Downton Abbey season 5: US release date set for early 2015

The Crawley family and their household are set to return in January 2015

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The Independent Culture

Hit period drama Downton Abbey will be back for its fifth season state-side early next year.

The return date on US network PBS has been set as 4 January 2015 with chief executive Paula Kerger promising some “surprises”.

Julian Fellowes’ British series, about the life of the upper class Crawley family and their household in the post-Edwardian era, has proved hugely popular across the pond.

But US fans are forced to wait months to see the episodes after they are first aired in the UK.

Kerger has defended the decision to delay US broadcast, stating on a recent press tour this week that “January works well”, with more people spending time inside watching television during winter.

“It’s become a bit of a tradition after the holidays to come together to watch Downton,” she said, adding that the show enjoyed a 16 per cent rise in viewers throughout the fourth season.

Last month, ITV released a teaser trailer for season five of Downton, hinting that life is changing for the Crawleys.

"I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on; the nature of life is not permanence but flux," says Mr Carson, played by Jim Carter.

US fans of BBC detective drama Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, are still awaiting an official PBS release date.

“Because (Sherlock) is coming from our partners in the UK, we have to wait to know when it will be finished,” Kerger explained. “But whenever it comes, we’ll put it in a wonderful place and we know the next season is going to be terrific.”

Other PBS announcements include Call the Midwife, which returns on 29 March for a fourth season, and new two-night film Walt Disney in autumn 2015.