|Created by||Julian Fellowes|
|Opening theme||"Did I Make the Most of Loving You?"|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||25 (List of episodes)|
|Cinematography||David Katznelson (series 1)
Gavin Struthers (series 2)
|Running time||Regular episodes: 47–53 minutes
Extended episodes: 65–67 minutes
Christmas specials: 92 minutes
(excluding commercial breaks)
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original run||26 September 2010– present|
Downton Abbey is a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom on 26 September 2010 and on PBS in the United States on 9 January 2011 as part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology.
The series, set in the Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era — with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy. Such events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of World War I, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; and the Interwar period and the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series.
Downton Abbey has received critical acclaim from television critics and won numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries. It was recognised by Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed English-language television series of 2011. It earned the most nominations of any international television series in the history of the Primetime Emmy Awards, with twenty-seven in total (after two seasons). It was the most watched television series on both ITV and PBS, and subsequently became the most successful British costume drama series since the 1981 television serial of Brideshead Revisited. By the third series, it had become one of the most widely watched television shows in the world.
The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V. The first series spanned the two years before the Great War beginning with news of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which set the story in motion. The second series covered the years 1916 to 1919, and the 2011 Christmas Special covered the 1919 Christmas period, ending in early 1920. The third series picks up soon thereafter, covering 1920 through the autumn of 1921.
Highclere Castle in Hampshire was used for exterior shots of Downton Abbey and most of the interior filming. The kitchen and servants' quarters and working areas and several "upstairs" bedrooms were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios.
The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire was used to film outdoor scenes, most notably St Mary's Church and the library, which served as the entrance to the cottage hospital. First World War trench warfare in France was filmed in rural Suffolk near the village of Akenham specially designed for period war scenes.
Many historical locations and aristocratic mansions were used to film various scenes. The fictional Haxby Park, the estate Sir Richard Carlisle intends to buy in Series 2, is part of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. Inveraray Castle doubled as "Duneagle Castle" in the 2012 Christmas special. Greys Court in Oxfordshire was used as the family's secondary property, into which they proposed moving and calling 'Downton Place' due to financial difficulties in the third series. Also in the third series, Bates' prison scenes were filmed at Lincoln Castle in Lincolnshire. Also in the third series, parts of the servant's homes were filmed on Matthew Millett's Grandma's farm.
The Downton Abbey of the title and setting, though fictional, is described as lying in the historical County of Yorkshire. The towns of Easingwold, Kirkby Malzeard, Kirkbymoorside, Malton, Middlesbrough, Ripon, Richmond, and Thirsk, each mentioned by characters in the series, lie in present-day North Yorkshire, as does the city of York, while Leeds—similarly mentioned—lies in West Yorkshire; local Yorkshire media speculated the general location of the fictional Downton Abbey to be somewhere in the triangulated area between the towns of Easingwold, Ripon and Thirsk.
Gareth Neame of Carnival Films conceived the idea of an Edwardian-era TV drama set in a country house and approached Fellowes, who had won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for Gosford Park. Although Fellowes was reluctant to work on another project resembling Gosford, within a few weeks he returned to Neame with an outline of the first series. Fellowes writes the scripts, and his wife Emma is an informal story editor.
The opening theme to Downton Abbey entitled "Did I Make the Most of Loving You?" was composed by John Lunn, and is produced and arranged by Dominik Hauser and runs for thirty-five seconds. The theme was released commercially in both the UK and US on 9 January 2013 by BSX Digital. An extended suite version was released on the soundtrack for the show in 19 September 2011 in the UK and later in the US on 13 December 2011. The soundtrack also included the song performed by singer Mary-Jess Leaverland. According to Lunn, the inspiration for the theme to Downton Abbey came from James Brown.
