Downton Abbey: Could it come to an end after the next series?

There are indications that Julian Fellowes may be hanging up his Downton quill after series 6 and start his new project for NBC Universal. But could someone else take over without giving Carson a heart attack?

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The Downton Abbey opening credits – a dog’s bottom, the ringing of bells, straightening of cutlery and string music – are an autumn TV fixture.

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But for how many more autumns?

As unthinkable as it sounds, there is talk at producers NBC Universal that it could all be coming to an end after the next series, according to sources at the company.

Earlier this year, writer and creator Julian Fellowes hinted as much. Production on his 19th century New York drama for Downton producers NBC Universal, The Gilded Age, has been held up because of his Downton commitments. He said in January he cannot commit to both shows – although he was at pains to stress that the drama would not be ending after series five – so the question is, could someone else take over when the time comes for him to leave? You can already see Carson smarting at the very idea.

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Still, if Downton’s end is nigh, there’s plenty more to enjoy with the current (fifth) series, a Christmas episode and, in all likelihood, another outing next autumn. But after that? A spokeswoman for NBC declined to comment on what was termed “speculation”.