PBS unveiled a big news item for Anglophiles today, announcing the premiere date for the eagerly anticipated fourth season of its period hit "Downton Abbey." E! Online reports that the drama series will return Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014.
The series will have an eight-week run, wrapping up the season Feb. 23.
A number of changes are in store for the show, the report notes: "Not returning to the series are Dan Stevens, whose character Matthew Crawley was killed off in the season three finale, Jessica Brown Findlay, who played the beloved Lady Sybil, and Siobhan Finneran aka villainous maid O’Brien."
Commenting on the loss of Stevens, executive producer Gareth Neame said: "This is a lesson in something that seems like a really big loss in the moment [that] will actually turn into a great opportunity [for Lady Mary], which it will also be for the show, to take a turn in a whole different direction."
The report adds: "The series will also introduce its first recurring black character, a jazz singer played by Gary Carr. Tom Cullen will also join the cast in season four as a potential love interest for Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery)."