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Plot spoilers pose 'Downton Abbey' challenge

  • This undated publicity photo provided by PBS shows Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, left, and Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson from the TV series, "Downton Abbey." The third season premiere airs in the U.S. on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 on PBS. (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE, Nick Briggs)

LOS ANGELES — There are many delicious reasons to watch the returning "Downton Abbey" and an exasperating one to skip it: The cover's been blown on major plot twists.

In what may be outsized revenge for the American Revolution — or payback for years of exporting lousy U.S. TV and fast food — the Brits are sharing "Downton Abbey" with us, but only after first airing each season.

That wouldn't matter much in the drama's early 20th-century setting but we're not there, are we, PBS and U.K. network ITV? A little gimmick called the Internet makes it impossible to keep story developments from spreading like germ warfare.

As with sports fans who must avoid all media and big-mouthed friends to keep game scores a surprise, "Downton Abbey" addicts are forced to shun rude news reports and blogs about what happens to character A, B or C (no spoilers here, promise).

Heedlessly type in "Downton Abbey season three" online and you risk stumbling into the startling truth that ... well, never mind. If you know, you have our sympathy. If you don't, live in blessed ignorance and careful isolation from Sunday's debut until the Feb. 17 season finale.


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