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The wait is over! Downton Abbey returns to PBS tonight

Americans can finally get their fix of the hit British drama 'Downton Abbey' when the third season starts on Sunday.
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: A Downton Abbey clapper board awaits auction during 'An Evening With Downton Abbey - Raising Money For Merlin - The Medical Relief Charity' at The Savoy Hotel on July 14, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images) (IAN GAVAN/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES -- Over on this side of the pond, it's been a long grueling wait for the third season of the hit British drama "Downton Abbey" to finally make it back to PBS. 

But ladies and gentlemen, the time has come to peer back inside the thick stone walls of Downton. 

The Earl of Grantham and his family return to 'Masterpiece Classic' on PBS Sunday night and pick back up where they left off.

We catch up with the residents of Downton just after they emerge from the death, suffering and slightly less flashy clothing left behind by World War I.

It's the summer of 1920 and the social and economic upheaval of the new decade is just starting to show. Upstairs, Lady Mary and cousin Matthew's romance is still blooming, Lady Sybil is in Dublin and about to have a baby with her chauffeur/revolutionary husband Branson and Lady Edith is still home and single (not everything could change, now could it?) 

Downstairs, the unfortunate Mr. Bates is still in prison after being accused of killing his ex wife Vera. His faithful wife, Anna, is doing her best to exonerate him but will it be enough? 

The saucy former maid Ethel returns with her baby and Thomas, the scheming footman-turned-valet who everyone loves to hate, has his own love interest when a cute new footman turns up at Downton. 

But the really anticipated moment of season 3 comes courtesy of American legend Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine joins the case as Martha Levinson, the mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern).

MacLaine's character goes toe to toe with Downton's resident matriarch, the formidable Lady Violet played by grand dame Maggie Smith. 

There's a lot to catch up on and in case you're new to the show or haven't kept up with the happenings of the Grantham household, the New Jersey Star-Ledger has put together this helpful who's-who of the previous two seasons of Downton. 

Since it debuted in the US in January 2011, the British drama about the 1 percent has captivated American audiences. "Downton Abbey" was nominated for 16 Emmys in 2012  and won three, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The show is even credited with reviving PBS, becoming the most watched "Masterpiece" series on record.

If you're looking for an extra distraction during tonight's episode, Paste magazine came up with a Downton Abbey bingo you can print out and play along. 

 

Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" premiers on Sun., Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. EST on PBS.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/hollyworld/the-wait-over-downton-abbey-returns-pbs-tonight