What is it about Downton Abbey? Why is a show about stodgy English aristocrats and their servants in a old manse so popular? Is it that we long for a world with well defined rules and roles compared to the change and chaos of our complex modern world? Is it that we know that characters themselves are in a world that will soon be subject to tumultuous change with the end of the first world war. Or is it simply the human drama and relationships that occur both upstairs and downstairs that we identify with. Maybe it’s just Maggie Smith’s wise quips.
Regardless of what draws us to it, the two hour season 3 premiere of Downton Abbey will air on Sunday January 6th. Click here to check your local listings. Here in the Hub, WGBH will show the premiere episode at 9 PM as will most other PBS stations around the country (8 PM in the central time zone). The episode will also be available on the web for free on PBS’ web site. PBS usually has the last two episodes available free for streaming. Note, if you ask your butler to set the DVR, he’ll have to search for “Masterpiece Theater” not Downton Abbey. It appears that Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and VUDU will make the episodes available for purchase the next day (I’ll confirm later on). Update (1/7/2013): Season 3 is available for download on Amazon, iTunes and VUDU. Amazon is running a promotion where you get the first episode from seasons 1 and 2 included if you purchase season 3. Season 3 is not available on Hulu Plus yet.
If you need to catch up on seasons one and two, all of the episodes are available on both Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus with a subscription. Amazon Instant Video has the final episode of season 2 available for free without Prime as well. Netflix only has season one at the moment. While Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus are streaming the episodes in HD, the Netflix versions are only in SD (despite saying they are HD). PBS will also air the last two episodes of season 2 on December 23rd and the 30th. Or, if you don’t have time to catch up, there’s the six minute summary below. After watching it, you’ll never forget the name, Mr. Pamuk. The season 3 preview follows.
So, get out your best silver, pour yourself a whisky (the choice of aristocrats before a servants’ ball) and iron your newspaper. Soon the next set of Crawley family crises will be upon us. God save the Earl of Grantham.
Update: Amazon Prime Instant Video has secured the exclusive US streaming rights to Downton Abbey. Season 3 will be available on Amazon Prime streaming starting June 18, 2013. Reading into the release, one can assume that Downton will no longer be available on Netflix or Hulu Plus. Seasons 1 and 2 are already available on Amazon Instant while the season 3 episodes are available for purchase now.