'Downton Abbey' Season 4: Maggie Smith returning, but it's unlikely to air in U.S. simultaneously with the U.K.

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Maggie-Smith-in-Downton-Abbey.jpgGood news, "Downton Abbey" fans! Maggie Smith, the indelible Lady Violet the Dowager Countess, is returning to the show for Season 4, executive producer Gareth Neame tells TV Line. Smith has won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for the role.

BUt in other not-so-great news, PBS President Paula Kerger says not to expect to see the U.S. broadcast sync up with the U.K. broadcast -- though they aren't ruling it out completely.

"This is a question of great debate of whether to try to bring the broadcast of the two together.  It's complicated for a lot of reasons. One is, as you know, the version that airs in the UK airs with commercials, and we air ours without. So we actually edit the program together," says Kerger.

"We also look very carefully at where in the broadcast schedule it falls. You have encouraged us often that everyone puts their most competitive work on in the fall, and to put 'Downton' in the teeth of that I'm not sure serves anyone well," she continues. "There's been an enormous generation of publicity and attention around the series that we benefit from by having it in January.  So how we're going to end up making the decision is actually based on what we think will be best for the viewers and will help serve them well."

"At the end of the day, I want to make sure that we're putting the series in a place where the most people can find it and that people will have an opportunity to enjoy it and be part of a larger experience. And I don't know whether that means jamming it in the fall at the same time that every other broadcaster is running their stuff really serves the series or, frankly, the viewers well."

"Downton Abbey" is currently airing in the U.S. Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.

Photo/Video credit: PBS