Downton Abbey ended its official Season 3 run on the UK’s ITV Sunday night with an average 10.1M viewers and a 39.1% share. The score marked a high for the season which had previously peaked in the overnights on October 21. With an overall average of 9.7M viewers, the third season has become the highest-rated for the period drama – Season One averaged 8.4M and Season Two had 9.5M. The show now take a hiatus from British screens until Christmas Day when a 2-hour special will air (though I’m told it will not have a holiday theme). That follows a similar pattern to last year when a Christmas movie tied up some loose ends at the Grantham estate. However, there’s no plan this year to screen the movie for local media as much of the cast including Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Jessica Brown Findlay and Lesley Nichol will be in the U.S. on a press tour ahead of Season 3′s January 6 PBS debut.
Questions continue to swirl around the possibility of a fourth season as core actors including Stevens see their stars rise. He’s currently on Broadway opposite Jessica Chastain in The Heiress and recently told The Wall Street Journal, “I think we’ll have to wait and see really,” about a fourth season. “You do feel a certain obligation to shows that raise your profile like Downton has. But there are definitely other exciting opportunities out there.” Downton creator Julian Fellowes told me in May that he envisioned the show going on for at least four seasons. He’s now commented to The Telegraph, “I think I’d be surprised if there was not a fourth series.” ITV, which has the final word on whether another season goes forward, ordered Season 3 at just about this time last year.
Fellowes also played down a UK news report over the weekend which claimed Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess, had been “rushed to hospital with a heart scare.” Reps for Downton tell Deadline the 77-year-old actress is “fine and well and at home.” She is understood to have visited her doctor for a routine check-up, but reports beyond that were classified as “untrue.” Fellowes told The Telegraph, “She’s absolutely fine and going out for lunch.”