BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 21: (L-R) Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton, actress Joanne Froggatt, Executive Producer Gareth Neame, actors Michelle Dockery, Shirley MacLaine, Julian Fellowes, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle and Hugh Bonneville attend the Masterpiece Classic 'Downton Abbey, Season 3' panel during day 1 of the PBS portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 21, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Downton Abbey fans, dying to learn if Lady Mary would indeed finally marry Matthew Crawley, broke records for PBS Sunday night when an 7.9 million viewers tuned in for the Season 3 premiere on Masterpiece.
The two-hour season opener in the 9 to 11 ET/PT time slot nearly doubles its 2012 opening episode (4.2 million), and makes PBS the second-most-watched broadcast network Sunday evening.
"Downton Abbey continues to enthrall audiences nationwide, and this season is especially riveting with the addition of Shirley MacLaine to the cast and the lively interaction between her and Maggie Smith," said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger in a statement Monday. "I'm so pleased that audiences have returned to Downton Abbey to continue to enjoy some of the best drama on television."
"The well-loved characters that made Season 2 the most-watched series in Masterpiece history continue to delight us," said Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton.
Since its premiere in January 2011, the series has won nine Emmys, including supporting actress in a drama series for Maggie Smith. It has also won a Golden Globe for best miniseries, a Producers' Guild of America Award and a Television Critics Association Award.
And now that fans know whether Mary and Matthew did marry, another big question remains: Will Mr. Bates be freed from prison?