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Behind the scenes at "Downton Abbey"

(CBS News) The hugely popular PBS series "Downtown Abbey" is now entering its third year. Many have dreamed of visiting that stately home, but our Martha Teichner has actually done it:

Oh boy, here we go: In Season Three of PBS' sudsy blockbuster "Downton Abbey," Shirley MacLaine arrives to take on Dame Maggie Smith.

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith): "I'm so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I'm with her I'm reminded of the virtues of the English."
Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens): "But isn't she American?"
Violet: "Exactly."

True fans can't wait for this battle of the acting legends. Never mind "Top Chef" - the knives are out and ever so sharp at Downton Abbey.

In case you've been under a rock for the last two years and have never heard of PBS' Emmy-winning hit, here's a quick primer.

Downton Abbey is the fictional home of Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his American wife, Lady Cora. He's got the title; she's got the money.

One look at the class picture will tell you how many plot lines there are.

"Sunday Morning" on the set of the PBS series "Downton Abbey," at Highclere Castle southwest of London. CBS News

The series begins in 1912, has worked its way through WWI, and is now inching into the 1920s - years of major upheaval in British society as a whole, and for the aristocracy especially.

Season 3 spoiler coming up! The money - the lion's share of Cora's fortune - is gone!

"We knew that this series would to a certain extent be the charting of the downfall of this particular class," said Julian Fellowes, who created "Downton Abbey." "It would be their sidelining politically, their undermining financially."

Fellowes was flabbergasted by the worldwide audience response.

"No one is prepared for this extraordinary kind of whirlwind that took place, and if you expected that you'd be a fool," he said.

The show is seen in 170 countries. It's been nominated for 27 Emmys and has won nine. It's been a critical and ratings bonanza for PBS' "Masterpiece" - which nearly passed on it.

"I actually was a little hesitant, I can truthfully say," said "Masterpiece" executive producer Rebecca Eaton. Now, she is awfully glad she said yes.

"This is the cherry on top of the sundae, or the tea cake," Eaton said.

Speaking of confections - what could be sweeter than to be part of the first U.S. network television crew ever allowed on the set, in April, during the shooting of Season 3?

For months on end, the cast and crew take over Highclere Castle, the home of a real earl, in the English countryside southwest of London.

You can't help saying to yourself, "Oh, it's Lord Grantham.' And then, 'No, it's the actor, Hugh Bonneville.'

"It's just a job. It's a wonderful job, and I love every second of doing it, but it is just a job," Bonneville told Teichner. "So I think people expect me to behave like a lord and have a Labrador at my heels all the time. I don't. You know, I walk! I go to the supermarket in my jeans and my sweatshirt."

Or to his trailer in a T-shirt. But for "Downton" fans, it's hard not to think of Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, heir to Downton Abbey and major heartthrob.

How does he deal with that, Teichner asked.

"I just carry on as normal It's lovely. it's, you know, I can't pretend I don't like it."

Actress Michelle Dockery emerges as Lady Mary, one of Lord Grantham's daughters, engaged to Matthew - finally - after two seasons of agonizing (Will they? Won't they?).

Part of the fun of being on set was trying to figure out what the scenes being shot gave away about Season 3.

In the wardrobe trailer, while we were there, what was being picked out for the next day's shooting looked right for a wedding. But whose?

Alastair Bruce is the show's historical advisor, meaning correctness cop.

"In Britain in the year 1920, there was a way in which somebody who lived in an aristocratic family would expect to be treated and to interact, and to treat somebody from below stairs," he said.

Below stairs. the domain of the servants, is actually a stage set specially built at the historic Ealing Studios just outside London. The big drama here is what will become of Mr. Bates?

For the uninitiated, he's the valet, lame from a war wound, who begins Season 3 in prison, wrongly convicted of murdering his vile wife. The housemaid Anna is his long-suffering, true love. (Google the Free Mr. Bates campaign!)

"Downton Abbey" is a phenomenon, as actor Brendan Coyle discovered when he went to Morocco on vacation: "I just got sort of mobbed from people from all over - Ireland, Denmark, I remember Australia, Iceland, Spain - shouting, 'Did you kill your wife?'"

For many "Downton" stars, the show has been life-changing. Emmy-nominated actress Michelle Dockery was on the cover of Vanity Fair, undressed.

"It's thrilling, actually, to be part of something so special, and that's captured the hearts of the world, you know?" she said.

Dan Stevens is currently on Broadway, signing autographs at the stage door every night.

But Joanne Froggatt (Anna), also nominated for an Emmy this year, may have the best story: "This is my most fabulous year ever, actually," she told Teichner. "It's incredible, with all the success of 'Downton,' our Emmy nominations, three movies coming out this year, and I'm also getting married this year, which is big, big news."

Like "Downton Abbey"? You know a show is BIG when it gets spoofed. But come on now - "Downton Arby's"?!?

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