The first series was broadcast in the UK on 26 September 2010, and explored the lives of the Crawley family and their servants 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 a suitable husband. The device that sets the drama in motion is the entail accompanying the (fictional) Earldom of Grantham (which endows both title and estate exclusively to heirs male) complicated by the dire financial state of the estate only saved when the earl – then the heir apparent – married an American heiress. On the marriage, her considerable fortune was contractually incorporated into the comital entail in perpetuity. The earl and countess, who had three daughters and no son, arranged for their eldest daughter to marry her cousin, son of the then-heir presumptive. The demise of both heirs in the sinking of the Titanic destroyed the plans and brought into play a distant male cousin, a solicitor from Manchester as heir presumptive to the countess's fortune.
The series comprised eight episodes, running from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to the 1918 flu pandemic. Matthew Crawley, Thomas Barrow, and William Mason went to fight in the war; Tom Branson, an Irishman, refused to fight for the British. Lady Sybil Crawley defied her aristocratic position and joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
Michelle Dockery, Dame Maggie Smith, Brendan Coyle, Rob James-Collier, Dan Stevens, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Phyllis Logan and Allen Leech all returned and Cal Macaninch, Iain Glen, Amy Nuttall, Zoe Boyle and Maria Doyle Kennedy joined the cast as the new valet Lang, Sir Richard Carlisle, the new housemaid Ethel, Miss Lavinia Swire and John Bates' wife Vera respectively. Filming began in March 2011.
Christmas Special 2011
Most of the regular cast, with Nigel Havers as Lord Hepworth and Sharon Small as Lady Rosamund's new maid, Marigold Shore, appeared in a Christmas special. This single episode visited Downton between Christmas 1919 and early 1920.
The third series of Downton Abbey premiered on 16 September 2012 in the UK, and on 6 January 2013 in the U.S. In series three, Mary and Matthew were married; Tom and Sybil, who were expecting their first child, arrived at Downton; Downton suffered financial hardships. Shirley MacLaine joined the cast as the American mother of Lady Grantham.
Christmas Special 2012
ITV announced at the end of the last episode of Series Three, broadcast on 4 November 2012 in the UK, that a special episode would be broadcast on Christmas Day.
Actress MyAnna Buring appeared in the 2012 Christmas special, playing the role of maid Edna Braithwaite. Scottish actress Simone Lahbib played the role of Wilkins, Lady Flintshire's (Phoebe Nicholls) maid.
In The Telegraph September 2012 issue, Julian Fellowes said he's working on a spin-off prequel of Downton Abbey which revolves around Lord Grantham and Cora's courtship. Initially planned as a book, it was then picked up by ITV.
On 23 November 2012, ITV announced that a fourth series had been commissioned and that filming would begin in February 2013. The series is set to air in the autumn of 2013 in the UK while there will be a 5 January 2014 airing in the US on PBS.
On ITV, the Downton Abbey official website has released some information about series four. Viewers will find Lady Mary Crawley mourning her husband Matthew Crawley, who died six months earlier in a car crash. Matthew had just visited his wife and new baby son George in hospital, and was returning to see his family when his car overturned, killing the heir to Downton. Viewers will find out whether Lady Mary will find happiness again in the new series of Downton Abbey.
In March 2013, it was announced that new cast members have joined series four: actor Tom Cullen as Lord Anthony Gillingham, an old Crawley family friend whose history with Lady Mary dates back to childhood; actor Nigel Harman as a visiting valet named Green; Dame Harriet Walter as Violet's friend Lady Shackleton; Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who will play a singing house guest; Joanna David, who will guest star as the Duchess of Yeovil; and Julian Ovenden as the aristocrat Charles Blake. Returning to the series four in the 2013 Christmas episode will be Shirley MacLaine, who will reprise her role as Cora's mother, Martha Levinson. There will also be at least three other characters: a nanny for the children, a drunkard named Sir John Bullock, and the show's first black character: jazz musician and singer Jack Ross. Ross, who will ignite some race-related controversy, will be portrayed by Gary Carr.
Actress Siobhan Finneran, who played lady's maid Sarah O'Brien, will not be returning in series four. A rep for the ITV series has confirmed the departure, but said that the character would not be killed off and could return in the future.
