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It is a damn fine week for fans of British period dramas. I had just exhausted my giddiness over the prospect of another season of Call the Midwife, when ITV decided to announce that Downton Abbey will be returning for a sixth season. Now, we just need to keep our fingers crossed that the major players will stick with the show. It ain’t Downton without the Dowager Countess.
The news shouldn’t be a huge surprise for those who have been keeping up with the show. Downton Abbey routinely does better than any other series on ITV. Recently, Season 5 has been crushing in the ratings over at the network, although it is worth noting that the show got off to a tepid start earlier this fall. Since then, the ratings have picked up a bit, but haven’t quite reached the heights of Downton Abbey’s third and fourth seasons. Still, the US airings of the show haven’t been taken into account yet and for the most part, Downton Abbey is doing quite well.
Those of you who have kept up with the series through its fourth season (don’t worry, we are States-bound and have no plans to spoil you on Season 5) know that Season 4 suffered somewhat from the loss of a few characters, chief among them, Dan Stevens, who left the show prior to Season 4 during a Christmas episode. He wasn’t the only one: Jessica Brown Findlay and Siobhan Finneran left too, leaving gaping holes both upstairs and downstairs. It’s not like Downton Abbey totally sucked after those events transpired, but it did have to reset somewhat during Season 4.
Regardless of how Season 4 or even 5 have turned out, Season 6 is happening. Now we just need to knot our brows and cross our fingers to make sure some of the show’s big leads don’t leave, again. I may seem a bit heavy-handed with these worries, but it’s not like Downton Abbey--or British TV in general—has a great track record with keeping its leads. Beyond this, actress Maggie Smith, who plays the aforementioned Dowager Countess, has waffled over whether or not to continue with the series in the past. After all, it is quite the lengthy endeavor to shoot a season of Downton Abbey, despite the short episode order.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing plenty of Downton Abbey-related news in the coming months. In the meantime, fans of the show in the States can catch Season 5 when it premieres on PBS on Sunday, January 4 at 9 p.m. ET.