Maggie Smith to Leave Downton Abbey After Next Season

Downton Abbey Season 5 on MASTERPIECE on PBSPart EightSunday, February 22, 2015 at 9pm ETSomeone tries to derail Rose and Atticus’s happiness. Mrs. Patmore gets a surprise. Anna isin trouble. Robert has a revelation.(C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Films 2014 for MASTERPIECEThis image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. USE ON THIRD PARTY SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER IS NOT ALLOWED.
Nick Briggs—Carnival Films/Masterpiece/PBS

The Dowager Countess won't be back after Season 6 — but will the show?

Actress Maggie Smith will not be returning after next season of the hit TV show, Downton Abbey.

Smith told The Sunday Times that she will not be returning to the popular British melodrama to continue her role as Violet Crawley, the feisty Dowager Countess of Grantham — as well as giving a broad hint that the show itself would not be coming back either. “They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on,” Smith said. “I mean, I certainly can’t keep going. To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now.”

The fifth season of the show ended its run on PBS on Sunday, though British viewers caught the most recent season in 2014.

The veteran actress has won several awards for her Downton Abbey role including a Golden Globe, and multiple Screen Actors Guild awards and Emmys.

Read next: 7 Historic Moments Downton Abbey Could Tackle Next Season

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

The Historical Truth Behind Thomas’ Tragic Revelation on Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey
Nick Briggs—Carnival Film & Television Ltd/PBS Robert James-Collier as Thomas (far left) on Downton Abbey

What happened to Thomas happened to lots of men

Contains spoilers for the episode of Downton Abbey that aired in the U.S. on Feb. 8, 2015

After several episodes that left viewers wondering what Thomas was up to behind closed doors and what was making him look so ashen, Downton Abbey answered the question in a way that may surprise modern audiences, though perhaps not so much given the character’s history. His trip to London earlier in the season had been to receive electrotherapy that would “make [him] more like other people” (to change his sexuality, that is) and he had given himself an abscess through follow-up injections with an unsterilized needle.

Though Dr. Clarkson’s and Baxter’s attitudes toward the discovery were perhaps a little blasé for historical accuracy — as Downton viewers and people who saw The Imitation Game know, there were criminal penalties for homosexuality in England at the time — the tragic history behind that kind of electrotherapy is very real.

In fact, fans of Masters of Sex may remember that the technique showed up last summer on the show as well. As we explained back then, electroconvulsive therapy wasn’t the most typical method used to “cure” homosexuality, but it did happen, along with shock-based aversion therapy. And it wasn’t even all that historical — it happened to Thomas in 1924, it happened on MoS in the ’60s and it didn’t stop then.

It was as recently as Feb. 12, 1965, that TIME ran a story with the declarative headline “Homosexuals Can Be Cured“: “One reason why homosexuals are so rarely cured is that they rarely try treatment,” the story began. “Too many of them actually believe that they are happy and satisfied the way they are.”

TIME Television

The True History Behind Downton Abbey‘s Scandalous Sex Book

Dr Marie Stopes
Ron Gerelli / Getty Images Marie Stopes (1880 - 1958), who popularized the use of birth control in Britain with her books 'Married Love' and 'Wise Parenthood'

Marie Stopes' work made another appearance on the show

Contains spoilers for Season 5 Episode 2 of Downton Abbey

In the episode of Downton Abbey that aired for U.S. audiences on Jan. 11, the name is only mentioned briefly. Lady Mary hands a book to her maid Anna and mentions the author as she sends Anna off on an embarrassing errand — but to a British woman of the early 1920s the implication was clear: the name Marie Stopes meant birth control.

Stopes is famous as the author of the 1918 marriage manual Married Love, which she was inspired to write after her own marriage was annulled. She was a scientist — an expert on plant fossils — and challenged the Victorian idea that it was improper for a woman to enjoy sex. She also wrote about contraception; in fact, she was a proponent of the belief that waiting to conceive a child would result in a stronger relationship between husband and wife. The book was a bestseller in England, though still controversial, and it was banned in the U.S. for obscenity for more than a decade.

