Season four of "Downton Abbey" will premiere on PBS on January 5, 2014, the network announced this morning, and will run for eight weeks. The period drama, a Carnival Films and Masterpiece co-production, will have already aired in the U.K in the fall of this year, with a start date set for September.
While networks like BBC America have taken pains to have new episodes of high profile shows like "Doctor Who" air on the same date in the U.S. and the U.K., PBS apparently remains unconcerned about the number of "Downton" fans who'll be unable to wait the extra four months and will torrent the episodes after their British premiere. And maybe that's with good reason -- even with the delay, season three attracted unprecedentedly high ratings for PBS, with the February 17 finale beating out all other broadcast and cable shows in primetime.
Season three of the Julian Fellowes-created drama saw some major cast member exits, including Dan Stevens, Jessica Brown Findlay and Siobhan Finneran. The upcoming season will see the return of Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson as well as the introduction of several new actors, including "Weekend" star Tom Cullen, Nigel Harman, Dame Harriet Walter, Joanna David, Julian Ovenden, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and actual person of color Gary Carr, who'll play jazz singer Jack Ross.