Wait is over for ‘Downton’ fans

Tom Cullen, left, and Michelle Dockery co-star in the PBS hit, “Downton Abbey.”
Tom Cullen, left, and Michelle Dockery co-star in the PBS hit, “Downton Abbey.” TNS photo provided

What is next for Lady Mary? What back-handed insult will the acid-tongued but impeccably proper dowager countess deliver? What is going on in the servants’ dining room?

These are the questions you can only answer if you watch “Downton Abbey.”

The British television show follows the lives, loves, fortunes and misfortunes of Earl of Grantham, his family and the staff that keeps the enormous mansion running.

It first premiered in the United Kingdom in 2010, but U.S. audiences were introduced to it via Masterpiece Theatre in January 2011 — and there has been an Edwardian love affair ever since.

According to PBS, it is the highest rated drama in the network’s history. And Sunday night, it came back for its fifth season.

Whitney Chirdon hosts WPSU’s “After Abbey,” the local PBS station’s version of a post-game analysis of the period drama.

“The following is awesome. There is so much support,” she said.

A sneak-peak screening was held earlier. Chirdon said the response was daunting, with a third showing added to the lineup to accommodate the fans desperate for an early viewing. Enthusiasts showed up in period costumes, looking ready for tea with the countess or to go visiting with Lady Edith.

“It was amazing,” said Chirdon.

She says the show’s popularity has brought in a younger audience for PBS. It also has the chance to start dialogues about the various issues that become plot devices or historical background. “Downton” has dealt with women’s rights, religious upheaval, class struggles and war.

“That’s what we do on ‘After Abbey,’ ” Chirdon said.

The after-show draws on the pool of professors at Penn State to discuss the issues in historical and social ways.

“It really puts it all into context,” she said.