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U.S. 'Downton Abbey' fans still behind the U.K.

  • L-R: Jessica Brown Findley as Lady Sybil, Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith, and Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary. (Joss Barratt/Carnival Films)

Rabid “Downton Abbey” fans in the United States will have to continue guarding against pesky spoilers from across the pond because PBS doesn't plan to alter its scheduling of the popular period drama any time soon.

Network president and CEO Paula Kerger, appearing Tuesday at the Television Critics Association press tour, is taking a “if-it-ain't-broke ... “ approach to the show, which typically premieres several months after it airs in the U.K. The upcoming fourth season of “Downton,” which launches overseas in September, won't debut on PBS until Jan. 5 of next year.

“We don't want to mess with that if it's working so well,” Kerger said, referring to the growing ratings of “Downton Abbey” in the states. The Season 3 finale of “Downton” drew 8.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched scripted series in PBS history.

Kerger said the later scheduling is deployed, in part, because PBS wants to avoid competing with the onslaught of fall premieres from the major networks. But she also believes that having the episodes air earlier in the U.K. actually has helped to boost interest in the states because word-of-mouth buzz has a way of building.

Still, many “Downton” fans have expressed displeasure with the delayed viewings — especially after being spoiled last season by the shocking death of a beloved character.

Kerger said that when she makes public appearance she avoids addressing the Season 3 finale because there are a lot of people who still haven't seen it.

As for any complaints about the way the character was written off the show, she said, “Please don't contact me, contact (creator/writer) Julian Fellowes.”

Other PBS highlights from the TV press tour:

— Veteran newscasters Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff have been named co-anchors and managing editors of “PBS NewsHour.” “When I was thinking about this announcement, I almost paused in drawing attention to the fact that it's two women,” Kerger said. “We picked the two people who we thought would be the strongest anchors for the newscast, and it just happened that they were two women.” Ifill and Woodruff, who debut as a team in September, are the first female co-anchors of a nightly U.S. newscast.

— Denzel Washington will narrate a PBS documentary about the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights. The actor just completed his taping for “The March” airing Aug. 27, a day after the 50th anniversary of the march that featured Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech.

— PBS has yet to nail down a premiere date for the next season of “Sherlock.”

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