Though Married Love made Stopes famous — and got a shout-out on Downton last season — its sequel, Wise Parenthood, published within a year of the first, is more likely to have been the book Mary turned to for help. Stopes wrote in the introduction to the sequel that she had received a deluge of inquiries for more specific information about how to actually obtain and use the contraceptive plans she advocated. In 1921, she went even further, opening the world’s first birth-control clinic, and then following that up with others throughout the country. (The item that Anna ends up buying at the pharmacy, in its nondescript paper bag, is likely to have been a cervical cap.)

Stopes wasn’t always ahead of her time — there was often an undercurrent of eugenics to her ideas on birth control, and when she died in 1958, TIME remarked diplomatically that “she got a few weird ideas” over the years. But her books helped bring women like Lady Mary into a future where their love lives didn’t have to be controlled by the ever-present threat of motherhood, and where there were alternatives to the illegal abortion to which Lady Edith was almost driven last season.

That shift, from past to future, is what Downton is all about — and Marie Stopes, as TIME wrote when she died, was right there with them:

As a Harley Street admirer put it: “In these days of family planning, female emancipation, and ideas of equality in sexual pleasure, it is easy to see Dr. Stopes and say, ‘So what?’ We have to place her in her own age, when such things were quite beyond the pale—and that was not so long ago.” The times had passed her by, but it was because she had done so much to shape them.

Read the full story here in the TIME Vault: Early Crusader


See What Happened When Lady Edith Played Cards Against Humanity

"Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb" New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals
Jim Spellman—WireImage/Getty Images Laura Carmichael attends the Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb New York premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 11, 2014 in New York City.

Bonus: Mrs. Patmore talks about farting

It’s rare that Downton Abbey viewers get to see Lady Edith smile. But this new video changes everything. Laura Carmichael, who plays Downton Abbey‘s saddest sister, sat down with Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) and Phyliss Logan (Elise Hughes) to play the least appropriate of games: Cards of Humanity. Things escalate quickly to behavior that’s better suited for downstairs than upstairs.

“We’ve never played before so bear with us,” Nicol’s says at the start. But if you’ve ever played the card game, you can probably imagine the turn it took. Lady Edith talks about balls, Mrs. Patmore gets on the subject of farting and Mrs. Hughes says “bitches.” Lady Cora would be appalled. The three women can hardly control themselves. See if you can by watching the full clip at EW.com.

TIME Television

See Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess Recreated as a Cake

Masterpiece/PBS; Karen Portaleo From left: Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey; Dowager Countess cake by Karen Portaleo

She’s like a mini Madame Tussauds figure made with cake batter!

The Dowager Countess, the acerbic grand dame played by Maggie Smith on Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey, was recently reborn as a life-like dessert for a season five premiere event at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

In a two-minute video made by the event’s host, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Portaleo can be seen creating her work of art while actual scenes from the period drama are spliced in to make it seem like the characters are commenting on the cake.

No word on what Smith thinks of her sugary likeness but the show’s consultant, Alastair Bruce, attended the Atlanta premiere and made an observant comment. “He said the cake is so very American, which I thought was hysterical,” Portaleo told Today.com. “It is very American to create a human out of cake.”

Consider it the sweetest tribute of all.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Television

Downton Abbey Returns to 10 Million U.S. Viewers

Downton Abbey, Season 5 on MASTERPIECE on PBSSundays, January 4 - March 1, 2015 at 9pm ETJIM CARTER as Mr Carson, ROBERT JAMES-COLLIER as Thomas, RAQUEL CASSIDY as Baxter, KEVIN DOYLE as Molesley, LAURA CARMICHAEL as Lady Edith Crawley, PENELOPE WILTON as Isobel Crawley, ALLEN LEECH as Tom Branson, MAGGIE SMITH as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, HUGH BONNEVILLE as Robert, Earl of Grantham, ELIZABETH McGOVERN as Cora, Countess of Grantham, MICHELLE DOCKERY as Lady Mary Crawley, MATT BARBER as Atticus, LILY JAMES as Lady Rose, LESLEY NICOL as Mrs Patmore, SOPHIE McSHERA as Daisy and PHYLLIS LOGAN as Mrs Hughes. (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2014This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. USE ON THIRD PARTY SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER IS NOT ALLOWED.
Nick Briggs—Carnival Film & Television Ltd The cast of Downton Abbey

'Downton' continues to rank as PBS’ most popular show of all time

Downton Abbey returned a massive audience and came thisclose to setting a new ratings record.

