Tonight brings the moment Downton Abbey fans have been waiting for — the première of Season 3 on PBS.
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey’s creator and writer, has provided plenty of reasons to tune in to the British-made series, which begins tonight at 9.
• Shirley MacLaine as an American visitor, talking smack with British in-law Violet (Maggie Smith), each wittily knocking the other’s nation and values. Mac-Laine wears pasty, kabuki-like makeup as armour; Smith meets insults with world-weary eyes.
• Michelle Dockery keeping it real as Lady Mary, who finally loves Matthew (Dan Stevens) while barely softening her sharp edges and steely devotion to family tradition. Bonus: The willowy actress was born to wear sleek 1920s dresses.
• Stevens as golden-boy Matthew Crawley is still conflicted about his future role as lord of the manor. A side game: See if Stevens, smart as he is, looks distracted by the novels he was reading on the set as a judge for Britain’s Man Booker Prize.
• Fellows’ charming faith in the tender side of revolutionaries, at least ones that mate with landed gentry. Irish chauffeur-turned-activist Tom Branson (Allen Leech), who previously turned moist-eyed over the murder of the Russian royal family, loses it again in this season over fiery political warfare.
• Fashion and its evolution, as Downton’s upstairs ladies move from lovely but fussy wardrobes to sassier, clean-lined garb and (except for steadfast Mary) shorter hair, reflections of liberating changes that include the promise of universal suffrage — that means the vote — for all British women.
• Cultural, medical and other period tidbits, which are fascinating and a reminder that wise historians never would choose to live in a time before their own. In one instance, a character who may have cancer is told that test results will take weeks.
Sunday, 9 p.m., PBS
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