Apparently, Americans just love them some British nobility. ITV's "Downton Abbey," which follows the members of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, drew a record-setting 10 million viewers in 2014 when season four debuted on PBS [source: Runcie]. A whopping 8.5 million viewers tuned in for the finale. That's up more than 300,000 from the previous year's climax [source: O'Connell -- Downton].
Actress Maggie Smith, who plays the sharp-tongued matriarch, is part of the show's appeal. She's full of cutting witticisms. When admonished that servants are also humans, she witheringly remarks, "Preferably only on their days off" [source: PBS -- Downton]. The "upstairs" and "downstairs" characters on "Downton Abbey" deal with realistic issues of their era, including World War I, a downturned economy, death of loved ones and social class barriers. The countess handles it all with her typical aplomb, as she explains, "I'm a woman ... I can be as contrary as I choose" [source: Stylist].