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Downton Abbey will finish up after its next season

The show will come to an end at Christmas 2015.

DOWNTON ABBEY WILL come to an end this year, and fans – of course – are gutted.

Producers of the popular British period drama confirmed today that it will end after its sixth season, which is will have its UK finale on Christmas Day, 2015.

“Our feeling is that it’s good to quit while you’re ahead,” executive producer Gareth Neame said during a conference call.

We feel the show is in incredibly strong shape, the scripts that we’re working on for the upcoming season are fantastic, and the show is so popular globally. But the danger with this sort of thing is to let it go on forever.

He said the decision to wrap was made by him and Julian Fellowes (who created the series and has written every episode) in conjunction with the cast.

Feature film?

Asked about a rumored “Downton Abbey” feature film, Neame said, “It would be great fun to do,” but added there so far are no plans in place, nor are there plans for a series spinoff.

The acclaimed, beloved and awards-showered drama has tracked the fates of the aristocratic Crawley clan and their servants amid the social upheavals of pre-First World War Britain into the 1920s, as the characters of both upper and lower classes cope with their rapidly changing world.

Stars include Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith.

The series premiered on the ITV network in 2010, inspired in part by the 2001 Robert Altman film, Gosford Park (written by Fellowes), and presented as a variation on the British classic Upstairs, Downstairs.

“Let’s not forget,” said Neame, “when we set out to do this in the first place, we thought we would have a good success in the UK and that very traditional outlets for British content globally would be there.”

But almost instantly “Downton Abbey” took on a life of its own.

“We did not know we would be in 250 territories worldwide,” Neame said.

We didn’t know we would be one of the biggest shows on American television. We would have been perfectly happy for it to run for three seasons, then end it.

In the UK, it became the highest-rating drama of the past decade, with an average of 11 million viewers over its five seasons.

Season 5 drew an average audience of 12.9 million viewers.

Downton benefited from the shift in how TV is consumed, including binge viewing and the growth of social media that turned watching telecasts into group experiences, she said.

Production of the upcoming 13-hour season is well underway, Neame said, but he kept mum on any details apart from saying all the current characters would be back and be given satisfying resolutions.

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Emotional day

“We very much have an eye to where the characters will end up,” he said.

What will become of poor Edith? Will Anna and Bates ever get a break? People want to know these things!

While Neame acknowledged the temptation to carry on such a breakout success indefinitely, the series, he said, “has always been viewed by everyone involved as a bespoke, well-crafted piece of popular television.”

The decision to call it quits was reached through a process of many conversations. But having now made the decision official, Neame said, meant “a very emotional day for all of the people involved in the show.”

Fans were very disappointed with the news:

- Additional reporting Aoife Barry

Read: 9 reasons the end of Downton is more tragic than the Zayn news>

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Associated Press

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