ITV greenlights more Downton, but BBC drops curtain on Merlin

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ITV has announced that there will be a fourth series of its hit period drama Downton Abbey. Eight new episodes of the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning drama will air in autumn 2013.

Gareth Neame, MD of Carnival Films, the show’s makers, and Executive Producer of Downton Abbey, said well-loved characters both above and below stairs will return along with some new faces. “Viewers can look forward to more drama, comedy, love, hatred, jealousy, rivalry, ambition, despair and romance.”

Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV, added: “We’re thrilled to welcome back a drama series that has become a much anticipated part of all our lives and achieved success around the globe. Creator and writer and executive producer Julian Fellowes and the production team, led by Gareth, never rest on their laurels and have exciting plans for the fourth series.”

With consolidated ratings averaging 11.9 million viewers for series three (40% share), ITV says that Downton Abbey “is undoubtedly the most popular drama in recent memory”.

Explaining the show’s longevity, Mackie said: “Julian, Gareth and the production team manage to keep the essence of what people liked in the first place and yet they almost treat every series as though it’s a new drama.
So each series feels fresh and yet always delivers those things you love. Julian has also always had that ability to write a balance of the big story and the tiny little details.”

While ITV is keeping on with Downton, other drama news this week is that BBC fantasy adventure Merlin is to be retired at the end of season five. Merlin has been a strong performer on Saturday evenings and sold well around the world. But the show’s creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy wanted to go out on a high. They haven’t ruled out reinventing the franchise as a theatrical movie.

Further information on The Stag can be found on Production Intelligence, the online database of advance productions from The Knowledge: