WASHINGTON-The global success of ‘Downton Abbey’ is vivid proof that romance and drama are alive and well and thriving on the small screen, its executive producer said Tuesday. In a telephone interview from London, two days after season four of the post-Edwardian soap opera premiered on US public television, Gareth Neame said he remains surprised at the series’ huge worldwide following.

“Because of the different ways that we can consume media, audiences around the world have much more varied diets,” Neame told AFP, referring to such innovations as mass-produced DVDs, on-demand video and Internet downloads. “Their palate is more mature, and they are prepared to look at stories - comedies as well as drama - wherever they come from.” Set in the 1910s and 1920s, “Downton Abbey” dwells on the insular lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants at their grand country house in Yorkshire at a time of momentous change in Britain.

Created and written by Julian Fellowes, it’s made by Carnival Films, the independent production house that Neame founded and still runs after its sale in 2008 to US television giant NBC Universal. The series has been sold to 250 territories - “that’s about every territory,” Neame said - with ITV, Britain’s main commercial television broadcaster, and PBS in the United States as the core markets.