An irresistible formula has made Downton Abbey the most-watched drama in the history of PBS, according to M. Lynn Brown, president and general manager of WPBS-DT, the public television station serving the north country.
Mrs. Brown said the shows creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, has hit upon a combination of magic, luck and skill.
It appears the storyline, the backdrop of Highclere Castle and choosing what characters would play what part is exactly correct, Mrs. Brown said. The accuracy of historical adviser Alastair Bruce, the wardrobe selection, the romance, the intrigue and the drama make Downton Abbey a smash hit and the highest-rated PBS drama of all time.
More than 24 million U.S. viewers watched last years third season of the series, which has won nine Emmy awards and two Golden Globes.
The fourth season of Downton Abbey premieres with a two-hour episode at 9 tonight as part of PBSs Masterpiece Classic series. Fans who tuned in last season know that Matthew Crawley heir to Downton Abbey, husband to Lady Mary and brand new father to a baby boy lies dead on a country road next to his overturned roadster. The Crawley family is still grieving the death in childbirth of Sybil, Lady Marys youngest sister, whose baby survived.
In addition to that drama, there are plots involving Downton Abbeys servants, who have their own issues and related drama on a par with those whom they serve.
The series has moved forward in time: Its first episodes took place in 1912; the new season is set in the early 1920s and reflects the worlds increasing modernity.
Some of the shows local fans braved blustery weather and poor road conditions one night last month when WPBS-DT hosted a preview of season four at its studios at 1056 Arsenal St. Guests were invited to join staff dressed in period clothing. Tea and scones were served, giving the evening a British feel.
Sharon A. Castro and her husband, Carl J., traveled from their home on Wellesley Island to attend the preview, which attracted approximately 65 people.
Mrs. Castro said fans came from as far away as Malone and from several points in Canada.
The weather wasnt great that night, but they are such devoted followers, Mrs. Castro said. That really surprised us.
Guests were shown the last half hour of the third seasons final episode and the first hour of this seasons premiere episode.
Mrs. Castro said fans of the show will be pleased with how the new season opens, six months after the death of Matthew Crawley.
The tragedy that ended season three gets worked out, she said. Theres a lot of things going on in the show that will hold you.
The Castros dressed in period clothing, which was easy for the couple to obtain. They own two seasonal antique shops on Wellesley Island: Park Antiques in Thousand Island Park, a national historic district, and Riverview Cottage in Fineview.
Mrs. Castro said the shops have many items from the Downton Abbey era. The Castros set up a display of vintage jewelry that would have been popular in the 1920s at the WPBS-DT Downton Abbey preview.
Mrs. Castro elaborated on the reasons she and her husband are devoted followers of the show.
We like the English theme, but we also like the actors and actresses that are in the show, Mrs. Castro said. And the storyline is wonderful. ... A lot of people say, I dont watch those English things. But if they get into just a couple of issues with Downton, it catches their attention and holds them.
The WPBS-DT preview last month gained at least one new Downton Abbey follower. Cynthia Y. Atkins of Rensselaer Falls was invited to attend the event by a friend, Anne M. Townsend of Colton.
Shes an avid fan, Mrs. Atkins said.
After watching the preview of season four, Mrs. Atkins is now hooked.
Im going to catch up on it, she said of the shows previous seasons.
The eight episodes in the fourth season run through Feb. 23.