The US premiere date for Downton Abbey season 4 has been set by PBS for Jan. 5, 2014.
The popular British drama will premiere on ITV in the UK next month, few months prior to the US premiere date. The production for season 4 of the British period drama has already been wrapped up, and photos for the new series have already begun to circulate.
Press-events and cast parties have been held before the launch of the new series but ITV has yet to release the premiere date. The only thing for certain is that Downton Abbey series 4 will premiere in September in the UK.
Meanwhile, executives have locked stars into two-year contracts to avoid shocking exits, such as the death of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) that aired last season's Christmas episode. Crawley's death shocked and upset fans, and it has been revealed that Julian Fellowes, the show's creator, had gone through great lengths to stop Dan Stevens from quitting the show.
Downton Abbey is Britain's most successful TV export ever and has a global audience estimated at 120 million.
The show's executive producer Gareth Neame said, "I can tell you that we have now signed up the main cast members until series five, so there won't be any more shock exits for a while." He also confirmed that Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) will be appearing in every episode of season 4, reassuring fans that she will not be leaving the show, despite rumors that she will be killed off. "I am afraid that she is like Mark Twain: reports of her death have been greatly exaggerated."
The first episode of the fourth series was shown at a press screening last week and received rave reviews.
Guest stars for the upcoming series include Shirley MacLaine, Tom Cullen, Joanna David, Julian Ovenden, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Nigel Harman, Dame Harriet Walter and Gary Carr.
Season 4 of the series will run for eight consecutive weeks after its US premiere on Jan. 5, 2014.