Nightly News   |  January 09, 2012

Decoding the popularity of ‘Downton Abbey’

Behind the scenes with the creator of the highly acclaimed British drama on PBS. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back in the early '70s in homes across the country, sunday nights were reserved for pbs and the wildly popular british tv import "upstairs, downstairs." 40 years later, another story of the people who work for the aristocracy. has taken america by storm. fair warning , there is something highly addictive about this show according to a lot of american viewers. stephanie gosk reports on the frantic following for "downton abbey."

>> reporter: butlers and maids, lords and ladies . love and, of course, deception. britain's "downton abbey" is back on pbs for a second season. in an age of often violent, fast-paced tv shows , a stately period drama, so very proper, so very british, has busted out.

>> i wasn't expecting the success we got because i think if you expect that, you're a mad person. you know, that happens very rarely in a career, if ever.

>> reporter: "downton abbey" is one of the most highly acclaimed tv shows of all time. six emmys, four golden globe nominations, and likely more to come. the show's popularity in the u.s. has stunned one of its youngest stars.

>> i just think it's mad, it's so exciting. i want to go over there and watch it on the telly in america just to believe it.

>> reporter: if there is a key, it's likely to be found here where the show is filmed. highclere castle , a 17th century monument to british aristocracy. in season two, there is a pivotal scene here in this saloon. what happens between two main characters changes everything. we've seen it here in britain, the rest of you are just going to have to wait. it's home to lord and lady grantham in the show and lord and lady carnarvon in real life . why do you think it's caught on the way it has?

>> perhaps it has something to do with the romantic idea of family. this is all about a family. the house today is still about the family here in "upstairs and downstairs."

>> reporter: the show produced by a company owned by nbc benefits from an oscar-winning screenwriter and a skillful cast that includes maggie smith .

>> are you afraid someone will think you're american if you speak openly?

>> i doubt it will come for that.

>> i love writing maggie. she makes the lines funnier than they were when i wrote them. that's a writer's dream.

>> put that in your pipe and smoke it.

>> reporter: season three starts shooting next month, welcome news for "downton abbey's" loyal following on both sides of the pond. stephanie gosk, nbc news, london.