Downton Abbey is a period drama television series set and filmed in Britain and created and principally written by Julian Fellowes. It features an ensemble cast and premièred in the UK on ITV on the 26th September 2010 and in the USA on PBS on the 9th January 2011. It is co-produced by British production company Carnival Films and the American Masterpiece. The executive producers are Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame and Rebecca Eaton.
The series is set during the post-Edwardian era (after Edward VII's death) and depicts how major historical events such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the First World War and the Spanish influenza pandemic affect the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.
Reception of the programme was predominantly positive; ratings were extremely high for what is usually considered a 'genre' show, and the first series picked up a number of awards and nominations after its initial run. It was also nominated for the Audience Award Bafta in 2011 but lost to reality show, The Only Way is Essex. It has subsequently become the most successful British costume drama since the 1981 television serial version of Brideshead Revisited, and in 2011 it entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the 'most critically acclaimed television show' for the year, becoming the first British show to win the award. It has become a worldwide phenomenon sold to 220 territories worldwide, with 120 million viewers. 
On the 3rd November 2011, ITV confirmed that a third series had been commissioned and would air from September 2012. Series three premièred in the UK on the 16th September, 2012, and premièred in the US on the 6th January, 2013. The consolidated ratings averaged 11.9 million viewers for series three which equates to a 40% share of the available audience. This makes Downton Abbey one of the most popular dramas in recent memory. The final episode of series three also achieved over 12 million viewers.
Series four premiered in the UK in the autumn of 2013. Series five premiered in the UK very close to the same time as Series four, but in 2014. The final Series six premiered on 20 September 2015.
The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants early in the reign of George V. The first series spans the two years prior to the Great War, commencing with news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, an event that sets the story in motion.
The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire was used for filming the outdoor scenes, most notably St. Mary's Church and the village library, which serves as the entrance to the cottage hospital. The North Yorkshire towns of Malton, Easingwold, Kirkby, Kirkbymoorside, Middlesbrough, Ripon and Richmond have also been mentioned by characters in the series.
The first series cost an estimated £1 million per episode, and is the most successful British period drama since Brideshead Revisited, with British ratings exceeding 10 million viewers. The series was also well received in the United States, averaging over 6 million viewers per episode.
The first series started on 26 September 2010, and explored the lives of the Crawley family and their staff from the day after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 to the outbreak of the First World War on 4 August 1914. Much of the focus is on the need for a male heir to the Grantham estate, and the troubled love life of Lady Mary as she attempts to find herself a suitable husband. The device that sets the drama in motion is the entail that accompanies the (fictional) Earldom of Grantham, which endows both title and estate exclusively to male heirs. This is complicated by the fact that the estate had been near financial ruin, and was only saved when the present Earl, then the heir apparent, contracted a wealthy marriage with an extremely rich American heiress. Upon marriage, her considerable fortune was contractually incorporated into the comital entail in perpetuity. The Earl, having had only three daughters and no son, had arranged for his elder daughter to marry her cousin, and son to the heir presumptive, thus keeping both title and estate within the immediate family. The demise of both heirs presumptive in the sinking of the Titanic destroys the family plans and brings a distant cousin, a young solicitor from Manchester, in line to inherit everything, including the personal wealth of the Countess, who will not be able to bequeath it to her daughters.
In 2010, Laura Mackie, ITV Director of Drama Commissioning, confirmed that the drama would return for a second series in 2011:
- We're delighted with the audience response to Downton Abbey and the positive critical reaction. We're extremely proud to have commissioned a series, which has clearly captivated ITV1 viewers. Consequently, we're thrilled to be announcing the recommission of a new series for 2011 which will allow us to spend more time with the Crawley family and their servants.
This series consists of 8 episodes plus a Christmas special spanning the years 1916 - 1920, and follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants. The second series premiered in the UK on 18 September 2011, and in the U.S. on 8 January 2012.
It was confirmed at the preview of the second series, at Highclere Castle on 29 July 2011, that Julian Fellowes was working on a third series, set after the Armistice and during the 1920s. Actress Amy Nuttall who played Ethel Parks did not return for the third series. ITV confirmed the commissioning of a third series on 3 November 2011. The cast started filming in February 2012, and the series aired in September 2012. Fellowes stated that in series three, there was going to be a storyline about Catholicism.