The first episode of Downton Abbey had a consolidated British audience of 9.2 million viewers, a 32% audience share—making it the most successful new drama on any channel since Whitechapel was launched on ITV in February 2009. The total audience for the first episode, including repeats and ITV Player viewings, exceeded 11.6 million viewers. This was beaten by the next episode, with a total audience of 11.8 million viewers—including repeats and ITV Player views.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the first series received an average score of 92, based on 14 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim". This result earned the show a Guinness World Record in 2011 for "Highest critical review ratings for a TV show", making Downton Abbey the most critically well received TV show in the world. Season 4 of Breaking Bad surpassed Downton Abbey's record later in the year, with a score of 96, making season of 1 of Downton Abbey the 2nd highest rated show of 2011.
Sam Wollaston of The Guardian said,
It's beautifully made—handsome, artfully crafted and acted. Smith, who plays the formidable and disdainful Dowager Countess, has a lovely way of delivering words, always spaced to perfection. This is going to be a treat if you like a lavish period drama of a Sunday evening.
Viewers were critical of the number of advertisement breaks during the first episode (five in a 90-minute episode, as well as one before and one after), claiming it ruined the continuity. ITV responded by saying that the number of breaks complied with Ofcom regulations and that the advertising was necessary to cover the high costs of production.
The second series premiered in Britain on 18 September 2011 in the same 9 pm slot as the first series, with the first episode attracting an average audience of 9 million viewers on ITV1, a 34.6% share. The second episode attracted a similar following with an average of 9.3 million viewers. In January 2012, the PBS premiere attracted 4.2 million viewers, over double the network's average primetime audience of 2 million. The premiere audience was 18% higher than the Season 1 premiere.
The second season of Downton Abbey gave PBS its highest ratings since 2009. The second season averaged 5.4 million viewers, excluding station replays, DVR viewings and online streaming. The 5.4 million average improved on PBS first season numbers by 25%. Additionally, episodes of season two have been viewed 4.8 million times on PBS' digital portal, which bests season one's online viewing numbers by more than 400 percent. Overall, Downton Abbey-related content has racked up more than 9 million streams across all platforms, with 1.5 million unique visitors, since season 2's 8 January premiere.
Awards and nominations
Charges that the series depicts the Irish characters—and Irish history—in a negative light have been made in some Irish newspapers. The Irish War of Independence, for example, is incorrectly described in the blurb as the Irish Civil War. Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson in the series, was asked about this by an Irish reporter writing for the Irish newspaper The Herald, and denied the notion that the series depicted the Irish characters in a stage Irish pejorative fashion. Nevertheless, Tom's brother Kieran is depicted as boorish, rude, and drunken, and is described by the Dowager Countess as a 'drunken gorilla'—an unwelcome reminder to an Irish audience of the ape-like figures depicting the Irish that featured in British publications in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The rights to broadcast Downton Abbey have been acquired in over 100 countries.
- In the United States, Downton Abbey was broadcast in January 2011 on PBS, as part of the 40th season of Masterpiece. The programme was broadcast in four 90-minute episodes, requiring PBS to alter the beginning and endpoints of each episode with minimal editing.
- In Canada, VisionTV begin airing the programme on 7 September 2011. Canadians can also view it on PBS. A French-language version of the series debuted 12 January 2013 on Radio-Canada.
- In Ireland, independent television channel TV3 aired the first series in January and February 2011.
- In Australia, the first series was broadcast on the Seven Network from 29 May 2011. The second series was broadcast on the Seven Network from 20 May 2012. The third series was broadcast on the Seven Network from 10 February 2013.
- In Spain, Antena 3 aired the first series in March and April 2011, the second series in December 2011 and January 2012, and the third series in November and December 2012.
- In Sweden, the first series was aired by SVT on Saturdays at 21.30 from 12 February 2011. Viewing figures were in excess of a million for each episode. SVT began airing the second season on 29 October 2011 and the third season on 3 November 2012.
