The much anticipated Downton Abbey Series 3 starts in Spring 1920, carrying on from the superb Christmas Special which was set over the 1919/20 holiday period. The first episode picks up with Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley at last about to get hitched, but as usual there is quite a lot going on at Downton both above and below stairs and you just know that nothing is going to go smoothly.
Shirley Maclaine soon makes her appearance as Martha Levinson, Lady Grantham's American mother. As usual, Violet, played with style by Maggie Smith manages to set the scene with some rather pithy comments. Martha has no time for the stuffy English and their traditions and is not slow to voice her opinion. Clearly she was introduced as a foil to Maggie Smith and the interplay between the two does work very well as one suspected it would. Violet seems to manage to continue to dominate any scene she is in with or without Martha in attendance!
There are plenty of dramatic and unexpected moments in the new series, as life on the Downton estate returns to more as it was shown in the first series, before the First World War when it served as a convalescent home for injured servicemen. However, in common with other large estates, there are new challenges for Downton in the post war period and it is necessary for there to be changes for Downton to survive. The interaction between the family and those that serve them 'below stairs' continues to be a rich source of story lines for the script writers and is a major contribution to the success of the show.
Downton Abbey is the most successful costume drama from British TV since Brideshead Revisited some thirty years ago which is quite an accolade. Regular viewers of Downton will have been holding their breath wondering whether Series 3 could possibly keep up the very high standards of the previous episodes. However, we need not have worried and few will be disappointed with the latest series. You really wonder how far Downton can go - personally I would not be surprised if it runs up to the 1930s in due course so hopefully plenty to look forward to! The really good news is that we know there will be a two hour Christmas Special in 2012 and although a fourth series has not yet been announced it will be very surprising if it does not follow.
For those of you interested in the extra features, this DVD includes Downton Abbey in 1920, The Men of Downton Abbey, The Wedding of Lady Edith, The Wedding of Lady Mary, an Interview with Shirley Maclaine and Behind the Scenes - The Cricket Match. This is a total of 68 minutes of additional material.
For any reader of this review living outside of Europe, I understand that this DVD is a Region 2 DVD, which means that it will only play on a Region 2 player or a multi region player. Another poster has stated that the blu ray is also region coded this time, whereas Series 1 and 2 were not. The Region 1 (North America) DVD is expected to be released in January and will likely include the 2012 Christmas Special which this DVD does not - The Region 1 Series 2 DVD certainly included the 2011 Christmas Special so this seems very probable.