The third season of “Downton Abbey” premiered across the pond Sunday night, and the sky-high ratings suggest that fans haven’t tired of the soapy period piece.
Approximately 8.6 million viewers tuned into to ITV1, the network that airs “Downton Abbey” in Britain, to watch Shirley MacLaine make her first appearance as Martha Levinson, the wealthy American mother of Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern).
Those numbers would be impressive stateside, but they’re even more dazzling given the much smaller size of the British television audience. To put the ratings in perspective, about 34.5% of the country’s TV audience was tuned in to “Downton Abbey” Sunday night.
Ratings were down ever so slightly -- about 200,000 viewers -- compared with last season’s premiere, but this may have had something to do with declining viewership for the show’s lead-in, Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor,” something “Downton Abbey” won’t have to contend with when it airs on PBS early next year.
Until then, American viewers (or at least those with a healthy respect for international copyright laws) will have to make do by watching one of the many Season 3 trailers posted online. The latest, posted above, is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.
“Downton Abbey” clip reveals Shirley MacLaine vs. Maggie Smith