Downton Abbey

Forget all that stiff-upper-lip stuff. If you're looking for evidence that the British have a big, beating heart underneath their reputation for reserve and restraint, look no further than Sunday's finale of their popular TV export, Downton Abbey.

Many Americans know Dame Maggie Smith as the elegant and formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham. But at 81, Smith is now starring in a role that's a long way from Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith is Mary Shepherd — a homeless woman who lived in a derelict van parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years.

"She was quite happy on the street," Smith tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "But I think Alan was so distressed watching her outside his window all the time that he thought he just had to help."

Recent reports were officially confirmed today — the upcoming sixth season will be the last for the very successful drama Downton Abbey, according to an announcement Thursday from Carnival Films and Masterpiece. Executive producer Gareth Neame had this to say:

From NPR: From the uncomfortable costumes to the behavior of a disturbed footman, the cast of Downton Abbey talks about the upcoming season.

KET Soars with Downton Abbey

May 3, 2012

Kentucky Educational Television is riding a wave of increased viewership driven by the popular "Masterpiece" series "Downton Abbey." Programming Director Craig Cornwell says viewership normally changes by 2 or 3 percent from year to year, but last year, it soared by a record 33 percent. Cornwell says viewership among women in the 18- to 49-year-old age range is up 168 percent during primetime, while among men in that group, the increase is 231 percent. The network says the final episode of "Downton Abbey," had about 8.1 million viewers nationwide.