After an uneven second season (that was mercifully saved by a stunning Christmas Special), PBS’s exceptionally successful series Downton Abbey is ready to return. The series is co-produced with Britain’s ITV, who will air Downton first in September, followed by a second run on PBS in January. The new season will feature all of the principle cast, plus the addition of Shirley MacLaine as Lady Mary’s other grandmother. Things are sure to get heated between the American (MacLaine) and the Queen of Quips, The Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), as the trailer already suggests. To view the trailer and read more about the series, hit the jump.
Last year’s Christmas Special finale left viewers happy with a marriage proposal from Matthew to Mary (accepted, finally), as well as the unfortunate circumstance of Mr. Bates in prison for a crime he did not commit, and fan-favorite character Anna, his new wife, attempting to lobby for his freedom. Sybil, the youngest daughter, had run off with the Irish chauffeur (which her father finally came around to), Thomas the conniving butler learned a few life lessons, and then there was the matter of the ouija board … best forgotten.
According to the trailer, it looks like the drama at Downton is not slowing down in the least — Mr. Bates is still in prison, Matthew and Mary are having tifs and the money, it seems, is gone (which should make for some great fun). I reviewed Downton last season, and while the series is a must for fans of costume dramas (and addicting even for those who typically aren’t), some of the soapier elements and dead-end plots that populated much of the season were a disappointment after such a fantastic inaugural run of episodes. One likely cause was that World War I featured heavily in the second season, something that series creator Julian Fellowes seemed unsure about how to handle (in a special features clip from the season he’s on the war set saying “have Matthew do something, I don’t know … heroic”). Additionally, there were huge time jumps that disoriented viewers and had no payoff narratively.
While Fellowes has had great writing success in films such as Gosford Park, his latest side-project, a Titanic miniseries that ran quietly on ABC earlier in the year was by no means a laudable effort. Hopefully the third season of Downton will be able to return to its roots, and Fellowes’ strong points — money, power, love — and come back with a bang as the family enters the roaring ’20s.