Coronation Street spoilers for week commencing 18 May sees Owen and Ryan's angry clash over Katy.
TV review: Downton Abbey, series three
Cast of Downton Abbey - Image. ITV
Julian Fellowes' award-winning, record-breaking, runaway costume-soap returns with a superb opening episode. Free Bates.
Carson telling O'Brien that he "doesn't have time to train a hobbledehoy" in the opening exchanges. Oh Downton, how we have missed thee.
It's a testament to the quality of this opening episode that the number of adverts is the only criticism. At least those much-maligned AVIVA skits have been shown the door...
ITV1's summer ratings took such a battering, I'm surprised it wasn't an Olympic sport. The broadcaster must be delighted the third series of Downton Abbey started this weekend.
"The whole estate is on the brink of going all Lehmanns-shaped"
And what a series it promises to be. There's a wedding for starters. What's more, the whole estate is on the brink of going all Lehmanns-shaped and the Americans are coming.
It'll probably all work out in the end, but you can be sure that the road will have more bumps than an ante-natal class.
In praise of Downton
The feature-length, advert-strewn opener hit all the right notes and set us up for another fine autumn of ironed newspapers and drawing room strops.
With a gloriously-crafted mini-society of characters to play with - plus a couple of new faces (watch out for O'Brien's gangly nephew) - there is so much to enjoy.
All our favourite plot arcs are re-introduced with panache and, in the return of Branson, Fellowes has a brilliant new muse to continue his class saga.
These extra layers mean that we're now working with about a dozen storylines; from Daisy and Mrs Patmore's Hovis-ad relationship to the new series-defining finance triangle between the estate, a pragmatic Mary and a morally intoxicated Matthew - it's all here.
Yet while the fierce class undertow simmers away as ever, it's clear the third series is about the Downton institution realising it must move with the times or go to the wall. Both figuratively and literally.
"Others - particularly Carson - cling to the past like it's the last surviving copy of Burke's Landed Gentry."
Meanwhile similar struggles are taking place below decks; some servants realise the window of opportunity has swung open, while others - particularly Carson - cling to the past like it's the last surviving copy of Burke's Landed Gentry.
When Carson finally realises that the First World War has changed all the rules, maybe he'll man-up and make a move on Mrs Hughes? The sexual tension between those two is tangible.
The Dowager Countess is the most deceptively flexible of the lot. As ever, Maggie Smith is magnetic as the sharp-tongued matriarch, yet she realises that having a Sinn Fein sympathiser inside the Downton tent weeing out, is better than having him outside weeing in - as it were.
Watching Carson's nose twitch as he serves Branson dinner is also irresistible.
All the headlines will be about Lady Violet's skirmishes with Cora's mother - the formidable Martha Levinson played by Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine.
"She's like a homing pigeon; she always finds our underbelly every time," the Dowager complains as the excellent American firebrand teases her for being a stick in the mud.
You sense that Lady Violet just needs to be coaxed into the 1920s, but this relationship could well end up being a microcosm for the whole series, in which tradition and the future collide like two poorly-trained dining room waiters.
Following a sublime first series and a slightly ridiculous second (remember that strange Canadian with half a face?), many of us were wondering if the third part of Fellowes' trilogy would get back to form. I'm pleased to report that already, it's looking like a coming of age for this soapy-period show.
- Verdict: A triumphant return on so many levels for ITV1's premier drama.
TV quotes of the week: Downton Abbey
"I shall make sure he behaves normally because I shall hold his hand on the radiator until he does." - Ouch! That's one way of doing it.
"Are you really that tall? I thought you might have been walking on stilts." - Yes, he's really that tall.
"Cora's mother reminds me of the virtues of the English" - "Isn't she American?" - "Exactly." - The Dowager remains as waspish as ever.
"It seems so strange to think of the English embracing change." - A clash of cultures is always welcome.
"Mary! Tell me all your wedding plans and I'll see what I can do to improve them." - I'm loving Martha.
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