The ‘Downton’ Dilemma: Surviving the Wait Until Season 3′s U.S. Premiere

The Abbey’s residents greet a new guest in season 3. (ITV)

What’s an American to do? Season 3 of Downton Abbey begins airing in the UK on ITV this Sunday, September 16 at 9 p. G.S.T.

We American fans of the show have to wait long months until the aristocratic Crawleys and their downstairs staff start acting up on PBS’ Masterpiece on January 6.

Here’s ITV’s swoon-worthy trailer promoting Season 3:

This yawning gap across the Atlantic presents both behavioral and moral dilemmas and challenges in the age of the Internet and illegal downloads.

Years ago, when a show was broadcast in both England and the U.S., none of us were much the wiser. It showed in one country and then, eventually, it aired in the other. End of story.

Even a half a decade ago, in an era before YouTube, it was still almost that way. I remember visiting London in the spring of 2004 and going out to dinner with friends on the evening that the final episode of HBO’s Sex and the City was slated to air on in England. It had already finished up in the U.S. a couple months earlier.

My friends insisted they had to be home from dinner in time to see the show.

“You don’t want me to just tell you who Carrie ends up with?” I asked.

My friends were adamant: no spoilers. They wanted to remain blissfully uninformed ahead of time and see for themselves underneath just whose bed she decided to leave her Manolos.

Those days are long gone. Now, with the click of a few keystrokes, you can be watching trailers for British shows, viewing assorted clips on YouTube, reading series coverage and recaps in British papers and, if it doesn’t bother you that it’s illegal, going to dodgy sites where you can illegally download entire episodes.

So what is one to do about Downton Abbey? It’s going to be hard to resist peeking at stories about the show in the British press or glancing at recaps or blogs. (My favorite runs in The Guardian; click here for entries on Downton’s second season.)

And a couple weeks into the season, if you pull up YouTube, you will easily be able to find Downton clips featuring Maggie Smith’s latest putdowns as the Dowager Countess, parody videos and commentaries posted by British fans.

Just for fun, here’s one of those fan videos, called Dollhouse Downton, that restages Downton episodes with stuffed animals:

But the British broadcast of the real Downton Abbey presents us Yanks with a difficult choice.

To click or not to click, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to just wait until January and PBS’ airing of the show or to furtively search on-line for clips, coverage and maybe even entire episodes once it begins airing in England this Sunday?

Only you can decide what works for you. I personally plan to take a path right down the middle. I will peek periodically at British coverage of the show but will try to avoid coming in contact with major plot spoilers. As for illegally downloading episodes, I’m not going there.

I’ll just keep playing that old Carly Simon song, “Anticipation,” and try to convince myself that waiting is the best part.

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Do you plan to try to check out clips and news on Season 3 of Downton Abbey before it airs in America?

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