Downton Abbey is given third series

A scene from Downton Abbey The second series of Downton Abbey spanned World War I and its aftermath

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Period drama Downton Abbey has been commissioned for an eight-part third series, ITV has announced.

The new run will be set in the early 1920s and continue to chart the fortunes of the Crawley family and their servants.

Downton's creator Julian Fellowes said he was "extremely grateful to ITV" for committing to a third series.

The current season, set around World War I, is due to reach its conclusion on Sunday.

There will also be a Christmas episode, which will be shown next month.

Fellowes, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay of the film Gosford Park, added: "I have grown very fond of my Downton family and I certainly do not want to say goodbye to them quite yet."

The drama, which stars Hugh Bonneville and Dame Maggie Smith, has continued to be a ratings hit, with its most recent episode drawing an audience of close to 10 million viewers.

But the show's storylines have recently been criticised by television critics as being being too far-fetched and fast-paced.

Downton's executive producer, Gareth Neame, responded to criticisms, saying that its high-viewing figures suggest that TV audiences are enjoying the show.

The third series is expected to be screened next year.

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