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Fans of Downton Abbey have been preparing themselves for the series’ inevitable conclusion. With the knowledge that the currently filming Season 6 will be the show’s last, the only remaining question was, when will we get that final season? We now have the answer, as it has been announced that the sixth and final season will begin in the U.S. on January 3, 2016 on PBS.
Variety has the report from the Television Critics Association summer press tour, where the announcement was made by PBS boss Paula Kerger. While this signals the end of the popular series, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of everything. Executive Producer Gareth Neame brought up the possibility of following up Downton with a spinoff, and says that now that this series is wrapping up, the creative team will have the time to seriously consider it. There’s also some talk of a potential feature film. Six seasons and a movie. That’s how this works, right? Interesting side note. Fans will be able to celebrate the beginning of the final season a couple days early, as there will be a Downton Abbey themed float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.
The announcement that Season 6 would be the show’s last came earlier this year after many different indicators showed that the series was probably ready to wrap up. All of the actors contracts were up for renewal and many, key actress Maggie Smith among them, implied they would not be returning even if the series did continue. The series had already lost a number of character during its run, and at some point it just ceases being the same show if enough characters are replaced. Show creator Julian Fellowes had also stated that chronologically the show was nearing the end of its life, wanting to avoid dealing with World War II or its run up. When your show is currently in 1924, but you want to avoid the 1930’s you’re running out of room to work. There was apparently a brief conversation that the show might continue without Fellows at the helm, but eventually the decision was made, almost certainly correctly, to wrap it up.
While the most recent Season 5 premiere was a bit of a disappointment ratings wise, the show built back up to its traditional powerhouse status. If there are any viewers who strayed away finales always bring many of them back into the fold, so Season 6 is poised to send the series out on a high note. Fans now have to deal with the bittersweet situation of being able to look forward to their show coming back while being slightly sad that once those few episodes run out, it’s all over. Unless that movie happens of course. Or the spinoff.