The creator and writer of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, has defended his hit ITV drama against criticism that the second series is closer to a soap opera than a traditional period piece.
"I have heard that some viewers have commented on the pace at which this series is moving forward," said Fellowes, speaking at a Radio Times Television Tales event yesterday as part of the Cheltenham Literary Festival.
"But people wouldn't enjoy it if it [Downton] moved at a glacial pace", he continued. "I hate dramas where you can go into the kitchen, make a sandwich, come back and have missed nothing, so the pace is fast but no faster than the last series. There may be more characters, locations and story lines in this series which means what we are portraying is denser and may seem faster paced."
"The blood pressure is definitely raised this time round and that stress may well make people feel the pace is faster", added Dan Stevens, who plays heir apparent Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey.
But after such unexpectedly high viewing figures for the first run last year (an average of over nine million viewers per episode), is there pressure to dumb down the programme in order to appeal to the post X Factor audience on Sunday night?
"We definitely haven't lowered standards to appeal to younger viewers" insisted Fellowes. "We don't want to spoon feed our audience. There are still references that younger members of the audience may not understand, and I don't feel the need to explain them because I like the idea of inspiring people to go on the internet and look them up. I do not want to patronise our audience and I don't want to exclude anyone from enjoying Downton Abbey."
"We obviously depend on the loyal costume drama viewers but I like the fact that we are attracting new viewers," added executive producer Gareth Neame. "I am not in the least ashamed of our big ambitions. We were expecting most of The X Factor audience to turn off and the fact that they haven't is fantastic."
Neame also commented on the much-maligned Aviva insurance adverts which play before and after every advertisement break on the programme, attracting a number of complaints to Ofcom and ITV.
"It would be ideal to watch Downton without the adverts, but without them it wouldn't exist," he said. "It's not great that the narrative is broken up by ads but it has become part of the phenomenon. We have no control of them, or the Aviva deal. I have to be careful about what I say here, but we gave them some feedback and I noticed a change in them last week."
And so, with huge audiences continuing to flock to the period drama, surely there are plans for a third series?
"I would like to think that we will be back next year," said Fellowes hesitantly, before admitting that he always had three parts planned for Downton.
He added: "The original concept in my optimistic head was for the first series to start towards the end of the Edwardian era, the second to be set during World War One and the third in the 1920s. In the 20s there are big changes, new inventions, different expectations I can't wait to explore."