*** SPOILER ALERT ***

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

I managed to resist PBS’s “Downton Abbey” for two years.

That all changed after I received a Christmas gift in the mail from my friends: the first two seasons of the Masterpiece Theater series on DVD. I gobbled up every episode in roughly two days. It’s that addictive.

Season 3’s premiere on Sunday served up two glorious hours of British intrigue — with an American twist.

Watch the preview below. Go here for the full episode.

It’s hard to pick a favorite character or plot line on this show. I give a lot of credit to the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes for writing a magnificent script. The actors deserve equal praise for making those lines so memorable.

“Downton Abbey” strikes a chord with viewers like me because I’m fascinated with history, class struggles, and (yes!) heart-melting romance. This season, it seems half of Downton’s inhabitants long for a return to the formal ways of high society in pre-war Great Britain. The other half embraces a more pragmatic view of life and the new possibilities before them.

Forty-three minutes into the show, actress Shirley MacLaine makes her grand entrance as Martha Levinson, the wealthy American mother of the countess of Grantham. She has gobs of money and a tart tongue. (“You mean you needed the Levinson cash to keep the Crawleys on top.”) To her, Downton Abbey’s majestic traditions are boring and old-fashioned.

“These houses were built for another age,” she says to Lady Mary, after telling her she cannot help the family through it’s latest financial woes. “Are you quite sure you want to continue with the bother of it all?”

Sure, Mrs. Levinson’s character feeds British stereotypes about Americans. But it doesn’t make her performance any less delightful to watch.