Hooked on Downton Abbey

THERE'S never a dull moment on the grounds of Downton Abbey.

The British drama, now in its fourth season, has picked up six months after the shock death of Matthew, Lady Mary's husband and the Downton heir.

The period melodrama has become a worldwide hit since debuting in the UK on ITV in 2010. Averaging around 10 million viewers in the US, it has given America's public broadcaster PBS its highest ratings in more than two decades.

The show commands a strong following here as well, with more than 1.125 million Aussies tuning in to the fourth season's debut.

Irish actor Tom Leech plays the Crawley family's former chauffer Tom Branson who became the Downton estate agent after the death of his wife Sybil.

Speaking to the Guide during a recent visit to Melbourne, Leech said the cast has been blown away by the show's success.

"All of the cast, we've been on this journey together. We've watched it evolve and become a show everyone loves," he said.

"It's opened doors for everyone in the show."

Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) is starring opposite Liam Neeson in the new thriller Non-Stop, while former cast member Rose Leslie now stars on Game of Thrones.

Leech's character Tom is still struggling to find his place among British high society.

This week's episode in particular will see him struggle to make appropriate small talk with the guests invited to an extravagant house party at the Abbey.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa guest stars this week as Australian opera singer Nellie Melba who has been hired to perform for the guests.

Downton Abbey - Seven - Sunday at 9pm