Downton Abbey's Final Season

Houstonians get a sneak peek at season opener of Downton Abbey — and they Lovett

Houstonians get a peek at Downton Abbey season opener and they Lovett

Lynda Steinway, Marilyn Ingham, Lyle Lovett, Suzanne Webb, Boone Bullington at Manor of Speaking Downton Abbey taping
Downton Abbey superfan Lyle Lovett, center, poses with other fans of the series at a taping of Manor of Speaking. From left, Lynda Steinway, Marilyn Ingham, Lovett, Suzanne Webb, Boone Bullington. Photo Courtesy of Houston Public Media
Sagirah Norris won first place for her Downton Abbey costume at sneak preview
Sagirah Norris won first place for her Downton Abbey costume at a screening of the season 6 premiere at the Bayou Bend Spiegeltent. Photo by Francisco Montes
Fans at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
A large crowd filled the Spiegeltent at Bayou Bend to catch the first episode of Downton Abbey's final season. Photo by Francisco Montes
Mister Rodgers from Manor of Speaking,͟ with Kim and Taylor Newhouse at Downton Abbey sneak peek
Mr. Rodgers, the popular butler on Manor of Speaking, poses with fans Kim and Taylor Newhouse. Photo by Francisco Montes
Christine and Kaitlyn Cargol, first place costume contest winners at the noon screening of the Downton Abbey season 6 premiere in The Woodlands
Christine and Kaitlyn Cargol took first place honors at a screening of the season 6 premiere of Downton Abbey at The Woodlands. Photo by Francisco Montes
D͞ownton Abbey Manor of Speaking͟ Ernie Manouse and St.John Flynn pose with costume contestants at the Downton Abbey season 6 premiere in The Woodlands.
Manor of Speaking host Ernie Manouse, left, and panelist St.John Flynn, right, post with Downtown Abbey fans Haley Dickey, Stephanie Dickey and Rebekah Dickey. Photo by Francisco Montes
Cristina Wohadlo and Georgianna Siwek at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
Christina Wohaldo and Georgianna Siwek. Photo by Francisco Montes
Hannah and Eileen Dyer at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
Hannah and Eileen Dyer.  Photo by Francisco Montes
Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking fans at sneak preview
Manor of Speaking fans pose for a photo. Photo by Francisco Montes
Lynda Steinway, Marilyn Ingham, Lyle Lovett, Suzanne Webb, Boone Bullington at Manor of Speaking Downton Abbey taping
Sagirah Norris won first place for her Downton Abbey costume at sneak preview
Fans at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
Mister Rodgers from Manor of Speaking,͟ with Kim and Taylor Newhouse at Downton Abbey sneak peek
Christine and Kaitlyn Cargol, first place costume contest winners at the noon screening of the Downton Abbey season 6 premiere in The Woodlands
D͞ownton Abbey Manor of Speaking͟ Ernie Manouse and St.John Flynn pose with costume contestants at the Downton Abbey season 6 premiere in The Woodlands.
Cristina Wohadlo and Georgianna Siwek at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
Hannah and Eileen Dyer at Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking sneak preview
Downton Abbey Manor of Speaking fans at sneak preview

Even though Downton Abbey doesn't premiere in Houston (and the rest of the U.S.) until January 3, fans of the hit PBS series got a sneak look at the first episode of the final season. Houston Public Media held four standing-room-only screenings over the weekend — two in Houston in the Cristal Palace Spiegeltent at Bayou Bend Collections and Gardens and two in The Woodlands at Cinemark at Market Street — for more than 500 fans.

And on Tuesday night, they taped the first episode of Manor of Speaking, the locally-produced show that airs immediately after Downton on Houston Public Media TV 8, dissecting every plot twist of that evening's episode, with a surprise "superfan" — acclaimed singer Lyle Lovett. The Spring native loves Downton so much that he asked if he could appear on the episode that will be broadcast on January 3.

A party for the show's supporters at the HPM studios on the University of Houston campus followed. Many dressed for the occasion in boas, cloche hats, flapper dresses, bowlers, feathered headbands and other attire of the roaring '20s, the period when the final season is set. Attendees had each made a special financial donation to HPM in order to take part in the festivities.

Fans at the screenings were encouraged to dress for the occasion in a “Dress for Downton” costume contest to win guest passes to an upcoming taping of Manor of Speaking. Host Ernie Manouse and Manor of Speaking panelists Helen Mann and St.John Flynn participated in a special Q&A session with the audience at each screening. (The show now airs on more than 138 PBS stations.) 

Fans were sworn to secrecy about what transpires in the premiere episode, but suffice it to say that there are some memorable one-liners from Maggie Smith, who plays the sharp-tongued Dowager Countess of Grantham, and some blushing plot twists involving housekeeper Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Margaret Logan) and butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).  

The episode "wrapped up all the lingering story lines but set up where it's going," Lovett told the audience, who no doubt are saddened to see Downton come to an end but are eagerly looking forward to the final season.

Our favorite tweet from the opening episode of this season's Manor of Speaking: "Downton Abbey should have been called Game of Scones."