What's the verdict on 'Downton Abbey's' return?
January 7th, 2013
03:13 PM ET

What's the verdict on 'Downton Abbey's' return?

With the amount of vaulted praise "Downton Abbey" has received, one might've braced for dashed expectations when season 3 premiered Stateside Sunday night.

But in the eyes of critics, at least, "Downton" is as addictive as ever.

The British series returned as a "Masterpiece: Classic" on PBS with a wedding on the horizon, although that didn't quite go as smoothly as planned.

This season also saw the arrival of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson, mother of Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), a fantastic face-off role against Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess.

But more importantly, the launch of season three saw "Downton" return to form, keeping its melodrama well-crafted.

As New York Magazine's Vulture observes in its review, "The series has been dismissed by some as an overproduced nighttime soap for Anglophiles, an impression unfortunately confirmed in its goofy second season."

But regardless of whatever season two's faults may have been, NYMag says, "'Downton' is still a pantheon-great series, filled with memorable moments; season three confirms that it is also, in its no-fuss, stiff-upper-lip way, a significant program, one that is as much about contemporary, multicultural, post-millennial Western civilization as it is about lily-white, class-bound England."

With the first and second seasons leading us through the sinking of the Titanic and World War I, we arrived back at the Downton estate as it braces for changes ahead in the 1920s. As a result, "season three of 'Downton Abbey' refocuses itself a bit more inward, and what it finds should please everyone who savors multi-layered characters and lush evocation of a vanishing way of life," said the New York Daily News.

Entertainment Weekly gave "Downton's" return a B+, noting in its review that creator Julian Fellowes "is relying more than ever on comic and poignant misunderstandings, extreme British reticence, and class warfare."

One also can't accuse him of "pandering to American audiences by adding Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine as a guest star," EW continues. "Her appearance on the series is handled with the same brisk expediency MacLaine herself brings to her crisp line readings."

The Los Angeles Times found that, "With its castle and costumes and superior production values ... the show is never less than lovely to look at, and most every second of it is deliciously acted, in a way you are meant to notice ... [It] is comfort food packaged as a gourmet meal, old soap in a Tiffany container. And after a sometimes wayward second season, with its distractions of war and influenza, the present series brings both a return to form and to its original subject matter: the preservation of the estate."

Filed under: television

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Beth

    I am officially not watching anymore. After Sybil's death, I'm just tired of all the death and sadness. Some things go right sometimes. We need joy and moments of happiness. Also, there is no romance between Matthew and Mary and it's getting old. This show started as a big success, but is ending in failure. I'm giving my copy of Season 1 to the good will.

    January 27, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Good Weekend Maggie S.

    Maggie S. is playing the role called 2pm routine for about the 250 millionth time....it makes her drool from the mouth to do these things...we can say good bye now....this is about treating people like humans and we intend to continue and live for peace..a good weekend to all.

    January 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Blinded By The Light

    enjoy and live for peace not confrontational behavior.

    January 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. lastlap

    What I want to know is why the family doesn't want Edith to marry Lord what's-his-name, when they wanted Mary to marry him in season 1?

    January 9, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian Eno's evil twin

      My favorite dialog is the off-handed, almost under her breath remarks the Doweger Countess makes when she's basically telling someone to shove it.

      January 19, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. moon627

    I watched the marathon showing of the previous seasons episodes to catch up in time for the season 3 opening and was not disappointed. I love this series and hope it goes on forever !

    January 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. we can hide from a simple 2,000

    can't we? lol

    January 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. We store Abby too

    its a great save and the best in television.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mark

    I didn’t think that the Dowager Countess would meet her match, but Martha Levinson is going to give her a run for the money on this season. I’m glad for the season three return, and some of my DISH coworkers pointed out that it feels more unpredictable for the venerable estate. I missed Sunday’s premiere, but saw it last night since I recorded it on my DISH Hopper. My DVR holds up to 2,000 hours of entertainment, so I can record and store episodes of Downton Abbey and watch them when I want.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dude

      Gee, it seems like this might be an advertisement for DISH and their new Hopper, or you are disturbingly excited about your TV shows...

      January 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • that advertisement has been posted

      250 million times also..gee wonder what that means..

      January 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. togirl

    I loved the show, as I pretty much like anything that the Brits do. But then I'm more biased toward them (I'm Canadian!)

    January 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. good morning everyone

    I don't get this show.

    January 8, 2013 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. mmmmmmm

    this show may get good again.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry Dunne

      Maria Doyle Kennedy aka Vera Bates plays New York’s Highline Ballroom on Jan 14th! Tickets here: http://highlineballroom.com/show/2013/01/14/the-duhks-maria-doyle-kennedy-solas-and-mcauley-horan-ocaoimh/

      January 8, 2013 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  12. Stac

    I am sooo disappointed about the very last episode he was one of my fav's

    January 8, 2013 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. C me

    The season opener cheated viewers out of the MUCH-anticipated wedding between Matthew and Mary! We literally saw about one second of it! Ridiculous! No vows. No rings. No kiss. The viewers were cheated! I can't imagine why Downton Abbey writers would do that to viewers.

    January 8, 2013 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. capital letters

    they really need to cancell this show

    January 8, 2013 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa


    January 8, 2013 at 5:26 am | Report abuse |
  16. maryse

    I recently watched Seasons 1 2 and 3 of Downton Abbey in just over a week while I was stuck in hospital.
    I'm hooked! Absolutely love it!

    Just a bit worried about "Matthew" though. They had better not kill him off in Season 4 he is my favorite.

    I hear they haven't made season 4 (starting PRODUCTION in February 2013) yet so it looks a while before we will find out.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  17. be quiet.

    show sucks

    January 7, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  18. J. Henry

    I wonder if writer Fellowes intended the character of Martha Levinson, Cora's mother, to be the stereotypical, loud, obnoxious American whose open views are a foil to the proper upper-crust Grantham family? Add her Jewishness, then you have the stereotypical, loud, obnoxious, Jewish American. And why does Elizabeth McGovern always sound as if she has been sucking on a lemon?

    January 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  19. NO

    ALL I'M SAYING IS BA BING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  20. M Jackson

    Do you mean "vaunted praise"? Or is this this about ceilings? Or sports?

    January 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Sabrina

    I enjoyed the 1st episode of Season 3. Shirley MacLaine is great as Martha Levinson. She's a straight shooter that doesn't take any crap from anyone lol.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Ellen

    Season 3 of Downton Abbey was great?? I have two words for it, IT SUCKED!!!

    January 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |

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