Certain TV shows and movies become holiday staples. Some of that is by design — Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind as a yearly Halloween/Christmas tradition and was built as such. Others gain the position by sheer repetition: Hocus Pocus, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, It's A Wonderful Life. But some just have that good feeling that matches the holiday spirit with just enough Christmas detailing to become classics: Harry Potter, The Sound of Music, and Die Hard. Now, Downton Abbey is joining them with the first broadcast airing of the feature film since its 2019 debut in theaters, scheduled for Christmas Day on PBS Masterpiece.
Downton Abbey as a series was already well on its way to joining that last group even before this announcement. (WETA, for example, is marathoning Downton Abbey as a lead-up to the holiday. They're probably not the only PBS station either; check your local listings.) Like the Potter films, whose early installments use the holiday as a major set piece, Downton has multiple Christmas specials, which Masterpiece used to treat as the season finales. The most famous is "Christmas At Downton Abbey," the culmination of the Matthew and Mary romance. Though other specials followed, nothing quite topped the two of them sharing their first kiss in the snow with the house lit up behind them.
Not every Downton Christmas special was set at Christmas either. The debutante episode which introduced King George and Queen Mary to the series as part of Cousin Rose's coming out was also a Christmas special, even though it technically occurs during the "London Season," which runs from late January to early June. Like that episode, the Downton Abbey movie is not set at Christmas. But the arrival of royalty, the spirit of the household coming together, and Barrow's first real romance have all the hallmarks of a festive feature-length installment. And with Masterpiece airing the film on Christmas Day, it feels like we can officially declare the show as official holiday fare.
Billed as a grand motion picture event when it opened in theaters in 2019, the first Downton Abbey movie follows the beloved Crawley family and their intrepid staff as they prepare for the most important moment of their lives: a royal visit from the King and Queen of England. The momentous occasion will unleash scandal, romance, and intrigue that will leave the future of Downton hanging in the balance.
The film stars the original ensemble cast. That includes Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, Allen Leech, Douglas Reith, and Penelope Wilton as the upstairs cast. The downstairs cast includes Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Kevin Doyle, Michael Fox, Joanne Froggatt, Robert James-Collier, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, and Lesley Nicol. Guest stars include Stephen Campbell-Moore, Imelda Staunton, Tuppence Middleton, David Haig, Kate Phillips, Simon Jones, and Geraldine James.
The Downton Abbey movie will debut on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2021, at 7 p.m. ET, with a reairing on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, at 9 p.m. ET following the premiere of Around The World in 80 Days. As always, check your local listings.