Today is a day of good news and bad news for Downton Abbey fans. The UK series - which airs on PBS stateside - has been the subject of much critical acclaim since its 2010 premiere. Season 3 has already finished airing overseas and will debut in the U.S. early next year, and we've already seen the trailer, which teases a promising storyline for Maggie Smith.
With the same cast and crew in place, there's no reason to think that Downton Abbey will prove to be anything less than the critical darling it has proven to be in its first two seasons. Additionally, it has brought records ratings to both ITV - which airs the series in the UK - as well as PBS. It's a no-brainer for both networks then to keep the series going, and now we have confirmation of just that.
According to TV Line, ITV has renewed Downton Abbey for season 4. It should be noted, however, that PBS has yet to make an official announcement that it will follow suit and air the fourth season in the U.S., though it's expected that the network will indeed do so. In the meantime, ITV executive commented on the show's renewal:
"We’re thrilled to welcome back a drama series that has become a much anticipated part of all our lives every autumn and achieved success around the globe. [Series creator] Julian Fellowes and the production team, led by Gareth and the producer Liz Trubridge, never rest on their laurels and have exciting plans [for Season 4]."
Production on season 4 is scheduled to resume in February 2013, but when it does, it may be without one of its most prominent faces.
According to the UK's The Sunday Express, a source close to the production has said that Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, will be exiting the series at the beginning of the fourth season.
"Dan Stevens isn’t returning to the series. He will probably do the first episode of the fourth series, but that will be it."
A source claims that budgetary concerns may have stood in the way of the actor's return.
"The American network NBC, which owns the production company which makes the show, basically bankrolled the first series. There was talk it didn’t want to put in so much money this time. Even with all this there are still plans to do five series."
Considering the sizable ensemble cast of Downton Abbey, it makes sense that some cuts may have had to take place to ensure the series' return. However, ITV has not yet commented on whether or not the actor is indeed leaving the series, though Stevens is expected to appear in the two-hour Christmas special which will precede season four.
Stevens will be the second major star to leave the show recently, as Jessica Brown Findlay recently quit to pursue a film career. As of this writing, she remains one of the top contenders for the role of Sharon Carter in Marvel's superhero sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Stay tuned as details about Stevens' potential departure become available.
Downton Abbey season 3 premieres in the U.S. on January 6, 2013 on PBS.