'Downton' bash took place at the BevHilton

Hugh Bonneville was the talk of Masterpiece/PBS bash for “Downton Abbey” Saturday night at the BevHilton after he unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a T-shirt saying “Free Bates,” referring to the fate of his co-star Brendan Coyle.

Bonneville said he had conceived the idea that morning and someone had bought the T-shirt and stenciled the words.

Another highlight of the confab came when “Downton” newcomer Shirley MacLaine was asked whether she and British vet Maggie Smith had ever worked together. Not exactly, she said, but, “We were lovers in another life.”

The TV Critics Assn. presser and sitdown dinner included a teaser for the third season of the show, which returns in January.

Later, creator Julian Fellowes talked about the show’s future. “I doubt we’ll make it to the Second World War,” he said of the storyline. “We’re more interested in this rather insecure period between the wars when people didn’t quite know how the world was going to shape up or what was going to happen, and how much of the old world was going to survive in the event they lived through it. That will come through in the next 20 years and then you go into the Second World War. That will be the coup de grace.”

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