants concentrated on their work polishing the silverware and cleaning the rooms.

But with the family away, minds begin to wander to other things – including the forthcoming Thirsk Country Fair.

“While the cat’s away, the mice will play,” explained executive producer Gareth.

“The Grantham’s do not live at Downton Abbey 12 months of the year. They would go to London for the summer season and also go away on holidays like this.

“And when that happens the domestic staff of Downton would remain. What will they get up to while the family is away?”

In a not to be missed special episode, wise housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) tells Mr Bates: “Life is full of surprises.”

And that is certainly true at the great house this Christmas Day.

Could there be romance in store for cook Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol)?

New housemaid Edna (MyAnna Buring) joins The Restless servants around their big table as they look forward to the country fair.

Downton Abbey has become a worldwide phenomenon screened in over 200 countries.

The third series, just broadcast in the UK, premieres on Masterpiece on PBS in the USA on January 6.

“Downton has a whole life beyond the episodes themselves. It has leapt out of the television set and become part of both the national and global conversation,” explained Gareth.

“It is now part of culture and society and that’s a very different experience for all of us involved in making the show.”

Both Gareth and Laura praised the “genius” of astute observer and master storyteller Julian Fellowes, who writes all the episodes.

“Not only is he a superb craftsman, he also has an extraordinary work ethic. It is a mammoth undertaking to write all those episodes,” said Gareth.

“The main credit for the success of Downton is by far and away down to Julian. I’ve not had the fortune to work with anyone else who combines so many talents.”

It is no secret that Julian is a lifelong fan of the Rovers Return regulars.

“He has learned an awful lot as a viewer of Coronation Street and has an extraordinary sense of serial drama writing,” explained Gareth.

“Julian knows that you want a core group of characters who almost become an extension of your family. But you also need new blood coming in to shake things up a bit.”

Laura pointed to the seamless introduction of new characters in the last series, including scullery maid Ivy (Cara Theobold), as well as Alfred (Matt Milne) and Jimmy.

“That is one of the reasons why we always feel confident about the future of Downton Abbey,” she said.

With consolidated ratings averaging 11.9 million viewers for series three which equates to a 40% share of the available audience, Downton Abbey is undoubtedly the most popular drama in recent memory.  The final episode of the last series also achieved over 12 million viewers, which was a fitting climax to such a globally successful series.
“We’re always very pleased with the audience reaction to the series,” said Laura. “From the very first series Julian created an ensemble of memorable characters. Of course there are some you may like more than others but they’re all incredibly well drawn.
“He knows them all so well and is able to quickly integrate new characters into the drama so you feel as if they have always been there. That’s a real gift.

“Julian, Gareth and the production team manage to keep the absolute essence of what people liked in the first place and yet they almost treat every series as though it’s a new drama.

“So each series feels fresh and yet it always delivers those things you love. As we move through the different eras there’s always more to enjoy.”

Added Laura: “Julian has also always had that ability to write a balance of the big story and the tiny little details. So in series three, for example, we saw a jazz club for the first time as part of Rose’s story – and also cocktails being served at Downton.”

With the announcement of a fourth series, Laura said there is plenty for the Downton audience to look forward to.

Gareth agreed: “Everyone who works to bring Downton Abbey to the screen is incredibly proud of the show and want to cherish it.

“We’re in rude health and have a long way still to go – starting with a not to be missed and truly memorable Christmas Day episode.”

Downton Abbey screens on ITV1 on Christmas Day at 9pm.

REVIEW: Sherlock (PBS – Sunday, 10:00 p.m.)

A contemporary take on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock is a thrilling, funny, fast-paced adventure series set in present-day London. Co-created by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Coupling) and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock stars BAFTA-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (Hawking, Amazing Grace) as the new Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman (The Office, Love Actually), as his loyal friend, Doctor John Watson. Rupert Graves plays Inspector Lestrade. The iconic details from Conan Doyle’s original books remain–they live at the same address, have the same names and, somewhere out there, Moriarty is waiting for them. And so across three thrilling, scary, action-packed and highly modern-day adventures, Sherlock and John navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers to get at the truth. – Amazon

