Downton Abbey: Season 5 Planning Underway, Different Era on Tap

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Downton Abbey invaded the Television Critics Association press tour this week, with producer Gareth Neame joined in Beverly Hills by stars Sophie McShera, Phyllis Logan, Laura Carmichael, Joanne Froggatt and Michelle Dockery.

And even with American viewers having to wait until January 4 for new episodes to air, there was plenty of scoop to go around.

Carmichael teased that Downton Abbey Season 4 will feel like a "different era," as the family may be mourning Matthew, but there are "escapes for a couple of the characters," while Neame added that it is a “very different season” for Edith, one full of “very active stories.”

Jim Carter as Mr. Carson

"We're going to increasingly see that this world [of large, wealthy estates] is coming to an end," teased Neame. "All of the characters are coming into the modern age. It is the story of these 20-25 characters that are much loved around the world and how they continue to try to get by."

Neame also took a look ahead to the "eligible bachelors" on the way, although Dockery assured fans that no spark will be ignited between Mary and Branson, although the latter will help teach the former how to run the estate: "They become close because of what they’ve both been through. But romantically, I don’t think it’s going anywhere."

O'Brien, meanwhile, is gone, leaving a "complex world" for Thomas, according to Neame. Look for a "shake-up" to take place regarding his story.

What else can fans look forward to from the downstairs crew?

Mrs. Hughes and Carson "still have a very nice working relationship. We still have spats. We occasionally get to drink a glass of sherry," said Logan, while McShera said of Daisy: She's “still in that bratty teenage stage with Ivy,” who’s attracting a lot of male attention."

Barring some catastrophe, of course, there will be a fifth season - and Neame is already thinking about storylines for it.:

"I'm now eying the fifth season and what those stories potentially would be. I think the show has a lot further to go. We're not going to World War II, but that's still 18 years away in story terms. We want to make it and we want to make the show people around the world love... When we feel it's had its time, hopefully we'll know that before you guys do."

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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