'Downton Abbey' Season Finale Draws Victory for PBS: Highest Ratings in Three Years

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on February 23 2012 2:51 PM

While Downton Abbey fans basked in the season two finale victories (Mr. Bates's new prison sentence, Mary and Matthew's engagement, the Countess of Grantham's usual musings, to name a few), PBS celebrated its own triumph: ratings.

Sunday night's two-hour Downton finale scored the network its highest ratings in nearly three years, with some 5.4 million viewers.

The last time PBS hit numbers of this caliber was back in 2009, with the premiere of Ken Burns' documentary, National Parks: America's Best Idea.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the second season of Downton Abbey drew a 25 percent increase in its audience over the show's first season, which premiered in the UK in September 2010. The show's viewers are also getting younger, with females aged 18-34 up a whopping 251 percent, EW reports.

The ratings victory for PBS is the latest Downton headline this week.

Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith, Dan Stevens and company are already on the Downton set for season three, which just started production.

Season three newcomer Shirley MacLaine, who will play the mother of Lady Grantham (McGovern), has already been posting Twitter updates from the set.

Off for wardrobe fittings for DA. Love costumes of period pictures. Wonder how big my bustle will be? MacLaine wrote earlier this month.

According to New York Magazine's Vulture, MacLaine also posted commentary about her hotel (I have internet but this hotel has no phone service or TV. I feel I am on another planet) and the weather (shot outside in the wind and rain) -- but those tweets have since been deleted from MacLaine's Twitter page.

Downton Abbey, created and written by Julian Fellowes, has won multiple awards since its premiere nearly two years ago. In January, the show took home the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Motion Picture made for Television, beating Too Big to Fail, Mildred Pierce, The Hour and Cinema Verite.

How fabulous this is. The whole Downton adventure has been an extraordinary one. Like spotting a promising child and waking up to find they've had won the Olympics -- and that's what we've lived through, Fellowes said in his acceptance speech.

And what an Olympic year it's been for the show, thanks to its latest victory in the competitive world of ratings.

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