One of the more curious television success stories in recent years, ITV and PBS’ massively popular historical soap Downton Abbey, will come to an end after next year’s sixth season, multiple publications are reporting.
The British import, which challenged the likes of NBC’s Winter Olympics and AMC’s The Walking Dead for ratings in its prime, depicted the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants on the Yorkshire estate of Downton Abbey. Created by Julian Fellowes, it launched the careers of actors like Dan Stevens (now prepping for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), Lily James (Cinderella), Michelle Dockery (Non-Stop) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Winter’s Tale).
Sources say that the show’s cancelation is mostly for practical reasons, with star Maggie Smith having threatened to leave the series for the past three years and other main actors moving onto bigger projects. Stevens was one of the first to jump ship, but now more of the performers are being lured away by Hollywood. With contracts ending after season 6 for most of the actors, the time to bid adieu to Downton Abbey was right.
ITV and PBS were perhaps also incentivized by the slight dip in quality many critics have observed and complained about over the past few seasons of the show. With a definite end point in mind, perhaps Fellowes can rally to get the series back to where it used to be and end things on a strong note, instead of being forced to limp along with a Downton Abbey missing most of its core cast in a few years.
As with previous seasons of the series, the sixth season of Downton Abbey will consist of eight episodes and a Christmas special. It’s expected to land across the pond in September, and PBS will likely unveil it stateside in January of 2016.