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"Downton Abbey" Season 5 begins Jan. 4, 2015

By Rich Heldenfels Published: July 22, 2014

The official announcement: Downton Abbey returns for an epic fifth season of intimately interlaced stories
centered on an English country estate—a deliciously entertaining formula that has
made it the highest-rated drama in PBS history. Downton Abbey, Season 5, airs
Sundays, January 4 - March 1, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.
Season 5 features returning stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery,
Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech,
Robert James-Collier, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Lily James, Brendan Coyle,
Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Samantha Bond, Ed Speleers, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy,
David Robb, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Daisy Lewis, Douglas Reith, Jeremy Swift, and
Andrew Scarborough.
This acclaimed ensemble is joined by guest stars Harriet Walter (Atonement), reprising
her role as Lady Shackleton, and Peter Egan (Death at a Funeral), who returns as Lord
Flintshire, together with completely new characters played by Richard E. Grant (Girls),
Anna Chancellor (The Hour), and Rade Sherbedgia (24).
“Four wonderful seasons of Downton Abbey, each drawing a larger audience than the last,
and now Series 5,”says MASTERPIECE Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. “This is a
television dream come true!”
Written and created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, Season 5, is a
Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE Co-Production. Carnival Films, headed by Downton Abbey
Executive Producer Gareth Neame, is a division of NBCUniversal International Television
Production. The series’ many honors include ten Emmys®, two Golden Globes®, and two
Screen Actors Guild Awards®. Season 4 just received 12 Emmy® nominations, including
Outstanding Drama Series.
Executive Producer Gareth Neame says, “Our cast and crew have been immersed in
the world of Downton for the last five years and it is a thrill to have seen it grow in
popularity in the United States to become one of the most watched shows on television.
We're currently hard at work on season 5 and viewers can expect all the highs and lows, the
heady mix of drama, romance and comedy and plenty of new surprises.”
Viewership and social media stats have soared since Downton Abbey launched in January
2011. Season 4 drew an average audience of 13.2 million viewers, making it the top PBS
drama of all time and one of the highest-rated dramas now on American television.
Funding provided by
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every previous outing, Season 4 dazzled critics. The New York Times wrote that the show, “casts a spell on viewers not unlike
the allure of a Harry Potter novel.” NPR chimed in, “Julian Fellowes … has crafted characters so well-rounded, so complicated,
and so interesting that we’re drawn to them no matter what the circumstances.”
And Variety’s praise entered another dimension: “This annual escape into the early-20th century is an experience in time travel not
to be missed.”
Viewers can expect to follow plot threads left dangling from last season, including Lady Mary’s courtship contest, Lady Edith’s
trials as a secret single mom, Thomas’s scheming against Bates, Robert’s battles against modernity, Tom’s quest to be true to his
ideals, Violet’s one-line zingers, and much, much more.
One of the recurring themes of Downton Abbey is change, from the wrenching consequences of the Titanic disaster in Season 1 to
a notorious automobile accident at the end of Season 3—plus World War I, women’s rights, and the new morals, inventions, and
fashions of the 1920s.
Which is where Season 5 kicks off. It’s 1924. The United Kingdom has its first Labor Party prime minister. The radio is the latest
miracle of the age. And Downton’s traditional ways are besieged on all fronts, as evidenced by this exchange between the head
housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, and the butler, Mr. Carson:
“We’re catching up, Mr. Carson. Whether you like it or not, Downton is catching up with the times we live in,” says the
forward-thinking Mrs. Hughes.
“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of!” the butler retorts.
Whet your appetite for Downton Abbey, Season 5, with a MASTERPIECE SPECIAL: The Manners of Downton Abbey, hosted
by on-set historian Alastair Bruce. Airing on January 4 on PBS, just prior to the series' premiere, this fascinating one-hour
documentary follows Bruce, the maestro of period manners and historical accuracy, as he helps the Downton Abbey cast and crew
recreate the social behaviors of early-1900s Britain. Cast members Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery reveal what it’s like to
inhabit characters from a different era, giving fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of the series.

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