We had a good long run, we loved them, watched them struggle and succeed, they found love and lost it, were framed, set free, involved in coverups, and scandal, they lived and died and married and divorced, and did it all in beautiful costumes! And all of this we watched. And now they’re gone, after 6 wonderful seasons together.
We miss Downton Abbey, and we’ve got a Sunday night tv hole in our hearts to fill.
I love a good historical drama, so I’ve come up with a little list of shows I think you might like, some are earlier, some are later, some are old, some are new, some are good, and some are really good. I’ve watched all of these over the years and enjoyed them, and I hope you’ll like some too.
1. Mr. Selfridge
This series begins in London in 1910 and is the story of Mr. Selfridge, an American business man who runs an amazing department store, revolutionizing shopping and turning it into a leisure activity. The series is full of drama, scandal, and romance and is based on a true story.
2. The Paradise
Very similar to Mr. Selfridge this is a fictional story of a department store and the lives of the employees. Set in the late 1800’s in London. I didn’t like this one quite as much as Mr. Selfridge, found it a little slower paced, but it is a nice historical drama filled with great costumes and stories of forbidden love.
3. Call the Midwife
You probably know this one already, but if by chance you don’t, you should. It’s the story of midwives and nuns in the poor part of London in the 1950’s. The stories are heart wrenching, so you might need some kleenex, along with your popcorn. It’s so good, the stories explore the best and the worst of the time, the tough choices people had to make, or when they didn’t have enough choices. It will make you feel grateful to live today, but also a little nostalgic for a time and place when babies were delivered by girls who wore capes and arrived on bicycles. One of my very favourite shows.
4. Mad Men
Ok, I had to throw this one in here….not much like Downton, but I find it so interesting to think that Mad Men and Call the Midwife are happening about the same time, since the experiences of the people are so different. England vs. New York, rich vs. poor. I have to say I really enjoyed this series, you seem to love it or hate though. It did take me quite a few episodes to get into it, but once I was, I was hooked and spent many a Sunday night with Don Draper.
5. The Indian Doctor
Set in 1950’s rural England, this is the story of Prim, the Indian doctor and how he tried to fit in to and serve a small Cornish town. Season 2 was the best. Kind of slow paced at times, but a nice story, and if you like the 50’s and 60’s time period, you might like this one.
6. Indian Summers
This one is set in the 1930’s in India, during the last days of Colonial rule. You get to see the strange life built by the British as they interacted with the Indians they ruled over, in the midst of the heat, and racism of the day. A good series, I hope they make another season. I really liked the costumes and the beautiful setting. Lots of romance -often in the form of forbidden love, and scandal mixed in to keep it interesting.
7. A Place To Call Home
This series is set just after WW2 in the late 1940’s, this time in Australia -I really am loving Austrian TV these days. It’s the story of a nurse who’s Jewish, and a widow, and how she comes home to Australia to start a new life. She gets involved with a rich family -Lord’s of the village in an earlier era, but doesn’t exactly fit in. It’s not my very favourite historical drama, but there are some great twists and turns, and those great Aussie accents to enjoy!
This is another great British series. It’s originally set in 1945 in England, just after the war. Claire, a combat nurse, has reunited with her husband a doctor, after they both served separately in the war. During the first episode, Claire accidentally time travels back to 1743. The show is full of drama, romance and nail biting action as Claire tries to work out how to get back to her own time -but in the process develops a life for herself in the past. Keep in mind this series should be rated R for sex, and quite disturbing violence, so it’s not for everyone. The series is based on novels, and there’s more to come. There has been one seasons so far, and season two starts in April.
I love this one, and can’t wait for season two. The story is set in Cornwall, England, in the 18th century. Poldark has just returned from fighting in the American Revolution. His father is dead and estate is in a shambles. The story is about how he rebuilds his life. It’s full of romance and drama, and pretty dresses and the social issues of the day. I really liked it. It’s based on a novel series. I’m not much of a reader…like I say, I read the movie, or in this case the show. Looking forward to season two. If this list was in order of preference this one would be very near the top.
10. The Whtie Queen
We’re going back to the War of the Roses for this one. This is a tv mini series, from the BBC, and also based on a series of novels. It’s set in 15th century England and tells of the struggle for the throne, featuring the lives of three different women. My sweet husband found and borrowed this series from the library for me to ease the pain of our 9 hour each way drive during our recent vacation. I really enjoyed it. It’s full of drama, romance, beautiful costumes, strong women and even a little magic.
11. The Tudors
This is an older series (2007), and follows the reign of King Henry the VIII in the 1500’s. It’s another BBC production. The customs, and lifestyle are fascinating. The drama, romance, sex, religion, scheming, and murder make this a series that will have you hooked. If you like this very early time period, this is a great series.
12. Cranford and Return to Cranford
Set in 1840’s England, it’s the story of a group of ladies who live in Cranford and their comings and goings. It’s older (2007) and not fast paced but I include it because of Judi Dench, and the BBC, and a time when life was all about marrying someone with the right income, and wearing a pretty bonnet. Certainly a nice way to spend a few evenings with a cup of tea.
13. Berkley Square
The story of several London nannies in 1902 who live and work in Berekley Square. There’s the usual servant verses upper class employers drama, especially since the nannies spend more time with the upper class children than the parents do. This show also highlights the struggles of working class girls without many choices at the time, and how they struggle along with love, romance, and relationships. It’s an older show, made in 1998, and only one season unfortunately, but a good one, and it will have you thinking of Marry Poppins as you see the nannies in their dark coats and little hats.
14. Upstairs Downstairs
There was a version of this show in the 1970’s, but it was recently remade in 2010-2012. Unfortunately they only made two new seasons, but I quite liked it. In keeping with the popularity of Downton Abbey it’s the story of the the rich upstairs and the servants downstairs in a London townhouse in 1936. This story has all the usual drama of love, forbidden romance, and secrets, but has an added layer of political drama since it’s set on the verge of WWII.
There’s so many ways to watch television now that any of these should be pretty easy to find, between Netflix, AppleTV, Amazon TV, or even your local library for some of the older ones. These are all television shows or mini series, but I could write another whole list of movies. I did think now that spring is here, perhaps this post would be better saved for the cozy nights of winter, but there’s always a rainy day at home or the cottage, or a day when you’re under the weather, or a chilly evening when any one of these shows, and cup of tea or glass of wine would be welcome. So, enjoy, and please let me know in the comments below if there’s any I’ve missed that you love.
With a perfect historical drama tv show to enjoy, life really is a party!