There are now many reasons to watch surprise mega-hit “Downton Abbey,” which begins its third season on PBS on Sunday. But before the first episode aired, there was really only one: Maggie Smith.
Some critics and public broadcasting aficionados may have claimed allegiance to creator Julian Fellowes, the actor turned writer who had worked with Robert Altman to give us “Gosford Park,” or even a nostalgic delight at the return of Elizabeth McGovern. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, the main reason for all the early anticipation and adulation was Smith, a performer of such consistent, elastic and unique fabulousness that, well into her eighth decade, she’s practically become her own genre.
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