‘Downton Abbey’ Returns to the US

On January 5, 2014, the first episode of “Downton Abbey’s” Season 4 premiered in the US, satiating eager fans of the hugely successful British drama. According to the New York Daily News, Season 4’s first episode garnered an audience of 10.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched show on television. National Nielson ratings showed “Downton Abbey’s” ratings had risen by a million viewers from its average last season.  Clearly this show is gaining popularity very fast ever since its release four years ago. Since then it has received critical acclaim from television critics and has won numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film.

The first episode of Season 4 is almost two hours in length and the viewer is thrown back into the world of footmen, luncheons and dazzling dresses as the character’s individual stories from both upstairs and downstairs are re-introduced six months after Matthew Crawley’s death. Many fans grieved the losses of Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley in Season 3, and one of the main plots during this season is how Lady Mary faces the grim realities of being a widow. Lady Edith’s romance with the magazine editor, Michael Gregson, also seems to be heating up as Lord Grantham and Tom Branson run the Downton estate with uncertainty about its future. The characters downstairs are still optimistic and accept changing times, minus Thomas who is still as conniving as he was in past seasons. Mr. Carson, with Mrs. Hughes by his side, still runs the estate with a traditional monarchical mindset even though the modern influence of the 1920s is slowing seeping into the walls of the estate. As society undergoes social change with the shifting ideals of the 1920s gaining intensity, Downton Abbey’s residents, both upstairs and downstairs, will have to face the changing world as it comes and this season will surely depict this conflict through the decisions some of the characters make.

Now you might be eager to know where you can watch this show. Don’t fret, it is widely available on both television and the Internet . For us Seattle viewers, “Downton Abbey” is shown every Sunday at 9pm on PBS, which is local channel 9. Still can’t find it? The title of the show appears as “Masterpiece Classic” and not “Downton Abbey,” which may lead some people to scroll past the channel entirely or throw the remote in a fit of rage. After having to wait months for the release and trying to carefully avoid spoilers as UK fans begin spilling the beans, their anger is justified. Just to clarify, “Masterpiece Classic” is a drama anthology television series that produces British shows such as “Upstairs Downstairs” as well as films like “Wuthering Heights” and has been running since 1971.

I first discovered “Downton Abbey” last summer on Amazon Prime where the first three seasons are available for free streaming for Prime members on Amazon Instant Video. As of now, only two or three episodes are available for streaming at $2.99 each. However, Amazon members can also buy a TV Pass which allows them to view the episodes as they are made available, and this method allows members to save 26 percent per episode. Unfortunately, companies such as Netflix and Hulu will soon be discontinuing “Downton Abbey” streaming because Amazon has bought the rights to the show.

Being an avid “Downton Abbey” fan and having already watched Season 4 in its entirety while visiting England this past winter break, I am now patiently waiting for Season 5. Good news is that reports say filming for Season 5 will begin as early as this February. Bad news is that US fans will have to wait another year for its release. No need to curl up in a ball, these four seasons will surely keep us entertained for quite some time because in the words of the Dowager Countess ,“You’ll find there’s never a dull moment in this house.”

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