Downton Abbey delivers big ratings and high praise in the US

Julian Fellowes's period drama scoops 4.2 million viewers for the first episode, doubling the PBS average primetime ratings

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Downton Abbey’s second series has caused a minor sensation in the US, with the show’s first episode drawing 4.2m viewers on Sunday night – and that’s without counting people watching online or through PVRs.

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The Julian Fellowes-scripted drama doubled US broadcaster PBS’s average primetime audience of 2m viewers over the weekend, and exceeded the average ratings for Downton’s first series in the States by 18 per cent.

Critical reaction to the show’s latest run has also been favourable, with the LA Times calling the show “wildly addictive” and praising its “lovely dresses, handsome help and winsome gentry”.

The New York Daily News went further, opining that “it could also be the best show of 2012.”

While US TV programmes on networks like ABC or Fox often score double figure ratings, an audience of over 4m viewers for public service broadcaster PBS counts as a massive success.

Unsurprisingly, PBS executive producer Rebecca Eaton was rather pleased with the reaction to Downton, saying: “It’s beautifully done and draws in millions of viewers – what more could we ask for?”

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The show was also viewed via PBS’s online streaming 400,000 times in the States.