TV tonight: the history of the 'Downton Abbey' castle tonight on 20/20

For fans of 'Downton Abbey,' a closer look at Highclere Castle Photo: Wikimedia/Downton Abbey

WASHINGTON, December 26, 2013 –I n preparation for the return of the globally popular PBS series “Downton Abbey,” ABC is airing a behind-the-scenes look at the castle that inspired the series.

Tonight at 9 p.m. a special edition of 20/20, “Mysteries of the Castle: Beyond Downton Abbey,” will explore the history of Highclere Castle. “Downton Abbey” is a British television series that airs on PBS. Season four of the critically acclaimed show is scheduled to return on January 5th.

“Downton Abbey” follows the daily lives and scandals of an aristocratic family and the staff that serves them in early 20th century England. Past seasons of the series have included such real life events as the First World War, the sinking of the Titanic and the Spanish influenza pandemic.

Season four of the series will feature the “Teapot Dome scandal” that took place during the administration of President Warren G. Harding.

Season three of “Downton Abbey” was the highest rated PBS drama of all time with an average audience of 11.5 million. The finale drew 12.3 million viewers, making it the night’s highest rating show. Yes you read that right; a show that airs on PBS was the most watched program of the night.

Those numbers are huge for any network, but considering the fact that they are associated with a British costume drama airing on public television, there may be hope for American TV programming yet. Not only is “Downton Abbey” popular in this country, it is aired in over 100 countries, making it one of the most watched TV series in the world.

In real life the castle featured in “Downton Abbey” is the home the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Highclere Castle sits on a 1000 acre estate that has been in the family since the 17th century. The estimated value of the castle and the land it sits on is $240 million.

By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining usable. Without the dramatic increase in the number of paying visitors because of the popularity of “Downton Abbey,” the current occupants would have been unable to afford the considerable cost of restoring the historic castle to its former glory.

Follow along with host Amy Robach for a closer look at what it means to be British, rich and titled in today’s world. 20/20 airs tonight at 9 p.m. on ABC.


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Lisa King

I was born and educated in Southwest Virginia, traveled with my job all over America in my twenties and early thirties then came back to the mountains to raise my daughter.

I’ve been employed as everything from a quality control technician in industrial construction, to a mail processing plant manager, to postmaster of a small town. I’ve been to forty nine of the fifty states, as well as many other countries. Traveling will always be a passion I indulge, and something I’ll call upon often in my writing. 

I come from a long line of story tellers, and will shamelessly exploit a family tree resplendent with colorful and unique characters, both past and present.

In short my perspective will reflect the pride and familiarity I have of my Appalachian heritage. My stories will be a reflection of the values I believe we hold dearest here, all embellished with a healthy dose of Southern Appalachian flare.

 

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