All good TV shows eventually end. Sometimes too soon (HBO’s Rome, FX’s Legit) and sometimes they stick around longer than they should.
PBS’s “Downton Abbey” was one of those boomerang series that caught up multi-generations, cultures and ethnicities with its central themes of class, gender, and familial politics. The acting elevated this “Upstairs Downstairs” like drama into one where each character had a faceted and complex back-story, as we rooted for our favorites. Now the Downton phenomenon is ending. Few shows have achieved their status of quality and addictiveness for such a large audience.
Yesterday showrunner Gareth Neame spoke to reporters on a conference call to share the news: The Abbey closes show after one more season. The period drama, which premiered in 2010, is a drama revolving around the aristocratic Crawley family, their boisterous daughters and the enmeshing of their servants into their daily lives on the imposing Downton Abbey estate. The show’s first season begins during pre-World War I England, while the recently aired fifth season spans the late ’20s. Written and created by Julian Fellowes, the show gained a foothold internationally, airing on ITV in Britain and PBS stations in America.
The Crawleys weather the death of a daughter, health scares, financial near ruin and affairs. The servant class who work for them also dealt with their own struggles around pregnancy, marriage and the threat of incarceration.
Carnival’s Managing Director and Executive Producer of “Downton Abbey,” Gareth Neame said, “Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years. Inevitably there comes a time when all
shows should end and ‘Downton’ is no exception. We wanted to close the doors of ‘Downton Abbey’ when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans. We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up…”
“The idea of finishing these journeys is really appealing,” Neame said. “It gives you so much great dramatic rocket fuel, and I hope it’ll be the best season yet.”
A movie to continue the tale was not ruled out.
“We would be very interested in that,” Neame said, adding that a movie is “definitely something we’re contemplating. It would be great fun to do.”
Maggie Smith, who portrays the Dowager, Lady Violet Crawley, recently predicted in an interview with the Sunday Times that the sixth season would mark the show’s end:
“They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on,” Smith said.
“I mean, (my character) certainly can’t keep going,” Smith told the Times. “To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now. We’re into the late 1920s.”
A runaway hit since it debuted on PBS in 2011, “Downton Abbey”—a Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-production—is widely credited with reigniting American viewers’ passion for British drama. It is the top PBS drama of all time, the most popular series in MASTERPIECE’s 44-year history, and one of the most-watched dramas on American television, frequently beating the competition in its Sunday night time slot. MASTERPIECE is presented on PBS by WGBH Boston. The show’s final season will air this fall in England and early next year in the United States.