Free Bates! Amazing Sneak Preview: Downton Abbey Episode 1, Season 3

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A sneak peak of PBS Masterpiece Theater’s Downton Abbey Season 3 tonight! I was lucky enough to be there along with a few hundred other people, including sponsors Viking River Cruises, Masterpiece Theater and PBS executives.

Entering the screening room, I was met with this sight: T-shirts over every single chair in black and white with the words “Free Bates” emblazoned on them.

I chose a black T-shirt. Tres chic!

Then the first 20 minutes of Season Three’s first episode was screened! No spoiler alerts necessary but it doesn’t look good for the Abbey! On the verge of financial collapse! How will they get out of this particular predicament? Perhaps, Cora’s wealthy mother Martha Levinson played by Shirley MacLaine will bail them out! That remains to be seen…but it was hinted at by Hugh Bonneville (Lord Robert Grantham). Because he was at the screening!

We were then treated to a Q&A with Executive Producer Gareth Neame, cast members Hugh Bonneville (the foolish but likeable Lord Grantham), Joanna Froggett (the dutiful and good Anna), Rob James-Collier (the evil Thomas) and Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore, loyal cook), and Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. Hollywood Reporter TV Critic Tim Goodman moderated the questions.

Afterwards, the floor was opened up to the fans. Their comments and questions were thoughtful, respectful and showed a great devotion to the show, its creator and actors.

Sandra Medina and Tonia Coleman work for the County of San Bernadino. They were super-excited to be at the preview event. “We like the era and the fashion,” said Sandra.

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The actors were in their element. Funny! They had the audience roaring with laughter.

Some highlights included Hugh Bonneville being asked which Downton Abbey character he wished he could play, “I’ve always wanted to be Daisy,” he said in a saucy voice.

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Joanna Froggett turns out to be a leggy blonde with tan legs instead of a mousy maid! She wore a stunning aqua Jonathan Saunders dress.

Rob James-Collier was the cut-up of the night. When asked about his character the gay, back-stabbing Thomas, he replied, “You try being gay in Edwardian England!”

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Rob James-Collier looking so NOT like Thomas! In a Ralph Lauren cardigan!

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Joanna Froggett happy to be complimented on her dress!

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Hugh Bonneville – so dashing.

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And, yes, I love PBS and Masterpiece Theater. Thanks for giving us great TV!

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