Hugh Bonneville: Downton Abbey is proof that we’re “not going to get better TV by slashing budgets”

The star of the hit ITV period drama hopes it has "raised the bar" for long-form British series

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Since it first aired in 2010, Downton Abbey has become a phenomenal success, capturing the imaginations of millions of loyal viewers around the globe. But when it comes to an end later this year, star Hugh Bonneville hopes its legacy is more than impressive ratings, amusing memes and mountains of merchandise. 

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“In terms of a lasting impression, it’d be nice to think that [Downton Abbey’s] given a new lease of life to British long-form drama,” the 51-year-old actor told us. “[It’s] shown that if you put budgets into the writing and into each department… if you build it they will come.” 

Bonneville’s comments are especially pointed in the light of continuing cuts to ITV’s publicly-funded rival the BBC, and he says he hopes Downton – which reportedly costs around £1 million per episode to make – is proof that good drama requires investment. 

“You’re not going to get better TV by slashing budgets and patronising your audiences and thinking that they won’t smell a rat.” 

“I would like to think it’s raised the bar a bit,” he adds of the series. “It’s certainly given ITV Drama a big shot in the arm. And confidence, I think we’ve seen more confident mini series and long form dramas coming out of ITV in recent years. 

“If you aim high, occasionally you’ll fail, but occasionally you’ll succeed. We got very, very lucky with this show because no one thought it was going to last for three years let alone six.” 

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Downton Abbey returns to ITV on Sunday 20th September 


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