Clutch those pearls: the next season of Downton Abbey will be its last. TV Line reports that the immensely popular series—which airs on ITV in the U.K. and PBS here in the U.S.—is coming to an end, with next year’s sixth season acting as its last. The show became a widespread phenomenon after its first year on air, gaining droves of fans stateside for the British import (including a certain recently-resigned U.S. senator). Ratings have waned in subsequent seasons as original members of the cast opted to depart for bigger projects, with Dan Stevens famously acting as the first actor to jump ship after Season 3. He went on to play a cold-stone killer in the excellent The Guest and is now poised to play the Prince/Beast in Disney’s big live-action Beauty and the Beast, so things ultimately worked out pretty well for him.
TV Line reports that the show’s “cancelation” is mostly for practical reasons. The contracts for the majority of the cast are up after Season 6, and most (save for a few exceptions) are ready to move on—Maggie Smith’s been threatening to leave the show for three years running now.
But setting an end date could work in the show’s favor. Its quality is certainly not up the standard of the early seasons, and knowing the end is nigh can give showrunner Julian Fellowes the opportunity to wrap things up on his own terms, rather than working with a fraction of the original cast two or three years from now. After Downton Abbey Season 6, Fellowes will turn his attention to his NBC drama The Gilded Age, which he’s been developing for a few years but was unable to focus on due to his Downton duties.
The show’s sixth and final season will once again consist of eight episodes and a Christmas Special, and in keeping with its regular schedule, will likely debut on ITV in September, followed by a PBS debut in early 2016.
What do you think, folks? Is it time for Downton Abbey to end, or are you sad to see it go? Is it too much to hope for an appearance by Ghost Matthew in the final season? Can we go full Gothic Horror now? Sound off in the comments below.