Downton Abbey Masterpiece

'Call the Midwife' also coming back for new season in '14

The fourth season of PBS Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey” will premiere in the U.S. on Jan. 5 and run for eight weeks.

PBS also announced that it had acquired the third season of BBC Worldwide’s “Call the Midwife,” as well as the first season of British drama “Last Tango in Halifax,” starring Derek Jacobi.

A January premiere Stateside for “Downton” is typical for the cross-the-pond hit, but has become increasingly controversial because of spoilers coming over from the U.K., where each season launches the previous fall. The season-four premiere of  “Downton Abbey” in Blighty is scheduled for September.

Interestingly, the season-four finale on PBS will come Feb. 23, the same night as the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics on NBC — a night that most broadcasters are shying away from in terms of scheduling. This year, the “Downton” season finale was the top-rated show on television in its timeslot, across broadcast and cable.

In its first full season following the departures of series regulars Dan Stevens, Jessica Brown Findlay and Siobhan Finneran, “Downton Abbey” will be joined by recurring guest Shirley MacLaine and newly appearing thesps Tom Cullen, Nigel Harman, Harriet Walter, Joanna David, Julian Ovendon, Kiri Te Kanawa and Gary Carr.

They will team with principal returning castmembers Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle.

Meanwhile, season three of “Midwife” will bow on PBS in 2014, while the six-part “Last Tango in Halifax,” penned by Sally Wainwright (who exec produced with Matthew Reed), will premiere Sept. 8 on the pubcaster, after averaging 7.3 million viewers for its first season on BBC One in 2012.

The second season of “Midwife,” currently airing Sundays, has given PBS a year-to-year boost in audience of approximately 25%. Jessica Raine stars in a cast that includes Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Miranda Hart, Judy Parfitt, Helen George, Bryony Hannah, Laura Main and Cliff Parisi. Pippa Harris and Heidi Thomas exec produce.

Co-starring with Jacobi in “Tango,” a romantic dramedy about two widowed spouses who reunite after decades, are Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker, Tony Gardner, Dean Andrews, Nina Sosanya, Ronni Ancona and Josh Bolt.

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