- In Norway, the first series was broadcast by NRK on Sundays at 21.15 as double episodes from 2 January 2011. The first episode of series two was broadcast on Sunday, 30 October 2011 at 21.25, with double episodes the following three Sundays. The final episode was broadcast on 27 November 2011. The Christmas Special was broadcast on 26 December 2011, just one day after the UK broadcast. The first three episodes of the third series were broadcast Sundays at 20.55 from 30 September to 14 October 2012, and the five final episodes of the series were broadcast Sundays at 21.30 from 28 October to 28 November 2012. The Christmas Special was broadcast on 26 December 2012, just one day after the UK broadcast.
- In Denmark, the first series was aired by Danmarks Radio on Sundays at 20.00 from 12 March 2011.
- In Belgium, Eén, the Flemish public broadcaster, began airing the first series on 26 March 2011 and the second series on 1 May 2012. The third series began airing on 9 march 2013.
- In Poland, TVN Style began airing the first series on 16 April 2011.
- In New Zealand, Prime (New Zealand) began airing the first series on 10 May 2011, the second series on 18 October 2011 and the third series on 18 October 2012.
- In the Netherlands, Nederland 2 began airing the first series on 25 June 2011, the second series on 5 November 2011 and the third series on 24 November 2012.
- In Israel, Channel 1 began airing the first series on 1 July 2011.
- In Germany, Sky aired a four-part version on 20 and 27 July 2011. Public broadcaster ZDF and its sister channel ZDFneo both aired the complete first series between 21 and 27 December 2012.
- In Finland, the first series began airing on Yle TV1 on 30 August 2011, the second series on 3 January 2012 and the third series on 6 November 2012.
- In Argentina, Film&Arts began airing the first series on 1 September 2011.
- In Japan, Star Channel 3 began airing the first series on 19 October 2011; the second series aired from 28 October 2012.
- In Italy, Rete 4 began airing a four-part version of the first series on 11 December 2011, while the second series will start on 2 December 2012.
- In Taiwan, PTS (Public Television Service) started airing the first series on 19 December 2011, with one episode per night.
- In The Czech Republic, ČT1 began airing it under the name "Panství Downton" on 4 January 2012.
- In Hong Kong, TVB Pearl began airing the first series on 5 January 2012, with one episode every week.
- In Croatia, Croatian Radiotelevision began airing the first series on 5 February 2012 and continued with the second series after the conclusion of the first. Third season began airing on 5 April 2013.
- In South Africa, BBC Entertainment via DSTV began airing the first series on 19 February 2012.
- In Portugal, FOX Life began airing the first series on 10 October 2011, on basic cable. SIC began airing the first series on 25 February 2012, (and the second on 5 January 2013) on open broadcast.
- In Chile, TVN began airing the first series on 14 April 2012.
- In Brazil, GNT began airing the first series on 19 May 2012.
- In Switzerland, SF1 began airing the 4 part version of the first series on 6 July 2012.
- In France, TMC began airing the first series dubbed in French on 10 December 2011, and the second series also dubbed in French on 9 September 2012, after a repeat of the first series in August.
- In Greece, NET began airing the first series on 15 October 2012. The second series aired on Monday 12 November 2012. The third series ended on Monday 4 March 2013, attracting more that 1,2 million viewers per episode.
- In Mexico, Once TV Mexico began airing the first two seasons on 29 November 2012.
- In Russia, Domashniy began airing the first season on 7 January 2013.
- In Hungary, Story4 began airing the series on 10 February 2013.
- In Puerto Rico, the series started airing in Sistema Ana G. Méndez, Sistema TV on 23 February 2013. The series is presented in English.
- In Turkey, the first series was aired by Sinema TV on Fridays from 5 April 2013.
- In the Philippines, the series airs over the Velvet Channel.
- In Slovenia, the series premiered on POP TV on 10 June 2013 (Monday to Thursday at 10:15 pm). Second season will premiere immediately after the end of the first, on 20 June 2013.
STV opt out
STV, which broadcasts ITV productions in Scotland, opted out of showing Downton Abbey, choosing instead to screen a brand-new six-part series of Taggart, following a long practice of opting out of Britain-wide ITV programmes. This led to backlash from Scottish viewers, who were frustrated at not being able to watch the programme. Many viewers with satellite or cable television tuned into other regional stations of the ITV network, for example ITV1 London, with viewing figures showing this is also commonplace for other ITV programmes. The series received its first Britain-wide broadcast when it was shown on ITV3 in February 2011.
