Downton Abbey

Sundays at 9pm

Downton Abbey returns for an epic fifth season of intimately interlaced stories centered on an English country estate. Season 5 features returning stars is joined by guest stars Harriet Walter (Atonement), reprising her role as Lady Shackleton, and Peter Egan (Death at a Funeral), who returns as Lord Flintshire, together with completely new characters played by Richard E. Grant (Girls), Anna Chancellor (The Hour), and Rade Sherbedgia (24).

Viewers can expect to follow plot threads left dangling from last season, including Lady Mary’s courtship contest, Lady Edith’s trials as a secret single mom, Thomas’s scheming against Bates, Robert’s battles against modernity, Tom’s quest to be true to his ideals, Violet’s one-line zingers, and much, much more. One of the recurring themes of Downton Abbey is change, from the wrenching consequences of the Titanic disaster in Season 1 to a notorious automobile accident at the end of Season 3—plus World War I, women’s rights, and the new morals, inventions, and fashions of the 1920s.Which is where Season 5 kicks off. It’s 1924. The United Kingdom has its first Labor Party prime minister. The radio is the latest miracle of the age. And Downton’s traditional ways are besieged on all fronts, as evidenced by this exchange between the head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, and the butler, Mr. Carson

Grantchester

Sundays at 10pm

Set in the English countryside’s most idyllic village, Grantchester follows two unlikely allies as they solve a series of cases that reveal the dark side of early 1950s England. Handsome, young vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton) shares his spiritual duties with a love of jazz, complicated relationships with women, and an enthusiasm for amateur sleuthing. When the concern of a parishioner compels him to dig deeper into a grisly suicide, he gets on the nerve of a tired, local law enforcement officer—Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). Fortunately, the cleric and the cop bond over their war service, their love of a goodpub, and their competitive instincts—in this case, for backgammon.

Grantchester is based on the acclaimed novel Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, which was called “the coziest of cozy murder mysteries” by the New York Times Book Review. Runcie styled Sidney after his late father, Lord Runcie, who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1980s. Like Sidney, the elder Runcie was a war hero before he entered the ministry, and he was a compassionate and amiable parish priest. Unfortunately, he never took up crime-solving. Grantchester corrects that oversight.

The series stars James Norton (Chambers), who recently appeared on MASTERPIECE’s Death Comes to Pemberley as the underdog defense lawyer, and was also seen as the psychopathic villain in Happy Valley. Co-star Robson Green (Keating) is already revered for a number of MASTERPIECE starring roles, including the seductive hero opposite Francesca Annis in the runaway hit Reckless. Also featured are Morven Christie (Case Histories) as Amanda Kendall, Sidney’s first love and soul mate; Tessa Peake-Jones (Poirot) as Mrs. Maguire, the vicar’s morally judgmental landlady; Al Weaver (Sherlock) as Leonard Finch, the church’s new assistant curate; and German actress Pheline Roggan as Hildegard Staunton, the strikingly beautiful widow of the series’ first victim.