TRAVERSE CITY — Rob and Peg Turney grew up in North Hamptonshire, England, a different part of the country from where “Downton Abbey” is filmed.
But the Maple City couple will be among scores of northern Michiganders who tune in tonight for the season premiere of the international hit series. Since it premiered in 2010, the series about the family and servants of a grand English house in the 1910s and 1920s has become the highest-rated PBS drama.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” said Peg Turney, whose daughter in Ann Arbor is hosting a “Downton Abbey” viewing party for friends. “One thing that’s interesting is seeing all the costumes. And it’s reminiscent of some of the books you read from that period. The acting is tremendous. I don’t think you can go wrong with Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine.”
Peter Makin, owner of Brilliant Books, plans to record tonight’s episode to watch later. Makin, whose grandfather and grandmother were chauffer and maid at a large house in London similar to “Downton Abbey’s” real-life Highclere Castle, said the show reflects a time when British society was on the verge of change.
“It’s part of my history,” he said. “World War I and then World War II changed the aristocracy. Now most of those places have been turned into sort of posh hotels where you can spend the weekend.”
A Dec. 26 talk featuring Susanne Simpson, senior series producer of Masterpiece programs on PBS, drew 130 people to the Empire Township Hall. The presentation was hastily put together by the Friends of Glen Lake Community Library when the group learned Simpson was in town for a few days to visit her sister, Sharon O’Brien of Empire.
“She was only in town for a few days, so the only day we could do it was the day after Christmas,” said Ann Davey, president of the Friends group. “We had no idea how many would attend. Every seat in the town hall was filled.”