'Downton Abbey' Sets U.K. Season-Four Debut

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey - H 2012

Shirley MacLaine in Downton Abbey - H 2012

The fourth season of the costume drama will mark its world premiere on British screens on commercial broadcaster ITV in a slot following the "X Factor U.K."

LONDON – Season four of Downton Abbey is to hit British screens Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. in what will mark a world premiere for the costume drama.

The fourth outing for the popular show created by Oscar-winning scribe Julian Fellowes will air right after the X Factor U.K. on the commercial broadcaster.

The previous season debut garnered 8.46 million viewers, a fall from season two's 8.6 million viewers.

But despite the slight dip in opening night numbers, Downton's third season went on to be the most watched season to date, averaging 9.7 million viewers.

The PBS Masterpiece Classic drama received 12 Emmy nominations in July, including acting noms for Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter and Maggie Smith. It was also nominated for outstanding drama series.

The series returns to PBS in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 2014.

The fourth season sees the return of Shirley MacLaine to the cast lineup and a host of fresh additions, including Tom Cullen, Julian Ovenden, Kiri Te Kanawa, Harriet Walter, Nigel Harman, Joanne David, Gary Carter and Paul Giamatti.

Set in the roaring '20s, the new season will feel the absence of Dan Stevens, whose character died in the Christmas special last year, and Siobhan Finneran, who left the series.

The story of season four will detail the fate of Stevens' widow played by Dockery as she decides what's next.