100 out of 100 

Sherlock, a new British Television series, really took us by surprise and has us hooked. It is the best drama series to come out of the UK since the impressive Foyle’s War. It is an updated and contemporary re-telling of the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson and we are thrilled to say that the title characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are in good hands with creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

The first season consists of three 90-minute episodes that find our sleuths solving cases, getting into trouble and irritating Scotland Yard to no end. The first episode, A Study in Pink, introduces us to John Watson, played brilliantly by Martin Freeman (The Hobbit). Watson is a war vet and has been wounded in battle. After his discharge he returns to London, desperate for room and board and for some company. Well, he does find this and more in the form of a tall, lanky and messy-haired private dick named Sherlock Holmes, played with incredible flexibility by Benedict Cumberbatch. Holmes eventually dissects Watson after meeting up with a mutual friend at a crime lab. This is the first of many wonderful scenes where we watch Sherlock deduce, examine, take apart and observe the world around him. He is arrogant, aloof, methodical and impertinent. He is even a bit unstable and Watson is even warned to stay away from him as he is considered a bit on the dangerous and reckless side.

Holmes and Watson take a trip forward in time... but not this far.

Cumberbatch and Freemanare perfectly cast in the title roles of these classic characters. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a quick-witted thinker and is always one or two steps ahead of everyone. He and Freeman are incredible to watch since Freeman’s Watson is the more, somewhat “cooler head” and not so spontaneous, quick and less face it… impulsive. Freeman plays Watson as an injured soul who desperately needs action and misses the war. He has seen some atrocities and wants to move ahead with his life but finds it hard to adjust. He is then at the mercy of Holmes who makes Watson’s world a living hell. And there’s where this breezy, smart show turns comical. Watson is always trying to keep up with Holmes and at one point Holmes even allows Watson to get arrested.

Sherlock is very strong in dialogue and rooted in the basic tradition that incorporates the Holmes canon. There is, of course, Holmes’ addictive nature, however, instead of cocaine and many of the other vices the original regularly would partake in, in this verison, our hero is addicted to nicotine patches that he claims “help him think.” So, no traditional pipe. He has a landlady named Mrs Hudson, who is constantly being yelled at by Holmes and they, of course, live at 221B Baker Sreet.

Holmes also butts heads with Inspector Greg Lestrade, played by actor Rupert Graves. Lestrade constantly requires Holmes’ help but can never admit it out loud. He is frustrated by him but admires his ability. Holmes makes it a priority to always insult the Scotland Yard authorities. When things click and mesh between Holmes and Watson (which takes a while) that is when the game is afoot!  (Sorry… but we just couldn’t resist.)

By the second episode, The Blind Banker, Holmes and Watson are settled in with their routine of solving very strange and difficult cases. Cumberbatch is athletic and the camera movements are fun to watch as the show is framed perfectly in order to keep up with the mobility of the characters. London has never looked better. It is bustling, raw and alive. Just the perfect place for mayhem and murder.

What makes the show work besides its great production values, smart scripts that never insult your intelligence and complicated mysteries, is the insanely well-timed chemistry of Cumberbatch and Freeman. They are so much fun to watch. When they argue we can’t help but smile. They are best friends but Holmes’ eccentricities madden Watson. More than once, Watson gets locked out of places that Holmes is in. These small things just endear us to them. Holmes manages to spit out the witty dialogue with machine gun rapidity and at times may even lose the viewer (we often have to turn the subtitles on to catch some of this rapid-fire dialogue) if they do not concentrate on the events at hand.

Sherlock never insults or panders to us. We get totally immersed and involved in the updated world of these two icons. Where the old Holmes may be a bit stiff and rigid, this new Holmes is energized and quick on his feet. It is indeed a new Victorian interpretation for these modern times. What we admire is the respect given to these wonderful characters and Professor Moriarty, played by Andrew Scott, does make his appearance in The Great Game and we are in for some fantastic confrontations between he and Holmes.  Of course Watcon asks the question that we’re all thinking: “Does anyone really ever have a arch-nemesis?” Watch and find out if it’s true between Holmes and Moriarty.

The three episodes of season one are currently airing on PBS (check your local listings, here.) and season two will begin on May 6th.  In the meantime, Netflix customers have the entire first season available in full 1080p HD for streaming at any time.  So watch Sherlock,  and remember, it’s “Elementary.”