New cast members were announce for series three; actress Shirley MacLaine joined the series playing the role of Cora Crawley's mother, Martha Levinson. Actor Matt Milne has been cast to play the role of Alfred Nugent, Alfred is the nephew of Sarah O'Brien's and the new footman.
This series once again consists of 8 episodes and a Christmas special and spans the years 1922 - 1923. The fourth series premiered in September 2013 in the UK, and January 2014 in the U.S.
The series began airing on ITV in the United Kingdom on 21 September 2014 and on PBS in the United States on 4 January 2015 and is set in 1924.
The series began airing on ITV in the United Kingdom on September 20, 2015, and will begin on PBS in the United States on January 3, 2015. It is set in 1925.
Cast and Characters
- Main article: Cast
- The Rt Hon The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley.
- The Rt Hon The Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley.
- The Rt Hon The Countess of Grantham, Cora Crawley.
- Lady Mary Talbot (née Crawley).
- The Rt Hon The Marchioness of Hexham, Edith Pelham (née Crawley).
- Lady Sybil Branson (née Crawley).
- The Rt Hon The Baroness Merton, Isobel Grey (née Turnbull)
- Matthew Crawley.
- Tom Branson.
- Lady Rose Aldridge (née MacClare).
- Henry Talbot.
- The Rt Hon The Marquess of Hexham, Herbert Pelham. - (The 2014 Christmas Special — the 2015 Christmas Special)
- The husband of The Rt Hon The Marchioness of Hexham, Edith Pelham, played by Harry Hadden-Paton - (The 2014 Christmas Special — the 2015 Christmas Special)
- Charles Carson.
- Elsie Carson (née Hughes).
- John Bates.
- Miss O'Brien.
- Beryl Patmore.
- Thomas Barrow.
- Anna Bates (née Smith).
- Daisy Mason (née Robinson).
- William Mason.
- Joseph Molesley.
- Ethel Parks.
- Alfred Nugent.
- Ivy Stuart.
- James Kent.
- Phyllis Baxter.
- Andrew Parker.
- Lady Rosamund Painswick, née Crawley.
- Sir Richard Carlisle.
- Lavinia Swire.
- Dr Richard Clarkson.
- Sir Anthony Strallan.
- Michael Gregson.
- Evelyn Napier.
- George Murray.
- William Molesley
- Martha Levinson.
- Gwen Harding (née Dawson).
- Henry Lang.
- Jane Moorsum.
- May Bird.
- Mr Mason.
- Edna Braithwaite.
- Septimus Spratt.
- Gladys Denker.
- Timothy Drewe
- Farmer who looks after Marigold and help keep her relationship secret from the family.
- The World of Downton Abbey
- The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era
- Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season One
- Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season Two
- Downton Abbey: The Complete Scripts, Season Three
- Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey: The official companion to all four series
DVDs and Blu-Rays
- Downton Abbey - Series 1
- Downton Abbey - Series 2
- Christmas at Downton Abbey 2011
- Downton Abbey - Series 3
- Downton Abbey: A Journey to the Highlands (2012 Christmas Special)
- Downton Abbey - Series 1&2 (Box Set)
- Downton Abbey - Series 1-3 (Box Set)
- Downton Abbey - Series 4
- Downton Abbey - Series 5
- Downton Abbey - Series 6
- Explore Downton Abbey App
- 2013 Danilo Calendar
- 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
- 500 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
- 2013 Soundtrack
- Marks & Spencer beauty products
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 ITV commissions a fourth series of Downton Abbey, ITV Press Centre, 12th December, 2012.
- ↑ Feared Downton lost the plot with that car crash? Lady Mary's grief (and the men chasing her) will have you spellbound again, Christopher Stevens, Daily Mail, 14th August, 2013.
- ↑ ITV commissions a fourth series of Downton Abbey, ITV Press Center, 12th December, 2012.
- ↑ Carnival Films and ITV launch final series of Downton Abbey
- ↑ M&S to launch Downton Abbey beauty collection, Cheshire Today, 5th August, 2013.
- Downton Abbey - the place
- Official websites
- Unofficial and Fansites websites
- Downton Abbey (TV Series 2010) at the Internet Movie Database
- Downton Abbey on Coolspotters
- Downton Abbey on Fanpop