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'Downton Abbey' Season Three Premiere Scores 7.9 Million Viewers

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 7, 2013 at 4:00PM

Even with the ending of the entire "Dowton Abbey" third season spoiled by many who read news accounts of one key cast member's departure from the series, which has already concluded in the UK, the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" debut on Sunday drew a preliminary Nielsen average of 7.9 million viewers. The new season adds Shirley MacLaine as Elizabeth McGovern's mother, who gives dowager Maggie Smith a run for her money.
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Maggie-Smith-downton-abbey

Even with the ending of the entire "Dowton Abbey" third season spoiled by many who read news accounts of one key cast member's departure from the series, which already concluded in the UK, the PBS "Masterpiece Classic" debut on Sunday drew a preliminary Nielsen average of 7.9 million viewers. The new season adds Shirley MacLaine as Elizabeth McGovern's mother, who gives dowager Maggie Smith a run for her money. 

"Downton" drew four times the average PBS primetime household rating-- 5.1--and nearly doubled last year's Season Two premiere total of 4.2 million viewers. The finale had drawn 5.4 million and a 3.5 household rating: the highest PBS number since Ken Burns' 2009 "National Parks" premiere.

This article is related to: Television, TV, Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith, Shirley MacLaine


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.