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It's hard to believe that Downton Abbey began airing its final season on ITV nearly a year ago now. In the States, the episodes didn't air until 2016, but it has still been months since we said goodbye to the Crawley family. In many fans estimates, the story ended too soon, but now Downton Abbey creator Julianne Fellowes has explained why he ultimately decided to end the series with Season 6. Here's what he had to say in a recent interview:
What happens in the end with any serial drama is there's a limited number of things that happen to human beings. You do start to understand why, in Dynasty, Fallon ended up going up in a rocket ship with aliens. There are moments when you're just thinking, 'What can I make happen to them now?' And I think, if you stay too long, you start to repeat. Basically: are we happily married? Do we like our job? Are the children doing well? Are our parents OK? I mean, this is all our lives. When you've explored all of those for all the characters, then I think it's time to say goodbye. And I like that it ended happily. I feel that if an audience has been loyal to you for six years, they deserve to go away from the last episode feeling good.
There really are two schools of thought out there. The first is that TV shows should try to end on a high note and the second is that the networks should keep giving fans new episodes of popular shows for as long as they want them, even if the storylines are not quite as good. Julian Fellowes' comments to Deadline indicate that he is a man of the former school of thought, which puts him alongside the creators of shows like Seinfeld and Breaking Bad. It's also the same plan that Game of Thrones has.
Of course, it is worth noting that every show has a different shelf life. Some shows can last a decade with relatively little change in quality while other shows really only have three or four seasons of good content to produce. I think a lot of us would agree that Downton Abbey became a different show when series leads Dan Stevens and Jessica Brown Findlay left, among other characters. Still, I'd argue that Downton Abbey wrapped up each of the main character's storylines beautifully and meaningfully and ended on a high note before the show got too ridiculous with its main plot points.
We got the ending we did because that was the ending that Julian Fellowes wanted for his characters, although I also have the sneaking suspicion that he may have been motivated a little by Maggie Smith, who continually stated her character was getting too old to still be alive in Downton's timeline. I, for one, am not one to begrudge a TV series any later seasons, but I'm happy for Fellowes and Co. that the drama played out in the way they wanted the story to play out. Having creative freedom on a TV series is a great gift.
To see what you can replace in the hole left in your viewing schedule by the PBS drama, you can check out our fall TV premiere schedule.