The fifth season premiere had 10.1 million viewers Sunday night, which is huge for a PBS drama. The number is just shy of the show’s all-time peak U.S. viewership of 10.2 million viewers for its fourth season premiere. “We’re incredibly excited that Downton Abbey’s fans came out in force for the premiere of what has become a cultural phenomenon,” said PBS chief programmer Beth Hoppe. “We’ll also be looking at time-shifted and online viewing over the next few weeks as the season progresses.”

“America has whole-heartedly embraced the Crawley family and those who serve them since the first season of Downton and we are very appreciative,” added executive producer Gareth Neame. “We’re thrilled to have season five, of which we are quite proud, off to such a strong start.”

Downton ranks as PBS’ most popular show of all time. The premiere picked up Crawley family melodrama in 1924 and EW’s Melissa Maerz gave the episode an A-. You can check out her review here.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME Television

This Man Is Why Everyone on Downton Abbey Was Talking About Politics

Ramsay MacDonald
Hulton Archive / Getty Images circa 1900: James Ramsay MacDonald (1866 - 1937), Scottish politician and Britain's first Labour prime minister

Which real politician was making news back in 1924?

The first episode of the fifth season of Downton Abbey — which premiered for U.S. audiences on Sunday night — was, predictably, focused largely on the comings and goings of the suitors and staffers who populate the estate. But those characters, upstairs and down, were also concerned with someone who didn’t show up at all: Britain’s new Prime Minister, recently risen to power when the season kicks off in 1924.

But who is this new P.M., and why is he such a big deal?

The man in question is James Ramsay MacDonald, and he was Britain’s first-ever Labor (or ‘Labour,’ per the British spelling) Prime Minister. Early in 1924, the then-Conservative leaders in the House of Commons informed the king that, with the help of Liberal Party support, a Labor Party push for a no-confidence motion had succeeded. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin resigned, along with his cabinet, and recommended MacDonald as his successor. The king agreed.

All of this was, at TIME noted back then, “the usual procedure of an outgoing Cabinet.” What was worth noting — and the reason why the folks at Downton would have been talking about the news more than usual — was MacDonald’s unusual personal background.

He was, as Lady Mary put it on the show, the son of a crofter (a farmhand), and as TIME put it in real life, “once a country yokel.” He studied and worked his way from a village to London and from manual labor to a political career. His pacifism got him shut out of the mainstream during World War I, but in 1922 he was reelected to the House. “The Times of London, says he is one of the most noteworthy of British Prime Ministers—an idealist and a pacifist guiding the country when idealism and pacifism are not the ruling passion of the world,” TIME reported in the Feb. 4, 1924, issue. “Henry William Massingham, famed Liberal editor of London, summed up Macdonald thus: ‘Not eloquent, but a statesman. A man of principle, but not a fanatic. Elastic without being supple. A character as stainless as Burke or Gladstone.'”

Though the makeup of Parliament meant that the left-leaning and once-radical MacDonald couldn’t do anything too extreme — the Labor party still needed the support of the Liberal party to maintain a majority over the Conservative party — he still represented a major shift in British political life. Just as Downton Abbey‘s Mr. Carson remarks again and again, the old ways were changing. Rigid lines between the classes had begun to blur, and it was possible for the first time for a man of modest background to exert power over politicians from wealthy and middle-class backgrounds.

The following year, TIME published a round-up of the Prime Ministers who had resided at No. 10 Downing Street since it was established as the official home of the office in 1735, and the difference was made clear. “Twenty-five were peers or the sons of peers, 8 were country gentlemen or members of well-connected families, 5 came from the so-called middleclass: Addington, son of a doctor; Disraeli, grandson of a merchant; Gladstone, son of a shipowner; Asquith, son of a manufacturer; George, son of an itinerant teacher,” the summary read. “The remaining one, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, was born in the humblest circumstances, his relatives being fishers and farm hands.”

