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Smart Talk: Masterpiece delayed 

click to enlarge RACY: Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton star in "Downton Abbey."
  • RACY: Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton star in "Downton Abbey."

A longtime Masterpiece Theater fan was tuning in to watch the grand new "Downton Abbey" serial shown recently on AETN when he noticed an announcement from PBS revealing that the program was shown at 9 p.m. Eastern time, which means it should have been available in Arkansas at 8 p.m. Central time. But it wasn't shown here until 9 p.m. The fan wondered why. Kathy Atkinson, AETN program director, said the network's 8 p.m. Sunday slot is already taken by a program that AETN purchased some time back called "Lark Rise to Candleford." Both programs are British period pieces and the "Lark Rise" showings are re-runs. Why not put "Downton," the new show, in the 8 p.m. slot that generally gets a bigger audience? Atkinson said that both programs have a certain following, but "Lark Rise" was considered more of a family program that probably would lose much of its audience if shown at a later hour. But AETN began delaying Masterpiece Theater until 9 p.m. a few years back, before "Lark Rise," and has filled the 8 p.m. slot with various programming ever since. "Masterpiece Theater" productions have occasionally brought complaints from viewers, especially in conservative states like Arkansas, over language, nudity, plot, etc. Fewer such complaints would come from a late-night audience, presumably. The first installment of "Downton Abbey," for example, contained a scene with two men kissing. A second season is planned.

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