Downton Abbey, Season 5

(Rochester, New York) – Downton Abbey returns for an epic fifth season of intimately interlaced stories centered on an English country estate—a deliciously entertaining formula that has made it the highest-rated drama in PBS history. Downton Abbey, Season 5, presented by MASTERPIECE, premieres January 4, 2015 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV and airs every Sunday through March 1, 2015. 

Season 5 features returning stars Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt, Allen Leech, Robert James-Collier, Penelope Wilton, Phyllis Logan, Lily James, Brendan Coyle, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Samantha Bond, Ed Speleers, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy, David Robb, Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Daisy Lewis, Douglas Reith, Jeremy Swift, and Andrew Scarborough.This acclaimed ensemble is joined by guest stars Harriet Walter (Atonement), reprising her role as Lady Shackleton, and Peter Egan (Death at a Funeral), who returns as Lord Flintshire, together with completely new characters played by Richard E. Grant (Girls), Anna Chancellor (The Hour), and Rade Sherbedgia (24).

Downton fans are encouraged to stay tuned after the show for Talking Abbey LIVE, a wrap-up show with host Danielle Abramson Swartz. Airing immediately after each Downton Abbey episode, the live-call in show invites you to share your thoughts with uber-fan guests in studio. Talking Abbey LIVE premieres Sunday, January 4 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Season 5 recently completed its run in the UK, where it remains the most popular drama on ITV. Written and created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, Season 5, is a Carnival Films/MASTERPIECE Co-Production. Carnival Films, headed by Downton Abbey Executive Producer Gareth Neame, is a division of NBC Universal International Television Production. The series’ many honors include ten Emmys®, two Golden Globes®, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards®. Season 4 received 12 Emmy® nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series.

Viewership and social media stats have soared since Downton Abbey launched in January 2011. Season 4 drew an average audience of 13.2 million viewers, making it the top PBS drama of all time and one of the highest-rated dramas now on American television.

Like every previous outing, Season 4 dazzled critics. The New York Times wrote that the show, “casts a spell on viewers not unlike the allure of a Harry Potter novel.” NPR chimed in, “Julian Fellowes … has crafted characters so well-rounded, so complicated, and so interesting that we’re drawn to them no matter what the circumstances.” And Variety’s praise entered another dimension: “This annual escape into the early-20th century is an experience in time travel not to be missed.”

Viewers can expect to follow plot threads left dangling from last season, including Lady Mary’s courtship contest, Lady Edith’s trials as a secret single mom, Thomas’s scheming against Bates, Robert’s battles against modernity, Tom’s quest to be true to his ideals, Violet’s one-line zingers, and much, much more.

One of the recurring themes of Downton Abbey is change, from the wrenching consequences of the Titanic disaster in Season 1 to a notorious automobile accident at the end of Season 3—plus World War I, women’s rights, and the new morals, inventions, and fashions of the 1920s.

Which is where Season 5 kicks off. It’s 1924. The United Kingdom has its first Labor Party prime minister. The radio is the latest miracle of the age. And Downton’s traditional ways are besieged on all fronts, as evidenced by this exchange between the head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, and the butler, Mr. Carson:

“We’re catching up, Mr. Carson. Whether you like it or not, Downton is catching up with the times we live in,” says the forward-thinking Mrs. Hughes. “That’s exactly what I’m afraid of!” the butler retorts.

Pictured: Downton Abbey cast
Credit: Courtesy of ©Nick Briggs/Carnival Films 2014 for MASTERPIECE

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