The sophomore season of "Downton Abbey" was a tough one for audiences of the popular ITV and PBS series -- but there really wasn't much that could be done.
Elizabeth McGovern, the actress behind Countess Cora Crawley, agrees that it was tough. But if fans and critics want to blame anything for it, they should start with history.
"There is a slightly different tone to the second season, partly because the show had to deal with this huge elephant which is the First World War," McGovern recently told Show Tracker. "In some ways, 'Downton Abbey' wasn't set up for that."
In the second season, some of the characters were shipped off to fight in the war, while the castle itself was offered up as a recovery center for officers injured in the battles. It was dark and gruesome, and took a lot of the focus away from the lives of the dying aristocracy along with the lives of its live-in help.
"What's made the show successful and different is that attention to character detail, and that's what the audience likes," McGovern said. For the second season, "writers had to do a lot of glossing over the domestic life, and some o the small moment between characters that characterized the first season."
But fans and critics won't have to worry about that too long. Because "Downton Abbey" moves through the years so quickly, what was a four-year conflict was actually dispatched in a single season.
That means the third season will be on the brink of the roaring 1920s, which should help provide some much stronger historical events -- and some time for minute characterizations -- in the upcoming episodes.
McGovern herself is happy for that.
"It's kind of a taste thing, and the show in the first season was more to my taste than the show in the second season," she said.
McGovern has already been working on the new season, which will debut later this year on ITV, and then early next year in the United States. Joining the cast is Shirley MacLaine, an American actress just like McGovern, who will actually play Cora's mother.
Some have suggested that MacLaine could be in line to replace Maggie Smith, the Harry Potter alum who plays the Emmy-winning role of Violet Crawley. Smith has been rumored to want to be written out of the show in the third season, but McGovern insists she is there, and more than ever.
"You're going to see a lot of her in the third season, a real collision of worlds between Maggie and Shirley MacLaine," she said.
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