'Downton Abbey' Sets Date for Season Four Premiere

Hit British drama will run for six weeks next winter

Maggie Smith as Dowager Countess in 'Downton Abbey'
Courtesy of (C) Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011
Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess in 'Downton Abbey'
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Downton Abbey will return to PBS for its fourth season on January 5th and run through February 23rd, according to The Hollywood ReporterThe hit British upstairs-downstairs drama will find Shirley MacLaine returning as Martha Levison, mother of Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), while new characters will also be introduced this season.

Tom Cullen will join as Lord Gillingham, a family friend of the Crawleys' who has a history with Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery); Nigel Harman will appear as a visiting valet named Green; and Dame Harriet Walter will play Lady Shackleton, a friend of Maggie Smith's sharp-tongued Dowager Countess.

The Juiciest TV Hookups of 2012: Anna and Mr. Bates from 'Downton Abbey'

With plenty of time remaining before the fourth season premiere, be sure to check out our recap of Downton Abbey's recent season finale, as well as our run down of the Dowager Countess' best Season Three zingers.

PBS also announced it has picked up a new British dramedy Last Tango in Halifax, which will premiere on September 8th and tells the story of two childhood sweethearts, both widowed and in their 70s, who reconnect online and rekindle their romance.