Downton Abbey: New Christmas special details, and confirmation of a 2013 Christmas special too!

by Anna Howell

We reported last week details of this year’s Downton Abbey Christmas Special, and now ITV have given us a little bit more information of what we have in store during this festive episode.

So far, we had been able to confirm that Matthew would be appearing in the episode, despite rumours that the actor, Dan Stevens, who plays him is leaving the show, which left a big question mark over whether, if this was to be his last ever episode, this Christmas would see his exit (which we believe to be caused by death).

Also, we told you that the Grantham family were travelling to Scotland to spend the festive season with wayward Rose and her family and that the staff left at Downton would feel the wrath of Carson (Jim Carter) when their concentration was lapsed due to a fair in town, and that Mrs Patmore was due to find love.

Now we can reveal, courtesy of the official ITV Downton website, that not only is their plenty of drama in store this Christmas, but that show bosses have confirmed a 2013 Christmas special also, after series four next autumn.

Discussing the fourth series, Gareth Neame, Managing Director of Carnival Films, the show’s makers and Executive Producer of Downton Abbey, has revealed that many well-loved characters both above and below stairs will be returning along with some new faces too:

“Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance.”

Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome back a drama series that has become a much anticipated part of all our lives every autumn and achieved success around the globe.

“Creator, writer and executive producer Julian Fellowes and the production team, led by Gareth and the producer Liz Trubridge, never rest on their laurels and have exciting plans for the fourth series.”

However, before we have the pleasure of the fourth series, fans can look forward to the 2 hour festive special, due to air at 9pm on Christmas day, of which Mackie warned would require the need of tissues, adding:

“We hope the Downton family of viewers will gather together to watch this major TV event as a shared Christmas night experience,

“Last year’s special episode set the nation talking on Boxing Day and 2012’s Christmas Day episode is no different. As ever, Downton will take its audience through a whole range of emotions. All of life’s experiences will feature in this episode.

“This is one episode you will want to see live with millions of others – and best have the tissues ready.”

During the episode, ITV have confirmed, the family will indeed be travelling to Scotland, as we reported, to spend the holiday with Lord Grantham’s (Hugh Bonneville) cousins at the very grand Duneagle Castle, which is home to Lady Rose (Lily James), who was sent home in the last episode of series three after her flapping ways with a married man.

Whilst there, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) discovers that her married editor Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) is also in Scotland, but the reasons why are being left as somewhat of a mystery.

Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) try to look out for Edith with regards to Mr Gregson’s intentions with her, but end up falling out with each other whilst trying to do so.

John Bates (Brendan Coyle), his wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Molesley (Kevin Doyle) and O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) all accompany the family on their trip, leaving the rest of the servants back at Downton.

O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) is set to meet her match in Duneagle’s lady’s maid, Wilkins (Simone Lahbib), where an unlikely respect is founded, but one of them is set to be left red in the face at the Christmas Ball!

Back in Downton, Tom Branson (Allen Leech) has stayed behind to look after his with little girl, ‘Sybbie’, despite the Grantham’s attempts to include him in their world, still deeply in mourning for his late wife, Sybil.

Carson, meanwhile, has his work cut out trying to keep the house, and the servants on order during the family’s absence:

“While the cat’s away, the mice will play,” explained executive producer Gareth.

“The Grantham’s do not live at Downton Abbey 12 months of the year. They would go to London for the summer season and also go away on holidays like this.

“And when that happens the domestic staff of Downton would remain. What will they get up to while the family is away?”

Elsewhere, love is in the air for Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol), and there is a new housemaid joining the cast, Edna (MyAnna Buring).

Discussing the worldwide phenomenon that is Downton Abbey, and its international success having been screened in over 200 countries, Gareth Neame continued:

“Downton has a whole life beyond the episodes themselves. It has leapt out of the television set and become part of both the national and global conversation,” explained Gareth.

“It is now part of culture and society and that’s a very different experience for all of us involved in making the show.”

He went on to credit the epic show to creator and writer, Julian Fellowes, saying:

“Not only is he a superb craftsman, he also has an extraordinary work ethic. It is a mammoth undertaking to write all those episodes,

“The main credit for the success of Downton is by far and away down to Julian. I’ve not had the fortune to work with anyone else who combines so many talents.”

And you will be surprised to know that Gareth believes that one of Fellowes main inspirations for Downton is ITV1 soap, Coronation Street:

“He has learned an awful lot as a viewer of Coronation Street and has an extraordinary sense of serial drama writing,

“Julian knows that you want a core group of characters who almost become an extension of your family. But you also need new blood coming in to shake things up a bit.”

Laura was quick to praise the shows seamless introduction of new characters in the last series, including scullery maid Ivy (Cara Theobold), as well as Alfred (Matt Milne) and Jimmy.

“That is one of the reasons why we always feel confident about the future of Downton Abbey,” she said.

With consolidated ratings averaging 11.9 million viewers for series three which equates to a 40% share of the available audience, Downton Abbey is undoubtedly the most popular drama in recent memory. The final episode of the last series also achieved over 12 million viewers, which was a fitting climax to such a globally successful series.

“We’re always very pleased with the audience reaction to the series,” said Laura. “From the very first series Julian created an ensemble of memorable characters. Of course there are some you may like more than others but they’re all incredibly well drawn.

“He knows them all so well and is able to quickly integrate new characters into the drama so you feel as if they have always been there. That’s a real gift.

“Julian, Gareth and the production team manage to keep the absolute essence of what people liked in the first place and yet they almost treat every series as though it’s a new drama.

“So each series feels fresh and yet it always delivers those things you love. As we move through the different eras there’s always more to enjoy.”

“Julian has also always had that ability to write a balance of the big story and the tiny little details. So in series three, for example, we saw a jazz club for the first time as part of Rose’s story – and also cocktails being served at Downton.”

Watch an interview with MyAnna Buring who plays new housemaid, Edna, in the Christmas special in the clip below:

Downton Abbey screens on ITV1/ITV1 HD on Christmas Day at 9