The small screen is sizzling with the Edwardian period soap opera, Downton Abbey, and it's not just the beautiful costumes, set and gorgeous cast.

Once upon a time, there was castle in the English countryside, and in the castle there lived the Crawley family. The father and mother were known as Lord and Lady Grantham, and they had three beautiful daughters: Mary (the cool and aloof eldest), Edith (okay, she's the plain middle child) and Sybil (the rebellious kid sister). But despite the fairytale setting, full of glamorous Edwardian fashion, riches beyond reasonable expectations and handsome suitors aplenty, all was not right within the walls of the castle. Downton Abbey, to you and me.

But what isn't “right” inside Downton is precisely what is so right on television screens ever since the ITV series began airing in North America last fall. The third season is set to start filming just as the second completed its initial run on PBS and will air on Vision TV (a ZoomerMedia property) this month - the channel holds the Canadian rights. All the while the series about the aristocratic Crawleys' and the butler, footmen and maids who love them or hate them depending on the character and opportunity has become an international phenomenon, garnering Emmys and Golden Globe awards alongside viewers.

A soap opera set in Edwardian England a ratings juggernaut? Who would have thought it possible? Not the cast, or so says one of its stars, Hugh Bonneville, 49, who plays Lord Grantham with aplomb, when reached at his home in London.  “It was a surprise it was big in the U.K. to be honest,” he admits. “And because it is so quintessentially British and is about the nuances of British social structure back in those days, I thought it might not necessarily travel.”

But travel it did or, as a review in the New Yorker put it: “The series about the aristocratic Crawley family and their titular home goes down so easily that it's a bit like scarfing handfuls of caramel corn while swigging champagne.” And who doesn't love that combination on a Sunday night?

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