The Legacy of Downton Abbey

Long live the Dowager Countess!
April 02, 2015
 
The Dowager Countess sits at a table on the lawn of Downton Abbey.

Pictured: Dame Maggie Smith (Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham)

Credit: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

On March 26, 2015 public television program directors tore their clothing. Fundraisers jumped from their second-story windows. (Don't worry, they all landed safely.) The word came down. The rumors were true. Downton Abbey's sixth series will be its last. 

It was hardly a surprise. Television actors and producers get itchy for the next year, especially when enjoying the increased visibility of a hit show. Downton's success ensured that it would flare brightly, but not long.

The impact of Downton Abbey on American public television cannot be overestimated. During a period widely believed to be the dying gasps of broadcast TV, PBS was reaching some of the largest audiences in its history. 

That gave them more clout with British producers, and confidence to look beyond the confines of the tradition of a single, Sunday night drama. 

We're getting more Masterpiece than ever, with Grantchester paired up with Downton and Wolf Hall following Mr. Selfridge. Furthermore, we have ongoing British dramas that exist entirely outside of the Masterpiece franchise. Call the Midwife just began its fourth series, and Last Tango in Halifax will be back for a third whirl on the dance floor this summer. Both will continue next year as well.

PBS even picked up a British comedy (Vicious), which I believe is entirely unprecedented for them. Vicious returns for a second series this summer. 

And there's much, much more on the way. New episodes of Sherlock. A remake of Poldark. Arthur & GeorgeHome Fires and Indian Summers

All made possible in part by the Dowager Countess and, of course, viewers like you.

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