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'Downton Abbey' chooses life as PBS debuts fourth season

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The Emmy winning period drama "Downton Abbey," by Sir Julian Fellowes, returned for its fourth season of dramatics on Jan. 5, 2014 PBS Masterpiece Theater. The season opener reintroduced the family and a dizzying array of storylines about life in the English Country Manor known a "Downton Abbey." Attached is a list of pictures from the season four premiere, along with a brief explanation of what the characters are up to as the series opens.

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The season opened caught up with the Crawleys and their staff in 1922, six months after the sudden death of heir Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), which left Lady Mary a widow with an infant heir.

Upstairs, The Crawley family reacted to their family changes, as bumbling Earl of Grantham Lord Robert (Hugh Bonneville) relished sole control of Downton but was foiled by a hidden will, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) mourned the death of her beloved husband, Lady Isobel (Penelope Wilton) mourned the death of her only son, widower Tom Branson (Allen Leech) took new responsibilities on the estate, dowager Lady Violet (Maggie Smith) gave sagely clever advice, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) behaved scandalously with her married lover Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards), Lady Rose (Lily James) created Jazz Age chaos and Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) made inexplicably poor decisions about the staff.

Downstairs was just as dramatic, as Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) avoided his past, Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) interferred, Thomas Barrow returned to troublemaking, deceptive maid Edna (Myanna Buring) got rehired and even promoted and Moseley struggled with unemployment and debt.

Happily married servants Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) became targets for troublemaking duo Thomas Barrow (Rob James Collier) and Edna. The downstairs love quadrangle continued, with Daisy (Sophie McShera) pining for Alfred (Matt Milne), who was infatuated by Ivy (Cara Theobald), who was pursued by Jimmy (Ed Speleers). Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) tried to lift Daisy's spirits with an anonymous Valentine, while fearing redundancy due a new mixer in the kitchen.

Three major cast members from season three departed, causing shuffling upstairs and downstairs. Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay) died in childbirth, leaving Tom Branson a widower. Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) died in a a car accident in the season three finale, leaving Lady Mary a widow and mother. Lady's maid O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran) absconded in the middle of the night to take a more glamourous position.

The ensemble cast of "Downton Abbey" includes: Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham; Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley; Jim Carter as Mr. Carson; Brendan Coyle as John Bates; Myanna Buring as Edna; Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley; Kevin Doyle as Molesley; Charles Edwards as Michael Gregson; Joanne Froggatt as Anna; Lily James as Lady Rose McClare; Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow; Allen Leech as Tom Branson; Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes; Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham; Sophie McShera as Daisy; Matt Milne as Alfred Nugent; Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore; David Robb as Dr. Clarkson; Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham; Ed Speleers as Jimmy Kent; Cara Theobald as Ivy Stuart; and Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley.

The series has already aired in Great Britain, so spoilers are easy to find for those who seek them.

Downton Abbey gears up for season four finale

Downton Abbey wins six Emmys for PBS 2011

PBS Emmy nods led by Downton Abbey -2013

Cast of Downton Abbey wins SAG Award for dramatic acting 2013

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