ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

America's Surprising Excitement Over Season Three of Downton Abbey

Updated on October 20, 2012

PBS Demonstrates that Quality and Entertainment Can Coexist

For years PBS (Public Broadcasting System) has been another name for high-quality, educational television. When the public wanted romance, intrigue, and riveting drama, they flocked to Showtime, HBO, or other, more commercial networks. Then, in January, 2010, PBS Masterpiece Theater aired the first episode of "Downton Abbey", a U.K. favorite series, and America was hooked.

Although U.S. audiences have long been fascinated with aspects of British life, interest was typically centered on the Royal family, Jane Austen-like shows, or international politics. No one was more surprised than Americans when we realized we were hooked on an entertaining PBS series borrowed directly from popular British television.

However, when you take a closer look, it's easy to see why so many of us will carve out an hour on Sunday nights this January, to make sure we don't miss a minute of "Downton Abbey", Season Three.

"Downtown Abbey" Trailer

It's a Great Story

In the very first episode we meet Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, his wife Lady Grantham, and their three beautiful daughters. They are an upper-class British family living a tranquil, pre-World War I life on their elegant English estate. Although the daughters cannot inherit the estate, the family is comfortable with the current line of inheritance. Their eldest daughter will marry a male relative and all will be well.

However, in 1912 their world is turned upside down when they learn that both male heirs have perished on the Titanic.

This devastating news sets in motion events which affect everyone on the estate. There is everything from love affairs to outright rebellion. The Crawleys and their servants eventually become embroiled in a series of complex, riveting dramas.

History itself also complicates events, as we see the group affected by World War I and an influenza epidemic.

The Major Players

Hugh Bonneville
Robert, Earl of Grantham
Earl and the head of the Crawley family
Elizabeth McGovern
Cora, Countess of Grantham
American wife of the Earl
Michelle Dockery
Lady Mary Josephine Crawley
Oldest daughter of the Earl
Laura Carmichael
Lady Edith Crawley
Middle daughter of the Earl
Jessica Brown Findlay
Lady Sybil Crawley
Youngest daughter of the Earl
Maggie Smith
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
Dowager Countess and the Earl's mother

Casting Makes the Series

"Downton Abbey" not only introduces American viewers to a group of fine new British actors, it is anchored by some outstanding, well-known performers. As a result, the show has collected numerous awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries - Television or Film.

Watching Maggie Smith weave her acidic, always-on-point magic is almost reason enough to catch this series. However, the rest of the cast also sparkles. From Hugh Bonneville's loving but troubled Lord Grantham, to the youngest, most confused servant, every actor in the show keeps viewers fascinated, wondering how they'll get out of the pickle the writer's have put them in.

New actors have been introduced and others have left (sadly, one of the sweetest servants is lost during World War I). But the Crawleys, like families everywhere, carry on.

Teasers indicate that Shirley McLaine will become part of the cast in Season 3. No doubt she'll play a relative of Lady (Cora) Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). The back story on Cora is that she's an American heiress who fell in love with Robert Crawley, and married him, saving the dwindling Crawley fortune.

Despite the gold digger implications, their marriage is happy. They dote on their three daughters and each other. Of course that doesn't mean that Robert hasn't looked at another woman. To find out who, where, and when, you'll have to watch the first two seasons.

Lady Sybil Crawley wearing a shocking new fashion.
Lady Sybil Crawley wearing a shocking new fashion. | Source
Lady Mary Crawley, dressed to go calling.
Lady Mary Crawley, dressed to go calling. | Source
The elegance of the male servant's attire.
The elegance of the male servant's attire. | Source

It's Got Style

The creators of "Downton Abbey" have gone above and beyond to simulate the look and feel of an upper-class family in early 20th-century England. They've spared no effort to ensure audiences fall into this privileged world so completely they can smell the flowers in the centerpieces and hear the laughter of the downstairs maids.

Costumes play a big part in the effect. Each of the women wears a series of different, elegant evening dresses. Nightgowns and teagowns are also re-created in the tiniest detail. Every ensemble needs accessories, and the show's are gathered with painstaking detail. Some dresses are made for the scenes, some rented, and others are actual Edwardian costumes.

The men of Downton also cut dashing figures, whether in World War I uniforms, formal wear, or even servants' livery. In fact, costumers for the show keep in mind that, in Edwardian England, well-dressed footmen reflected a family's status. In those times no expense was spared to ensure footmen were well-turned out by the family tailor. Uniforms even included buttons with the family crest. Downton Abbey's costume staff remain true to the period and the uniforms are authentic.

The maids of "Downton Abbey" wear replica's of the period uniforms as well. The real maid uniforms were not as colorful or elegant as the men's livery and maids had to sew their own clothes. The family, however, usually provided the uniform fabric as Christmas gifts.

The series' costume and set designers' meticulous attention to these details is one of the reasons the show resonates with audiences. The show is a window through which we view Edwardian England's class, status, and gender gaps.

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle | Source
Servants relaxing "downtairs" at Highclere
Servants relaxing "downtairs" at Highclere | Source
World War I scene.
World War I scene. | Source

True-to-life Locations Take You There

Part of the reason viewers are getting lost in the world of "Downton Abbey" is the authentic feel of the locations. There's good reason for this, since many scenes are shot at Highclere Castle, in Britain. Other scenes are filmed 60 miles away, at Ealing Studios.

Highclere Castle:

Filming in the great home presents challenges. For instance, actors have to moderate their speech to accommodate bigger rooms.

It might seem like fun to be involved in scenes set in such areas as the massive, elegant dining areas, but it's work. A scene can take over 10 hours to film. This means performers have to be very careful what they eat. One or two mouthfuls of food at a time can equal a lot of food by day's end.

Actors also need to change their demeanor completely when they alternate scenes from "downstairs" to "upstairs" in the great castle. In early 20th century England people living in the home were intensely aware of their class and status and adjusted their voice and manners accordingly.


"Downton Abby" is also true to the horrors of war. While these scenes are not as much fun for viewers or actors, authenticity is critical. It's important, to assure that audiences feel they are in the middle of the action and understand what characters are feeling. That is exactly what the Downton writers, set designers, and make-up artists achieve as they take viewers into the trenches of The Great War.

Servants Quarters:

Servants in the Edwardian period lived virtually separate lives from their masters, even though they were in the same home. Their existence is replicated with a precision that allows Downton fans to share all the laughter, tears, joy, and frustration of the staff as they work and play in their own quarters.

Break Out the Popcorn and Get Ready for January, 2013

Whether you enjoy great style, engaging drama, or a sense of history, you'll find something to engage your imagination at Downton Abbey.

"Downton Abbey", Season Three airs January 9, 2013 and already has a huge audience waiting to see where time and circumstances take the Crawleys and their staff. If you haven't seen Seasons one and two, episodes can be viewed on, as streaming video. Amazon Prime members can catch up at no cost, via instant video. If these don't appeal, a Google search will turn up several sites with episodes available to watch online.

Downton Family Tree
Downton Family Tree | Source


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • LupitaRonquillo profile image


      4 years ago

      Great article and bravo for a well written series! I finally got to watch the first season in full, (my husband bought me them for my birthday) I'm officially hooked! Love the cast... be fun to write some poems on the characters..


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)