It’s the least surprising news of the TV year: there will be a third series of Downton Abbey on ITV1 in 2012.
Eight new episodes are to be filmed, set in 1920 and 1921 and covering 18 months in the lives of the Crawley family and their staff.
Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Jessica Brown Findlay are amongst the legion of actors who return for the third series, which will be written once again by Julian Fellowes and retains the same production team.
Fellowes said: “I am extremely grateful to ITV for this. I have grown very fond of my Downton family and I certainly do not want to say goodbye to them quite yet.”
Ratings for series two of Downton have, according to ITV, increased by 21% since the first run last year, making it the most popular drama series on British TV for a decade. It also won six Emmy awards in September.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be bringing Downton Abbey back for a third series as the inhabitants of Downton move into the roaring 20s,” said ITV director of drama commissioning Laura Mackie. “It’s rare to find a drama that the audience connects with so strongly and we’re extremely proud to have commissioned a series that has become such a phenomenon.”
Executive producer Gareth Neame added: “We could not be more excited to invite audiences back to Downton next year.”