What you need to know before the 'Downton Abbey' season 2 premiere

Wondering what all the fuss among your friends is about? The British series 'Downton Abbey,' airing on PBS starting this Sunday, took pop culture by storm last January with its story of drama and intrigue in an aristocratic family and the people who serve them, just before World War I. Whether you are new to the series and need a recap of last season, or watched last year and forgot the details, here's what you need to know about season 1 before season 2 premieres Jan. 8.

1. The family

Hugh Bonneville (center) plays Robert Crawley, with Elizabeth McGovern (r) as his wife Cora and Maggie Smith (l) as his mother Violet.

The family of the Earl of Grantham lives at Downton Abbey, headed by Robert who lives on the estate with his wife, Cora, an American heiress, and their three daughters, Mary, Edith, and Sybil. Mary is headstrong, while Edith believes she lives in her older sister's shadow and seeks to cut Mary down whenever possible. Youngest Sybil is intrigued by the changes happening in the world such as the issue of women's suffrage. Robert's mother Violet, the dowager countess, is protective of the old way of life and frequently tries to manipulate those around her in order to maintain her own social status and that of her family. She sometimes clashes with her American daughter-in-law.

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