And, though nobody on Downton Abbey mentioned it, that political shift in 1924 brought change in more ways than one. McDonald’s new government included a new Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Labor. Her name was Margaret Bondfield, and she was the first woman in British history to become a cabinet minister.

Read TIME’s original coverage of MacDonald’s rise to power, here in the TIME Vault: Advent of Laborism

TIME Television

Everything You Need to Know to Watch Downton Abbey‘s New Season

Downton Abbey Season 5Premieres Sunday, January 4th, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBSShown from left to right: Allen Leech as Tom Branson, Tom Cullen as Lord Gillingham, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary(C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Films 2014 for MASTERPIECEThis image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE CLASSIC. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only. USE ON THIRD PARTY SITES SUCH AS FACEBOOK AND TWITTER IS NOT ALLOWED.18.72x12.48
Nick Briggs—Carnival Films / PBS

Who's alive, who's dead, who's missing, who's in love and who's got a secret

The fifth season of Downton Abbey premieres in the U.S. on Jan. 4, nearly a full year after the most recent episode of the British hit aired stateside. For viewers who have forgotten what’s up at the estate — and who haven’t succumbed to the temptation to watch illicit British steams of the show — here’s a quick refresher on everything you need to remember going into the new series.

Warning: Lots of spoilers for Downton Abbey Season 4 follow (obviously)

What year is it? Last we checked it was 1923, but the trailer for the new season makes clear that considerable time will have passed by the time we return.

Who’s still alive? Everyone except Lady Sybil and Matthew Crawley, but that’s old news — with the possible exception of Michael Gregson, who went missing after getting into a fight with some Nazis in Germany.

Who owns Downton Abbey now? Mary, as sole heir to her late husband’s possessions, owns the half of the estate that he had invested in; Lord Grantham is still holding onto the other half despite a run of terrible financial decisions. Lord Grantham wanted to sell off some land to pay the tax bill on Matthew’s estate, but Mary worried that doing so would mean the estate wouldn’t be big enough to support the house. Tom Branson is still the estate manager, and he and Mary decided that raising pigs will be a good way to drum up more money.

What have they been up to? Last season, Mary‘s old friend Tony Foyle, a.k.a. Lord Gillingham, showed up and ended up backing out of his engagement to another woman in order to propose to Mary. When she told him she was still grieving Matthew, he went back to his other fiancée — but only temporarily. Her former suitor Evelyn Napier also showed up with his boss, the secretly-wealthy Charles Blake, while doing a study of how the downfall of the landed estates could be managed by the government. All three are still potential romances for Mary.

Edith moved forward with her affair with Michael Gregson, who decided to move to Germany so that he could get a divorce from his insane wife. Before he left, she spent the night with him, and ended up getting pregnant. Then he disappeared in Munich, leaving her stranded (and as the editor of his magazine). She decided to have an abortion, with the logistical assistance of Aunt Rosamund, but backed out at the last minute; Rosamund’s back-up plan was that the two of them would go on an extended trip to Switzerland to work on their French and secretly find an adoptive family while they’re there. The Dowager Countess guessed the secret but agreed it was the right thing to do. However, even after they returned, Edith didn’t think she did the right thing. She wanted her baby back, and decided the thing to do was to tell Drewe, a tenant farmer who’s now managing the estate’s pigs, that the baby belonged to a friend of hers and to ask the Drewe family to raise her. He agreed to go along with the plan.

Tom was seduced by evil Edna, the housemaid who came back to Downton when Miss O’Brien (Cora’s lady’s maid) quit to move to India, but Mrs. Hughes saved the day and fired Edna. Edna’s replacement, Miss Baxter, somehow knew Thomas from before, and was recruited by him to get gossip from the Granthams; she has some sort of mysterious secret, so he’s able to blackmail her. Later, Tom considered running for a seat on the local council, and while at a political meeting hit it off with Sarah Bunting, a teacher at the local school. Cousin Rose fell for Jack Ross, a black American band leader she met at a club in London, and decided to marry him — but he refused to, knowing it would ruin her life. Dr. Clarkson made moves on Isobel, and the Dowager also tried to set her up with Lord Merton, perhaps more successfully. Lord and Lady Grantham debated the management of the estate and how they should deal with her rascally family, but they didn’t do too much else.

