‘Downton Abbey’ season four debut makes history as PBS’ highest-rated drama premiere

SHARE ‘Downton Abbey’ season four debut makes history as PBS’ highest-rated drama premiere

Sunday’s somber, sluggish two-hour season premiere of “Downton Abbey” was a bit of a downer, but the PBS period drama’s ratings were up.

An average audience of 10.2 million viewers (a 6.2 household rating) tuned in for Sunday’s episode, making it the highest-rated drama premiere in PBS history, according to preliminary overnight numbers from Nielsen.

“Downton’s” record-breaking audience was up 22 percent over last season’s debut.

Sunday’s episode also marks a series high for “Downton,” which already ranked as the network’s most popular drama. Last season’s shocking (unless the Internet spoiled it for you) finale drew 8.2 million viewers.

Between 8 and 10 p.m. (Central Time), PBS tied with CBS as the most watched network on Sunday (based on weighted metered market averages).

The new season will be available for free streaming on PBS station websites, the PBS Video Portal and PBS’ apps on Xbox, Roku and Apple TV for a limited time after each broadcast.

Season four of the British period drama picked up in early 1922, six months after Matthew Crawley’s fatal car crash. Widow Mary is deep in mourning and back to her aloof, prickly ways, while an increasingly confident Edith is deep in love.

It’s the “downstairs” storylines that are proving to be particularly weak — bordering on annoying — in early episodes. My tolerance threshold for Daisy-Ivy-Mrs. Patmore drama is at an all-time low. I found myself missing sourpuss Miss O’Brien, who bolted from Downton to take a job as a lady’s maid in India.

I’ve seen three episodes of the new season so far, and it’s not until the third that I feel like the series starts to get its groove back.

What did you think of the season premiere?

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