Writer disputes that Masterpiece downsized “Downton” because its plot would “baffle” Americans

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“Downton Abbey”, premiering this week on Masterpiece, will be a slightly shortened version of the British Edwardian hit. Its original episodes, which aired across the pond on commercial channel ITV, have been edited to six from eight to ensure the character of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) arrives at the stately home in the first episode rather than in the second, the Brit paper Daily Mail reports. It adds: “PBS also believes its audiences will need an American to outline the key themes of the show. So before the first episode, actress Laura Linney will explain the inheritance principle.” (Linney is a regular host of Masterpiece Classic.)

The story ran under the bold headline,”Downton downsized by two hours because American TV executives fear its intricate plot will baffle U.S. viewers.”

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Au contraire, according to Daily Beast writer Jace Lacob, who also spoke with the Daily Mail reporter for the piece, but was not quoted. On his Televisionary blog, he writes: “To put it bluntly: it’s simply not true. … I actually did the math for (the reporter) during the interview, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that there weren’t two hours missing from the U.S. broadcast of the series. The only thing missing here are, in fact, the commercials themselves.” Other “small changes” were made to fit the episodes to the time slots, he added.