This is hardly shocking news, but UK crossover hit "Downton Abbey" has been officially picked up for a fourth season.
While it seemed likely that the series would return, the announcement from UK network operator ITV seals the deal. The ensemble costume drama had its best ratings performance ever in its recently finished third season, besting Sunday night competition "The X Factor" in average viewership. In the UK, the third season brought in an average of 9.7 million viewers when including DVR viewership, up from season one (averaging 8.4 million viewers) and season two (averaging 9.5 million viewers).
At a recent question & answer session at a behind-the-scenes event, series creator Julian Fellowes had expressed optimism regarding whether the period drama would return after its latest highly rated season. "We are being very sort of coy about it," the series' creator said at the event. "We don't know. We haven't had a commission. But I think it would be pretty odd if there wasn't [a fourth season]."
ITV is still set to air a two-hour holiday special on Christmas Day, in which Lord and Lady Grantham head for a summer break in the Scottish Highlands. Laura Mackie, director of drama at ITV, said in an announcement, “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."
That global success includes American audiences, where it is among the most highly rated public television programming. The third season will begin airing stateside on PBS starting January 6th.
Filming on the anticipated fourth season of "Downton Abbey" will begin in February for a fall 2013 debut.