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'Downton Abbey' Creator Signals Optimism About a Fourth Season

True Love Blooms at Last
"Downton Abbey"

Julian Fellowes says it would be "pretty odd" if U.K. network ITV didn't bring the show back, with his executive producer expecting word within days.

LONDON - A fourth season of Downton Abbey hasn't been commissioned yet, creator Julian Fellowes said here Tuesday night, but expressed confidence that this would happen soon.

"We are being very sort of coy about it," the series' creator said when asked about a potential fourth season during an event entitled "Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes with Julian Fellowes and Company." "We don't know. We haven't had a commission. But I think it would be pretty odd if there wasn't."

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Fellowes was joined by executive producer Gareth Neame; Allen Leech, who plays ex-chauffeur Tom Branson; and Fellowes' niece, Jessica, author of The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, the official companion book to the popular costume drama. The show starring Maggie Smith airs here on ITV1 and on PBS in the U.S.

After discussing the costume drama, its characters and past and possible future story lines for more than an hour, they were asked if all their talk didn't point to another season. "We hope to have some news in a few days," Neame divulged.

The series recently finished its third season on ITV1 with what the commercial network said was the show's best in terms of audience performance. Last year, the show's subsequent season wasn't ordered until November.

Fellowes highlighted that, including various forms of digital and delayed viewing, Downton has attracted "just under 15 million viewers" during the third season.

At the end of the Tuesday evening event at cultural and event space Cadogan Hall, a young boy asked Fellowes about rumors he had heard that Smith's character, Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, would die in a Christmas special. The creator said he doesn't like to give away storylines about the special or any other episodes but then added to much applause, "The dowager is not going to die."

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Fellowes and Neame also fielded a couple of questions about Downton's popularity in the U.S.

"It is huge in America as well,' Neame said, mentioning reports that First Lady Michelle Obama had requested DVDs of the third season, which is scheduled to start in the U.S. in January. He said the show also is popular in such places as New Zealand and Spain.

"The American enthusiasm is extraordinary," Fellowes said, mentioning that a U.S. viewer once told him that she prays for the show's characters.

U.S. network partner PBS and Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece Theatre, "have been consistently backing British drama," he said before adding that PBS is "not a rich organization" and emphasizing he wished it had more funds.

The Downton team also lauded ITV. Neame called the company "a brilliant partner" that causes "very little interference." And Fellowes echoed, "ITV is very, very good to us."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai