PBS celebrated the premiere of season 5 of Downton Abbey—airing Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. ET—in style at the Hudson Theatre in New York on Monday.
Just before showing 45 minutes of the first episode, Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton announced the anthology series' expansion.
“Thanks to PBS, Masterpiece is increasing its footprint in 2015 by 50%. [There] will be 20 more hours on Sunday nights of Masterpiece,” said Eaton. “And that is because since we started airing Downton Abby four years ago, Masterpiece’s ratings have increased 100%.”
PBS’ chief programming executive Beth Hoppe added the fourth season ofDownton “was the highest rated drama in PBS history.”
After screening 45 minutes of the season premiere, which picks up in 1924 as the United Kingdom has its first Labor Party prime minister, a Q&A session followed.
The panel included Downton stars Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Robert James-Collier, Phyllis Logan, Lesley Nicol, executive producer Gareth Neame, historical advisor Alastair Bruce and was moderated by Jenna Bush Hager.
When asked what the biggest difference between American and English fans, Robert James-Collier said Americans were much warmer.
“A fan in England, if they like you, they won’t tell you. A fan in America will come across the street and tell you they like you,” said James-Collier. “An English fan will come across the street to tell you they don’t like you. They’re more enthusiastic over here.” A fan determined to prove his point screamed, “We love you too.”
The cast glowingly praised the historical perspective advisor Alastair Bruce brings to the show.
After receiving effusive praise, Bruce chided, “I’m a bit of a mosquito. They’re kind enough to call me the oracle. I’m a bit of a mosquito by coming up all the time telling people to sit up straight. And some of you aren’t.”
Despite Bruce’s best efforts to keep the show historically accurate, the panel elaborated on a notable mistake in the past year.
When asked about “Watergate”—referring to a promotional image that had a water bottle in the background—Neame didn’t seem too bothered.
“I think it’s nice to have the opportunity to use the word 'Watergate' when it was actually something to do with water.”
Though it might seem odd in hindsight, Neame never thought the show would get as big as it did in the U.S.
“In the United States, I thought we’d have a few million very dedicated followers of the show. I didn’t know it was going to become one of the biggest shows in America. That was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.”
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