STV announced in July 2011 that it will show the first and second series of Downton Abbey, as part of its autumn schedule.
Phyllis Logan, who plays Mrs Hughes, said: "I'm delighted that STV is showing Downton Abbey in Scotland – it means my family and friends in Scotland will be able to watch it at the same time as the rest of the UK. This might push our viewing figures up even higher which can only be good". Iain Glen, who plays Sir Richard Carlisle, added: "I am not party to the original decision as to why STV didn't acquire the original series from ITV, but I am delighted the decision has been reversed and the people of Scotland will be able to see what all the fuss has been about".
Blu-ray and DVD
Internationally, the U.S. DVD release date was 11 January 2011, in New Zealand it was released on 22 June 2011 and in Australia on 4 August 2011. The release in Australia and New Zealand has an exclusive bonus disc in both the DVD and Blu-ray versions. It contains extras such as cast interviews, geography of Downton: upstairs and downstairs, a day in service and others.
On 16 September 2011, two days before the UK premiere of the second series, it was reported by Amazon.com that the first series of Downton Abbey had become the highest selling DVD Boxset on the online retailer's website of all time, surpassing popular American programmes such as The Sopranos, Friends and The Wire.
A soundtrack, featuring music from the series and also new songs, was released by Decca in September 2011. Music by John Lunn and Don Black features, with vocals from Mary-Jess Leaverland and Alfie Boe.
|Downton Abbey: Original Music from the Television Series|
|1.||"Downton Abbey: The Suite"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||7:09|
|2.||"Love and the Hunter"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||3:18|
|3.||"Emancipation"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||2:15|
|4.||"Story of My Life"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:58|
|5.||"Fashion"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:19|
|6.||"Damaged"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||5:25|
|7.||"If You Were the Only Girl in the World"||Alfie Boe||3:47|
|8.||"Preparation"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||3:27|
|9.||"Such Good Luck"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||2:30|
|10.||"Us and Them"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:53|
|11.||"Violet"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:56|
|12.||"A Drive"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:04|
|13.||"An Ideal Marriage"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||2:43|
|14.||"Roses of Picardy"||Alfie Boe||3:55|
|15.||"Telegram"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:45|
|16.||"Deception"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||2:51|
|17.||"Titanic"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||2:10|
|18.||"A Song and a Dance"||John Lunn & Chamber Orchestra of London||1:30|
|19.||"Did I Make the Most of Loving You?" (a shortened version of "Downton Abbey: The Suite" with lyrics)||John Lunn, Chamber Orchestra of London & Mary-Jess Leaverland||4:18|
The World of Downton Abbey, a book featuring a behind-the-scenes look at Downton Abbey was released on 15 September 2011. It was written by Jessica Fellowes (the niece of Julian Fellowes) and was published by HarperCollins. A second book also written by Jessica Fellowes and published by HarperCollins, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, was released on 13 September 2012. It is a guide to the third series and the new era which the programme has now entered.
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- Fellowes, Jessica (2011). The World of Downton Abbey. Foreword by Julian Fellowes, photography by Nick Briggs. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-00634-9. OCLC 727704121. The companion book to the first and second series. Includes an extensive further reading section.
- MacColl, Gail; Wallace, Carol McD. (1989). To Marry an English Lord or, How Anglomania Really Got Started. New York: Workman Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89480-939-2. OCLC 243431665. Gives a background on the preceding period, especially for Cora, Countess of Grantham, who is one of the "Buccaneers". Reprinted as:
- To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery. New York: Workman Publishing Company. 2012. ISBN 978-0-7611-7195-9. OCLC 779399305. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- Downton Abbey at the Internet Movie Database
- Downton Abbey at itv.com
- Downton Abbey at stv.tv
- Downton Abbey on PBS Masterpiece
- DA CS ITV Official Press Pack