Downton Abbey is a British television period drama series, produced by British production company Carnival Films for the ITV network. The series is set during the late Edwardian era (after Edward VII's death) and the First World War in the fictional estate of Downton Abbey in Yorkshire, and features an ensemble cast. It was created and principally written by actor and writer Julian Fellowes, and premiered on ITV on 26 September 2010.
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 screened in over 200 countries.
On 3 November 2011, ITV confirmed that a third series had been commissioned and would air from September 2012. Series three premièred in the UK on September 16, 2012, and premièred in the US on January 6, 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 will premiere in the UK in the autumn of 2013.
The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, 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 Titanic, an event that sets the story in motion. The second series covers the years 1916 to 1919.
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 heirs male. 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 spanning from 1916 - 1919, and follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants. The second series premiered in the UK on 18 September 2011, and is due to do so in the U.S. on 8 January 2012. There will also be a Christmas special.
It was confirmed at the preview of the second series, at Highclere Castle on 29 July 2011, that Fellowes was working on a third series, set after the Armistice and during the 1920s. Actress Amy Nuttall who plays (Ethel) will not return for the third series. ITV confirmed the commissioning of a third series on 3 November 2011. The cast starting filming in February 2012, and the series to air in September 2012. Julian Fellowes has stated that in series three, there going to be a storyline about Catholicism.
New cast members has been announce for series three; actress Shirley MacLaine will join the series playing the role as Cora's mother Martha Levinson. Actor Matt Milne has been cast to play the role as Alfred, Alfred is the nephew of O'Brien's and the new footman.
Cast and Characters Edit
- The Rt Hon The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Violet Crawley.
- The Rt Hon The Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley.
- Owner of Downton Abbey, played by Hugh Bonneville. (Series 1 - present)
- The Rt Hon The Countess of Grantham, Cora Crawley.
- Lady Mary Crawley.
- Lady Edith Crawley.
- Lady Sybil Branson nee Crawley.
- Lady Rosamund Painswick, née Crawley.
- Mrs Isobel Crawley
- Mother of Matthew, played by Penelope Wilton - (Series 1 - present)
- Mr Matthew Crawley.
- Tom Branson.
- Martha Levinson.
- Sir Richard Carlisle.
- Miss Lavinia Swire.
- Dr Richard Clarkson.
- Doctor of the village hospital, played by David Robb - (Series 1 - present)
- Mr. George Murray.
- Sir Anthony Strallan.
- The Hon. Evelyn Napier.
- Son and heir of Viscount Branksome and friend of the Crawley family, played by Brendan Patricks - (Series 1)
- Duke of Crowborough.
- Possible suitor of Lady Mary, played by Charlie Cox - (Series 1)
- Mr. Kemal Pamuk
- Turkish diplomat and suitor of Lady Mary, played by Theo James - (Series 1)
- Lord Hepworth.
- Suitor of Lady Rosamund, played by Nigel Havers - (Christmas special)
- Major Charles Bryant.
- Convalescing officer, played by Daniel Pirrie - (Series 2)
- Major Patrick Gordon.
- Convalescing officer, played by Trevor White - (Series 2)
- Horace Bryant.
- Major Bryant's father, played by Kevin McNally - (Series 2)
- Daphne Bryant.
- Major Bryant's mother, played by Christine Mackie - (Series 2)
- Lady Rose MacClare
- Hugh MacClare
- Susan MacClare
- Mr. Carson.
- The butler, played by Jim Carter - (Series 1 - present)
- Mrs. Hughes.
- Head housekeeper, played by Phyllis Logan - (Series 1 - present)
- John Bates.
- Robert's valet, played by Brendan Coyle - (Series 1 - present)
- Miss O'Brien.
- Cora's lady's maid, played by Siobhan Finneran - (Series 1 - present)
- Mrs. Patmore.
- Head cook, played by Lesley Nicol - (Series 1 - present)
- Footman, medic, and convalescent director, played by Rob James-Collier - (Series 1 - present)
- Anna Bates nee Smith.
- Daisy Mason nee Robinson.
- William Mason.
- Housemaid, played by Amy Nuttall - (Series 2)
- Housemaid, played by Rose Leslie - (Series 1)
- Jane Moorsum.
- Housemaid, played by Clare Calbraith - (Series 2)
- Henry Lang.
- Robert's valet after Mr. Bates leaves, played by Cal Macaninch - (Series 2)
- Miss Reed.
- Martha Levinson's lady's maid, played by Lucille Sharp - (Series 3)
- Alfred Nugent.
- Ivy Stuart.
- New kitchen maid, played by Cara Theobold - (Series 3)
- Jimmy Kent.
- New footman, played by Ed Speleers - (Series 3)
- Mrs. Bird.
- Matthew Crawley and Isobel Crawley's cook, played by Christine Lohr - (Series 1 - present)
- John Drake.
- The farmer, played by Fergus O'Donnell - (Series 1 to Series 2)
- Mrs. Drake.
- Farmer's wife, played by Cathy Sara - (Series 1 to Series 2)
- William Molesley.
- Molesley father, played by Bernard Gallagher - (Series 2)
Out of town Edit
- Marigold Shore.
- Rosamund's lady's maid, played by Sharon Small - (Christmas special)
- Charles Grigg.
- Former partner of Mr. Carson, before he was a butler, played by Nicky Henson - (Series 1)
- Joe Burns.
- Mrs. Hughes' suitor, played by Bill Fellows - (Series 1)
- Vera Bates.
- Mr. Mason.
See also Edit
- Downton Abbey at ITV.com
- Downton Abbey at PBS.org
- Masterpiece: Downton Abbey - Special Features at WGBH.org
- Downton Abbey on Twitter - Verified Twitter Account
- Downton Abbey Facebook
- Downton Abbey at Carnival Films
Unofficial and Fansites websites:
- Downton Abbey (TV Series 2010) at the Internet Movie Database
- Downton Abbey at Wikipedia
- Downton Abbey on Coolspotters
- Downton Abbey on Fanpop
- Downton Abbey wins Golden Globe by Press Association Guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 January 2012 02.44 EST
- Maggie Smith wins Golden Globe for 'Downton Abbey' role By Sarah Luoma Digital Spy Monday, Jan 14 2013, 1:10am EST