The shows going up against Downton Abbey

By Any Means, The Story of the Jews and Big Fat Quiz of the 80s will all attempt to steal a portion of tonight's Downton audience


It’s been nine long months since Matthew met his maker on the roadside, but Downton Day has finally arrived. Those who tuned into last year’s Christmas special will anticipate a less than cheery affair as the family moves on from their heir’s demise, but ITV’s ratings juggernaut will no doubt expect mega viewing figures when series four begins at 9pm on ITV. 


But what about those who don’t fancy a helping of Lord Grantham and the Crawley family? Has anyone dared to go up against Julian Fellowes’ mighty period drama? Well, yes, actually, so if Downton’s decorum isn’t your thing, take a look through the shows attempting to grab your attention: 

By Any Means, 9:00pm, BBC1

BBC are launching a brand new series to do battle with Downton this year. Warren Brown (last seen playing Luther’s sidekick DS Ripley) is back as a cop with a difference. He stars alongside Shelley Conn and Andrew-Lee Potts as a trio of unconventional crimebusters catching the bad guys “by any means” (get it?). 

Pitting a brand new series in direct competition with Downton doesn’t say much of the Beeb’s hopes for their latest take on the police drama, but the decent cast may just drawn you in – Gina McKee stars as the trio’s superior, Helen Barlow, while the first episode sees Keith Allen playing murderous thug Nicholas Mason. When he walks away a free man from yet another trial, the maverick unit aim to get him, yes, “by any means”. 

Watch the trailer for By Any Means…

The Story of the Jews

It’s a shame for BBC2 to line the last two instalments of this excellent series up against Downton. As the grandchild of Lithuanian Jews, Simon Schama’s sweeping history of Jewish religion and traditions has been an informative and insightful watch. 

This week the historian enters the lost world of the shtetl – the towns and villages peppered across Eastern Europe with their own unique Jewish culture. Schama then goes on to look at their influence around the world, visiting the Jews of Manhattan to study how they established themselves in a land of opportunities. 

Big Fat Quiz of the 80s

Downton Abbey may have moved forward to the jazzy days of the 1920s, but Channel 4 have chosen to remind us of a more sophisticated age: the days of perms, shoulder pads and Wham.

While we’re used to their annual Big Fat Quiz of the Year, tonight they’re out to test your knowledge of the 1980s. You know the drill: Jimmy Carr is joined by three teams of celebrities (including usual suspects David Mitchell, Alan Carr, Phill Jupitus and Jack Dee) completing the nostalgic quiz. Kim Wilde and Toyah Wilcox are on hand to ask questions and evoke some good old Eighties spirit. There’s not a cup of tea or silver candlestick in sight… 

And if you fancy a film:

Bradley Cooper co-stars with Robert De Niro in Limitless on Film4 at 9pm. The sci-fi thriller sees him play penniless writer Eddie Morra, who transforms into a high achieving dynamo thanks to a mysterious new drug. But his success comes under threat when its worrying side effects begin to reveal themselves…

Jamie Foxx gives an Oscar-nominated performance as music legend Ray Charles in Ray (9pm, ITV3). From his early impoverished days to his struggles against racial prejudice, blindness and drug addiction, this is the journey of one of the most iconic singer/songwriters in history.

And finally, Orson Welles stars in Citizen Kane at 9pm on BBC4. The classic drama (which Welles also co-wrote, produced and directed) picks up following the death of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane as reporters try to uncover the real truth about his mysterious life.