Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith
Last year, Downton Abbey went through a transitional season dealing with major loss but also laying the groundwork for what could be a very intriguing fifth season.
Before the series returns stateside on Sunday, Jan. 4 on PBS' Masterpiece, the cast -- Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech along with executive producer Gareth Neame -- attended the Television Critics Association fall previews on Tuesday to present select clips from the upcoming season. Here's what we can expect:
Michelle Dockery, Julian Ovenden
[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from the Season 4 finale of Downton Abbey. Read at your own risk.]
We are grateful to have Downton Abbey in our lives, but our devotion to the show is the very reason we're so irked at how it progressed this season.
Although we've come to terms with the loss of Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), it doesn't seem like the writers quite know what to do in the wake of those deaths. So much of this season felt either forced or false or just failed miserably. Has Downton Abbey lost its charm?
Before launching into the season as a whole, let's go over the highlights of the finale, shall we?
Michelle Dockery, Allen Leech
Pull out your dancing shoes, because Downton Abbey will be entering the Jazz Age.
[Warning: The following contains major spoilers from the past three seasons of Downton Abbey. If you haven't caught up yet, read at your own risk!]
It's been months since fans reeled from that shocking Christmas episode that also rocked the Crawley family, and now they're moving into the 1920s with new babies, suitors and even a musician or two. The story picks up in February 1922, when Downton Abbey is still in deep mourning for the loss of heir Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) from an auto accident.
13 reasons we want to grow up to be Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess
"Both the audience and the characters have experienced some passage of time," executive producer Gareth Neame said at PBS' Television Critics Association fall preview on Tuesday.
Gary Carr in "Death in Paradise"
Gary Carr will portray the first black character on Downton Abbey during its upcoming fourth season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Season MVPs: The year's best
Carr, who will play a "charming and charismatic young jazz singer," joins returning regulars Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Jim Carter and Shirley MacLaine. Some of the other new faces for Season 4 include Tom Cullen, a new love interest for Mary (Dockery), Dame Harriet Walter as Lady Shackleton, an old friend of the Dowager Countess, Nigel Harman as a visiting valet Green, Julian Ovenden as aristocrat Charles Blake, and Joanna David as the Duchess of Yeovil.
[Spoiler alert! The following contains details from Sunday's episode of Downton Abbey. Read if you dare risk the wrath of the Dowager Countess.]
Downton Abbey's Thomas finally got his comeuppance, but was it enough? Or was it unfair treatment?
On Sunday's episode, the sneering servant was finally outmaneuvered by his fellow downstairs nemesis O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) who convinced him that footman Jimmy (Ed Speleers) reciprocated his romantic feelings. Thomas (Rob James-Collier) made his move by kissing the unsuspecting sleeping Jimmy, who was shocked and disgusted by the unwanted advances.
Upside Downton Abbey
First there was Birdwalk Empire, and now there's Upside Downton Abbey. Sesame Street parodied the popular British import last week, as part of a lesson about the effects of gravity.
Shirley Maclaine, Maggie Smith
Downton Abbey survived World War I. But can the country manor weather the latest skirmish, a below-stairs battle between those scheming servants O'Brien and Thomas?
That's just one of the many entertaining questions and diverting dilemmas presented by the long-awaited — and well worth the wait — third season of this Masterpiece Classic addiction, which returns like a delicious if bittersweet bonbon. (And how I hope you've kept the blinders on regarding the many spoilers issuing from across the pond during the recent U.K. telecast.)
"No family is ever what it seems from the outside," muses the formidable Dowager Countess (the peerless Maggie Smith) during one of the many crises that beset the Crawleys and their loyal servants over the next seven Sundays (PBS, check tvguide.com listings).
This week, Paul McCartney stood in for Kurt Cobain to front a semi-reunited Nirvana at the 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy benefit concert (and later on Saturday Night Live), and there were touching tributes to the Newtown shooting victims from SNL and The Voice. The cast of Downton Abbey acted out scenes from Breaking Bad, we met the most easily scared man in the world and/or Norway, and Anne Hathaway and Samuel L. Jackson had a "sad-off" about their upcoming movies: Les Miserables and Django Unchained, respectively.
Check out those videos and more below.
On Thursday's Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert debuted a "sneak peek" at Breaking Abbey. You know, the Breaking Bad adaptation as performed by cast members from Downton Abbey.
Who says you can't go home again? Not that any of us ever lived in a place as grand and as teeming with character — highborn and low, selfless and treacherous — as Downton Abbey.