‘Downton Abbey’ Landed at Right Time to Make a Big Splash

‘Downton Abbey’ Landed at Right Time to Make a Big Splash
Timing can be everything. And in the case of “Downton Abbey,” which ends its storied six-year run on PBS this weekend, the mix of factors that helped a British costume drama become an enormous stateside hit aligned, in hindsight, as perfectly as the ingredients in a vodka martini, shaken but not stirred.

Series creator Julian Fellowes and his sprawling cast deserve enormous credit for making this upstairs-downstairs tale so pleasing. Yet as that reference implies, this was hardly the first splendid “Masterpiece” production to which Americans were treated via public television, which raises the question why “Downton” attracted ratings as gaudy as the Crawleys’ massive estate – at times topping 10 million viewers a week, a plateau few commercial dramas reach these days – where others haven’t.

For starters, “Downton” premiered in the U.S. in January 2011, a few months after “The Walking Dead” – a program with which it shares more than
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