American audiences tuned in to PBS on Sunday for the much-anticipated season four premiere of Downton Abbey and the ratings echoed that anticipation: the premiere drew in around 10.2 million viewers, setting a record for the series. While we can look forward to a season five, creator Julian Fellowes recently said he wasn't completely sure of the show's fate after that point.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, Fellowes acknowledged that the series, which airs on Britain's ITV, would not go on forever. A fifth season was greenlighted back in November before the season four Christmas special aired, but there's a possibility that the next season could mean the end of the Crawley saga.
"I don't know yet if there is a season six, but it's not going to go on forever," Fellowes said. "It won't be Perry Mason."
For reference, the courtroom drama Perry Mason ran from 1957-66 and aired 271 episodes.
Adding to the intrigue is Fellowes' next project, which he will head for NBC. The planned show is a period drama called The Gilded Age, which will center around two fictional wealthy oil, gas, and shipping families in late 19th-century New York.
Fellowes says that since he is unable to juggle both projects at the same time, The Gilded Age can only move forward once Downton ends. The Montreal Gazette notes that he wrote the drama miniseries Titanic in 2012 while working on Downton, so it wouldn't be unprecedented, but when it comes to the new project, the creator says he "just couldn’t do both at once.”
Season four of Downton Abbey continues this Sunday on PBS.