The year is 1912 and news of the Titanic's sinking has reached the fictional English estate Downton Abbey, home of the Earl of Grantham and his family. Unfortunately, the closest male family heirs were on board the ship and are presumed perished. Downton Abbeyfollows the family from this point forward as they deal with inheritance issues as well as the trials of day to day life.
The real interest of the show lies in the coverage of the estate's occupants. In addition to the family, who include the Earl, his American heiress wife, his mother (played by the always excellent Maggie Smith), and the Earl's three daughters, the show focuses equally on the servants. From the butler to the cook to the footmen and maids we get a peek into what happens below stairs and find out that nothing can remain private in a house such as this.
Downton Abbey originally aired in the U.K. before making its way across the pond to PBS. The first season contains seven episodes and a second season is set to air in the U.K. later in 2011. Fans may want to check out the film Gosford Park, from the same writer as Downton Abbey. It also features intrigue at an English country estate.