The fourth season of PBS Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey” drew a record 10.2 million viewers on Sunday, making it the night’s most-watched scripted program.
Already the pubcaster’s most popular drama of all time, “Downton Abbey” outdrew the show’s third-season premiere in January of 2013 (7.9 million) by 29% and topped last year’s finale (8.2 million) by 24%, according to preliminary Nielsen estimates.
During its third season, “Downton Abbey,” a Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-production, consistently drew an audience more than four times the PBS primetime average.
On Sunday, its 10.2 million made it a bigger draw than CBS dramas “The Mentalist” (9.9 million) and “The Good Wife” (9.2 million) as well as ABC’s “Revenge” (6.7 million).
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.
In its first full season following the departures of series regulars Dan Stevens, Jessica Brown Findlay and Siobhan Finneran, “Downton Abbey” is 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 team with principal returning castmembers Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt and Brendan Coyle.
“Downton Abbey” is running eight weeks on PBS this winter, with its finale set for Feb. 23.