Downton Abbey fix without Downton Abbey?
January 30, 2012 7:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm absolutely hooked on Downton Abbey. What other British period series/movies should I watch?

I just recently got into Downton Abbey, after having heard about it through so many different magazine articles, critical reviews, and watercooler talk. I watched the first season on Netflix, and just recently caught up with the second season on PBS' website.

I love this show! Like, cannot-get-enough love it. If I were asked to describe what I love about it, it would be the following:

- It's British
- It shows not only aristocratic life, but also servant life (I would enjoy this series MUCH less without the insight into the "commoner")
- Takes place during early 1900s (I love that time period)
- Really well-written, acted and directed
- Easy to follow (no convoluted/inexplicable plotlines)

What other shows should I be watching that meet this general criteria? I'm open to film recommendations, as well. Thanks in advance!
posted by Falwless to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jeeves and Wooster
posted by timsteil at 8:03 AM on January 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not as edgy, but Upstairs, Downstairs is the model for these things.
posted by Danf at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


These are all on netflix:

Upstairs Downstairs
The Grand
Wuthering Heights
North & South
posted by Ad hominem at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]




If you're open to film recommendations, the obvious and excellent recommendation is Gosford Park.

Oh, and there's also a really enjoyable reality show called Manor House, though I don't know where it's available.

I would argue that Upstairs, Downstairs is about as edgy (abortion! affairs! suicide! but no anal sex as far as I know), but the production is a lot cheaper-looking.
posted by mskyle at 8:07 AM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jayne Eyre, but it will no longer be available after tomorrow.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:07 AM on January 30, 2012


Brideshead Revisited doesn't show servant life that I recall, but otherwise it's perfect. (I'm talking the original BBC production, not the awful recent movie.)
posted by BibiRose at 8:11 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gosford Park.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:13 AM on January 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited immensely -- I was a big fan of the book too. It takes place in the 1920s through early 1940s.

I watched it on DVD back when I still had DVD subscriptions through Netflix. It's not on streaming, so I think the only other way to get it easily would be through Amazon.
posted by BurntHombre at 8:16 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The Duchess of Duke St" has even lower production values than the original U/D, but has something.
posted by scruss at 8:16 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lark Rise to Candleford is terrific. It even features the actor who plays Bates from DA. It does take place a little earlier than DA, with a lot of focus on the switch from rural lifestyles to the town. Excellent production values and acting.

Also, it includes the perspective of the residents of a small hamlet who are farmers and laborers, as well as servants in the village. The servants at DA were arguably in comfortable circumstances compared to farm laborers or factory workers, so it's interesting to get that additional perspective.
posted by pie ninja at 8:20 AM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

It takes place shortly before WWII, but I think you'd definitely like it.
posted by zizzle at 8:22 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Darling buds of May is very good
posted by mattoxic at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2012


The Duchess of Duke Street, as mentioned
Berkeley Square, if you like nannies.
The Barchester Chronicles, if you like ecclesiastics (set a bit earlier, but good, so I included it).
Desperate Romantics, if you like Pre-Raphaelites.
Cranford, if you like nice little villages where nobody gets a break.
Lark Rise to Candleford, if you like nice little villages where people occasionally get a break.
The Forsyte Saga is pretty swell, although there isn't much significant onscreen interaction with the lower classes.
The Way We Live Now, if you like Ponzi schemes and their consequences.
Pretty much anything of Dickens has gotten the miniseries treatment, if you need a dose of misery after too many aristocrats; Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House are well done.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:23 AM on January 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


North and South is on Netflix streaming and is one of my favorites! Also, Lilies is amazing too! I don't think that's on streaming but you can find it on there in DVD form.
posted by katypickle at 8:24 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seconding The Way We Live Now. The casting is absolutely perfect, especially the criminally underused Shirley Henderson.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:26 AM on January 30, 2012


Also: He Knew He Was Right.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:27 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also Bramwell, for turn-of-the-century struggles of a female doctor, and now I have to go to work.
posted by notquitemaryann at 8:27 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding The Way We Live Now

Ohh forgot about that one, it is on

netflix as well.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2012


Seconding Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.
Thirding Gosford Park.
Suggesting:
The Remains Of The Day
Howards End
A Room With A View
The Age Of Innocence (not British)
The House Of Mirth (also not British)
posted by flex at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


And also (no servants that I remember though, but British and close to same time period):
An Ideal Husband
The Importance of Being Earnest
posted by flex at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pride & Prejudice. Not so much working class and genteel poor. And you want the 6 part BBC series that gave Colin Firth his big break.

Upstairs DownStairs
Remains of the Day (the book is excellent too).

Manor House isn't fiction and is sort of a Reality show but offers some interesting insights into the ear and lifestyles.
posted by wwax at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Ken Russel's version of Lady Chatterly's Lover, Lady Chatterly, was pretty good. It's streaming on netflix. Deals with similar class issues and is a bit steamy as well.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:37 AM on January 30, 2012


Seconding Brideshead Revisted. It really is quite epic, although it may be missing the servants' side of things somewhat.

