The popular British WWI series, Downton Abbey concluded last night. The Hollywood Reporter estimates the show is “closer to a critical mass than anything that’s ever come out of PBS’ Masterpiece Classics franchise.” It also served to push three related books up Amazon’s sales rankings:

#15 (from #31) The World of Downton Abbeyby Jessica Fellowes, (Macmillan/ St. Martin’s)

#26 (from #81) Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castleby The Countess of Carnarvon (RH/Broadway Books)

#385 (from #562) Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey,”  by Margaret Powell(Macmillan/St. Martin’s)

Work is underway on the third season. Prepare for sparks between Shirley MacLaine, who joins the cast as the mother of Elizabeth McGovern’s Lady Grantham, and Maggie Smith, who plays the prickly Dowager Countess (see some of her best moments to date in the video below, with appropriate background music).

Watch Downton Abbey: The Best Maggie Moments on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.

While Americans were watching the end of this series, British audiences were watching the end of another period drama, Call The Midwife, set in the 1950’s. It’s been a surprise hit, topping the ratings of Downton Abbey and regarded as the BBC’s most successful series since 2001. It is adapted from the best selling memoirs by Jennifer Worth about her experiences as a midwife in the slums of East London in the 1950s.

The tie-in is at #1 on Amazon UK’s sales rankings, followed closely by the author’s three other titles. The first book in the series was published here in 2009; the others are not available in the US.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times
Jennifer Worth
Retail Price: $15.00
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) – (2009-04-07)
ISBN / EAN: 0143116231 / 9780143116233

A U.S. release date for the series has not been announced yet.

The next British imports to PBS  are based on two Charles Dickens’ titles. Great Expectations, with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, runnning April 1 and 8, followed by The Mystery of Edwin Drood, on April 15.

Masterpiece returns to WWI, beginning April 22, with the BBC’s two-part Birdsong, based on the book by Sebastian Faulkes. The British tabloid, The Daily Star, referred to it as a “raunchy adaptation” and an “X-rated hit.” Critics applauded the first episode, but were divided over the second. The audiences, while strong, was not a large as those for Downton Abbey.

A tie-in edition is coming in April (check here for EarlyWord‘s full list of tie-ins to upcoming movies & tv series)

Birdsong (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage International)
Sebastian Faulks
Retail Price: $15.95
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Vintage – (2012-04-03)
ISBN / EAN: 0345802896 / 9780345802897

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