Anna was raped by Lord Gillingham’s valet, Green, and tried to keep it a secret, thinking that Mr. Bates would kill Green if he found out. It nearly destroyed their marriage, and even though Mrs. Hughes told Bates that it was a stranger, he swore — as predicted — to find and kill the man who committed the crime. Mary finds out and asks Gillingham to fire Green, at which point it’s revealed that Green died mysteriously. Even though it was pretty clear that Bates did it (by pushing him in front of a truck), he seems to be in the clear.

Mr. Molesley went into debt but the Downton staff helped him out; he developed a crush on Baxter, who also started to feel bad about gossiping with Thomas. Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson sorta-kinda seemed to be flirting. Mrs. Patmore was really nice. Daisy and Ivy both liked Jimmy, but he wasn’t interested in a real relationship. Alfred left the estate to go work for a chef in London. Ivy ended up leaving Downton to go work for Harold Levinson, Cora’s brother, in the United States.

What exactly happened in the most recent episode? That was the one where Cousin Rose met the Prince of Wales, and almost caused a royal scandal by allowing a letter he sent to his mistress to be stolen. Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti guest-starred as Cora’s mother and brother. Edith decided to go to Switzerland for her baby, and to give her to a tenant-farming family to raise.

What are some of the big questions this season may answer? Which suitor will Mary choose? What happened to Michael Gregson? Will Edith succeed with her plan to keep her baby nearby but secret? Will Tom Branson find love and political radicalism again? Will Bates’ crime come back to haunt him? What is Baxter’s secret? What new and fascinating twist of British inheritance law will we learn this time?

Is time still marching forward, bringing an unavoidable tide of modernity that threatens the old way of life at Downton? Duh.

Where can I get more detail? Catch up with TIME’s recaps of Season 4.

TIME Television

Watch The Downton Abbey Christmas Spoof with George Clooney

Even Maggie Smith is impressed

What would Downton Abbey look like if Lord Grantham never existed? Well, it would have 100 percent more George Clooney… er, Lord Hollywood, as he’s now known.

While participating in the “Text Santa” charity event on British network ITV, the Downton Abbey cast put together a comedic It’s a Wonderful Life homage to show what would have happened had Lord Grantham not touched the lives of those at Downton Abbey.

Clooney isn’t the only major casting addition made to the holiday sketch’s alternate Downton universe. It also appears Jeremy Piven has decided to take up residence at the Abbey.

This article originally appeared on EW.com


Morning Must Reads: December 2

Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Obama Calls for Police Body Cameras After Ferguson

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Colleges Burden Poorest Students

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ISIS May Target Military at Home

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Watch George Clooney Star in Downton Abbey Short

The Hollywood actor has at last made his Downton Abbey debut in a brief teaser clip for a charity film which will air during the holidays on British TV. Speculation still remains about what role Clooney will take on in the film

Ukraine Government, Rebels Agree on New Cease-Fire

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that under the agreement, hostilities are to cease Friday along the line of contact between the warring sides, and heavy weapons will start being withdrawn from the front at the weekend

U.S. Drug-Overdose Deaths Spike

U.S. drug-overdose fatalities more than doubled from 1999 to 2012, according to a new CDC report. New data shows overdose deaths from drugs like painkillers and heroin have risen from 6.1 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 13.1 in 2012

Wife of ISIS Leader Detained in Lebanon

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Janice Dickinson Discusses Allegations Against Bill Cosby

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NFL Won’t Discipline Players for Gesture

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Hong Kong Top Leader Says Hunger Strike Is Futile

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has told leaders of the city’s pro-democracy demonstrations who say they are now on hunger strike that their efforts are “futile,” but that he hopes they stay safe

Judge Overturns Conviction Against Ex-Virginia First Lady

A federal judge on Monday overturned one graft related conviction against Maureen McDonnell, the wife of the former Virginia governor, but allowed all other convictions against the two to stand. Her husband Bob McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts

Birdman Wins Big at Gotham Independent Film Awards

The 2014 Gotham Independent Film Awards wrapped up in New York City on Monday night, with Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s dark comedy Birdman winning best feature. Hollywood’s awards season has officially kicked off

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