By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood January 4, 2012 at 8:20PM
"Downton Abbey," the gorgeous, turn-of-the-last-century, period Brit TV soap opera is back to please audiences and critics alike. Premiering this Sunday January 8th on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre, the second season will show how World War I dramatically upturns the lives of the aristocratic set and those who serve them. The characters created by executive producer Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park") face dramatic changes. Early reviews suggest that the effects of the war on style and character are both distressing and stirring.
Variety, Brian Lowry
WWI is creating fissures in the bedrock of their insular world, but it has done nothing to dim the glow of a production that genuinely merits the weighty "Masterpiece" label... If anything, the backdrop of war has enriched Fellowes' writing, which also benefits from several new characters, including a nouveau-riche newspaper editor ("Game of Thrones's" Iain Glen), who begins courting Lord Grantham's daughter Mary (Michelle Dockery), even though she's harboring regrets for having refused Matthew's proposal.
Newsday, Verne Gay
Well, goodbye to all that -- the kaleidoscope of Merchant Ivory-stylized flourishes that made the first season of this import so addictive. Casualties of war on "Downton Abbey" include food, fashions, colors -- grays and browns now predominate -- and, to a certain extent, fun. That's unfortunate but probably inevitable, too.
Mercury News, Chuck Barney
Let's be honest: "Downton Abbey" does indeed provide a bit of a history lesson and taps into potent themes of ambition and power. However, it's the soapy twists, not intellectual rigor, that made it an addictive, accessible hit and spawned a six-page spread in "Entertainment Weekly" -- something virtually unheard of for a PBS production.