Recommending Jewel in the Crown. Still intently British, although set in India. The servants' perspective may not be present as such, but whoa does it ever get into class divisions. Plus, it has a lot more melodrama to it than a lot of British costume pieces.

Plus, it has my favourite 'that guy' actor, Art Malik, being all noble and shit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:49 AM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The House of Elliot is another in the genre, by the same people as U/D. It has the whole upper class/richer fashion designers with the working class seamstresses dynamic going on.
posted by atlantica at 9:02 AM on January 30, 2012


Manor House is available on You Tube.
posted by jvilter at 9:06 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing North & South (which I really really love) and Gosford Park.

You might also enjoy the BBC series Servants. I'm not finding a lot of info about it online, but apparently it's on YouTube, so here you go.
posted by Jelly at 9:08 AM on January 30, 2012


Looks like I get to recommend the Casualty 1900s series. It's not about aristocracy but it takes place during the time you like, is British, well written, and easy to follow. My MIL and I were hooked in minutes.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 9:12 AM on January 30, 2012


When (not if) you watch "Gosford Park," be sure to watch the extras, where they detail their efforts of authenticity.
posted by rhizome at 9:19 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Netflix has The Buccaneers available to stream right now—it's a 1995 miniseries about nouveau riche young ladies from turn of the century Newport, RI, who go to England to find better marriage prospects. Based on an unfinished Edith Wharton novel. Stars Mira Sorvino and Carla Gugino. Lacks servants but makes up for it with really ridiculous dresses.
posted by bcwinters at 9:20 AM on January 30, 2012


Ooh! Ooh! The Lost Prince!
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:22 AM on January 30, 2012


I came in to say Gosford Park and Manor House--both hit all your notes (and Manor House give reality TV a good name.)

Another recent series that hits many of your notes is Foyle's War. It's WWII era, not Edwardian, and it's a mystery-solving show that even I can watch, which means it's not stressful or supergross. But the main character deals with all levels of society, and it's another one of those lovingly-done PBS shows.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:52 AM on January 30, 2012


Brideshead Revisited doesn't show servant life that I recall, but otherwise it's perfect. (I'm talking the original BBC production, not the awful recent movie.)

Brideshead Revisited was actually by Granada, not the BBC. Granada was also responsible for Jewel in the Crown and the brilliant Jeeves and Wooster mentioned above. (And, since it was mentioned in a separate AskMe yesterday, the fantastic Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 10:02 AM on January 30, 2012


Mapp and Lucia! It's delicious.
posted by cyndigo at 1:06 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


This spans the 1920's-1960's [with some minor, but fantastic, earlier flashbacks] but the Geraldine McEwan Marple series is great. The dynamic between the upper class and the lower class is really fleshed out and explored. The TV plot lines, I find, are not that difficult to follow.

It's also available on Netflix Instant and Youtube!
posted by oxfordcomma at 1:21 PM on January 30, 2012


Wives and Daughters
posted by invisible ink at 3:46 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll throw in Cold Comfort Farm, based on a novel that parodies the literary treatment of everyday country folk in the early 1900s. No servants as such, but you have the class and urban/rural divide, and it's very funny.
posted by holgate at 5:03 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cold Comfort Farm is great! I also recommend I Capture the Castle, which I guess is actually set in the early 30s (I remembered it as 1910s til I checked IMDB). It's a lovely British comedy/drama that addresses class issues, and has a similar bittersweet tone to Downton Abbey.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:53 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Haven't seen it personally, but my best friend who is loves this sort of thing is absolutely obsessed with Lark Rise to Candleford, so thirding that one. Also dittoing Gosford Park and The Remains of the Day.
posted by naoko at 9:37 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Catherine Cookson has written many historical novels looking at working class and upper class relations - and several have been adapted into films/mini-series like the Black Velvet Gown, The Round Tower or Colour Blind.

The original upstairs/downstairs story is, of course, Upstairs, downstairs. I don't know why people fuss about the production values, given that it was filmed in the 1970s, but I watched most of the series in the 1990s and never noticed a thing wrong. The writing and acting are both excellent. The more recent revival (not a remake, but a true sequel) set during the 1930s is also very good.

I'm something of a historical drama junkie, and my most recent addiction is Bomb Girls, which is Canadian and more about gender relations than class, but is very good.
posted by jb at 10:35 PM on January 30, 2012


When (not if) you watch "Gosford Park," be sure to watch the extras, where they detail their efforts of authenticity. posted by rhizome

Second’ed. While I found the director's commentary insufferable, the other commentary—by the guy historian/accuracy guy (who appears to be screenwriter Julian Fellowes).
"Now, I must point that out a servant would NEVER have used this particular staircase! ...But I was told that we had to have Kelly Macdonald up in the attic within X seconds so...")
—was great!
posted by blueberry at 12:08 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forsyte Saga
posted by dracomarca at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dropped in to recommend Remains of the Day. Beautiful book, beautiful movie.
posted by pecanpies at 6:35 AM on February 12, 2012


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