Over the years, we’ve all fallen in love with the dramatic plots, breathtaking scenery and captivating performances that have made Downton Abbey one of the greatest dramas on television – and no one is more deserving of our thanks than the show’s creator and writer, Julian Fellowes. His unique ability to bring to life the fictional estate of Downton and its many inhabitants is formidable, both in his creativity and in his ability to fuse art with historical fact. Accuracy has been as important to the creation of the program’s world and its detailed observance of everything from period-appropriate menu items, to real-life plot points, has set Fellowes and the series’ producers apart.
Perhaps that’s why he feels like such a natural fit for a documentary series exploring the long and colourful histories of the decidedly non-fictional estates of England. In Great Houses with Julian Fellowes, the Downton showrunner takes to the road to get to the bottom of some of Britain’s most beloved, mysterious and even notorious homes, uncovering the stories of the families that established and lived in these bastions of both luxury and intrigue. What he finds is often reminiscent of the Crawleys’ many trials, and in many cases, much more outlandish.
Featuring stunning photography and a moving score, Great Houses evokes Downton’s unmistakable spirit, as its host spends each hour-long episode scouring the picturesque countryside for the centuries-old homes that have housed characters akin to his own. Over the course of his journeys, he visits sites of national importance, and the scenes of scandals both narrowly avoided and tragically mishandled. Rife with historical context provided by local experts, and insight from noble descendants and family, the program is infused with Fellowes’ essentially British wit and a curiosity that extends beyond lords and ladies, and to the service staff that kept these vast residences humming.
Whether you’re a history buff, Anglophile or simply a devout Downton Abbey fan, Great Houses with Julian Fellowes is sure to captivate with the drama, elegance and rich history of estates like the program’s own Highclere Castle. Like Fellowes himself, you’ll soon see why the true stories behind their imposing facades and titled residents are more than enough to inspire fictional dramas for years to come.
Great Houses with Julian Fellowes premieres WEDNESDAY, MAY 21 at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We’ll present an encore showing of both specials, WEDNESDAY, MAY 28 at 11:30pm ET and 12:30am ET after our premiere of Downton Abbey Season 4.