More shows like Downton Abbey and Wives & Daughters?
January 14, 2014 2:23 PM   Subscribe

So sue me, I've taken a liking to period dramas like Downton Abbey and Wives & Daughters. Can you help me find more shows like this? More specific likes/dislikes....

I really, really enjoyed Wives & Daughters and Parade's End, and I currently love Downton Abbey. I also liked The Borgias, The Tudors, Rome, Spartacus and, in the realm of fantasy, Game of Thrones. For whatever reason, I don't like American period dramas as much. I started on North and South and was immediately turned off. I didn't want to watch a show that portrays American slavery as a commonplace, normal thing, and I think it was made a bit too long ago, as the low quality video was distracting. I also don't like Boardwalk Empire or Hatfields & McCoys that much, either. Perhaps I don't like watching things that are outrightly morally wrong to me or now-illegal activites? But I like modern day shows involving crime quite a bit... if you can figure that one out, please let me know. :)

Certainly if the show is a little "smarter", all the better, but I'm all for soap operas, too. So, preferably shows made within the last 20-30 years, preferably not American (or perhaps just not pre-Civil War or not crime-related?), but could take place at any pre-modern (say pre-WWII) time OR be it could be fantasy. Shows are what I'm looking for, but movies are good, too. Thanks!
posted by ancient star to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 115 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you tried Call the Midwife?
posted by Jacob G at 2:25 PM on January 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: The Forsyte Saga
posted by rue72 at 2:26 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

i was just coming in to suggest "call the midwife" - seems perfectly up your alley.
posted by nadawi at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2014

"Bomb Girls" takes place during WWII in a Canadian munitions factory. Soapy and fun, some good drama and great clothes and music.
posted by skycrashesdown at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, Call the Midwife! It's excellent. I'd also recommend BBC's The Hour.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2014

The Blackheath Poisonings.

The Remains of the Day ends right around the time of WWII.
posted by Melismata at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2014

Response by poster: I should say that WWII isn't really a hard line, but I hoping you guys get the gist of what I'm looking for... also, could you say whether your recommendations are movies or TV shows, if it's not clear? Thanks!
posted by ancient star at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2014

Best answer: It's only 4 episodes, but we just watched and thoroughly enjoyed the BBC's North & South (which is not about the Civil War at all). Bonus: Richard Armitage (aka Thorin Oakenshield) as the male lead!

Cranford is also on our list to see soon.
posted by jquinby at 2:32 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Bletchley Circle, tv (3 eps per series, frustratingly, but there will be a second series soon), available right now on Netflix, I believe.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:34 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

For a completely different idea, but in the same vein, I very much enjoyed Manor House, which was a reality show about 21st-century people taking on the roles of masters an servants in Edwardian times.
posted by xingcat at 2:35 PM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

I should say that WWII isn't really a hard line, but I hoping you guys get the gist of what I'm looking for... also, could you say whether your recommendations are movies or TV shows, if it's not clear? Thanks!
posted by ancient star at 5:31 PM on January 14 [+] [!]

Oh, and I should say that both Call the Midwife and The Hour are set in the 50s, but the world of Britain in the post-war period feels a lot scruffier than what you'd get in Mad Men, because of the blitz.

You'd also probably really like the various House series--The 1900 House, The Edwardian Country House. They're reality TV, but they're compelling and historical reality TV with pretty costumes and such.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:36 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you haven't seen the movie Gosford Park, which Julian Fellowes of Downton also wrote I think, put it high on your list for next movie night. It's one of my favorite films ever, and has many themes (and period details) shared with Downton.
posted by Miko at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Call The Midwife for sure. I actually like it a lot better than Downton because it's so much less about the lives of the idle rich and more about people who are actually trying to make other people's lives better.

In a similar vein, Land Girls, though I'll warn you that in series 2 and 3 they switch out a lot of the main cast and the result is highly inferior.

I'm really excited to start watching The Bletchley Circle, which was recommended to me by the same friend who evangelized about Call The Midwife. There's also Bomb Girls, which as far as I can tell is in much the same vein as Land Girls.

You could always check out the BBC miniseries also called "North And South", which is about the Industrial Revolution, not the US Civil War.

I haven't seen it yet, and it is about the US, but Hell On Wheels is about the transcontinental railroad and seems pretty interesting. Similarly, what about Deadwood?

What about Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries? I haven't seen it yet, but it's Australian and takes place in the 1920s. Not sure if it's too similar to Boardwalk Empire or what you didn't like about Boardwalk Empire.
posted by Sara C. at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mr. Selfridge, an ITV show that aired on PBS in the U.S. with 11 episodes available on Amazon.

The Paradise, also aired on Masterpiece Classic in the U.S.

Both are about department stores and focus on the wealthy owner and his personal relationships, and a working class shopgirl and hers.
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Re: North & South - I think this BBC series is the show I MEANT to try to watch, but somehow ended up with "North and South" which is an entirely different, much more inferior show. Thanks for clarifying that, guys!
posted by ancient star at 2:45 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Anything adapted by Andrew Davies is generally worth watching. In particular the 1995 tv miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

If you're interested in documentaries Try Edwardian Farm and the others in the series.

Cranford is also great.
posted by poxandplague at 2:46 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Berkeley Square, a TV series about a trio of nannies working for wealthy families in 1902 London.

Major caveat: if you are someone who NEEDS closure do not start watching this...there was a 2nd series (season) planned but it was scrapped, so the 1st series ends on a pretty brutal cliffhanger. I hate spoiling things like this but I figure it would not be fair if I didn't warn you.

However, despite knowing this and disliking the lack of closure, I am not sorry I watched it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:48 PM on January 14, 2014

There's Larkrise To Candleford which I think can be streamed on Amazon. More rural than Downton, set earlier in the late 19th century, some overlap in actors w. Downton.
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

So it sort of depends on how much you like murder mysteries (I do quite a bit), but Netflix recently recommended to me the Australian series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and it's got a ridiculously glamorous woman as protagonist/private investigator and it is set in 1920s Sydney and if any of that -- or costumes from the time period -- sound good to you, I can strongly recommend it. (It's a series that just finished it's second season but only the first is on Netflix.)

On preview, Sara C. also mentions it, but to answer the question she raised, though it has a "seedy" element in some episodes, it's pretty cartoony seedish-ness compared to something like Boardwalk Empire; the show is pretty fluffy (wonderfully so, if you ask me)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Per that link, I would say the 1970s Upstairs, Downstairs is quite enjoyable and really, Downton Abbey is pretty much a direct steal from it anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 2:54 PM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

In particular the 1995 tv miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

This is a legend. If you've never seen it, you must.

An anecdote. I was at a small house concert the other night, along with maybe 15 people I didn't know. The musician was telling a story about meeting a guy name Darcy. He said, "I had never met a guy named Darcy before."

In unison, at least 3 or 4 of the women there said, "MR. Darcy."

There's a reason for that.
posted by cairdeas at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

"The Pallisers is a 1974 BBC television adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels. Set in Victorian era England with a backdrop of parliamentary life, Simon Raven's dramatisation covers six of Anthony Trollope's novels and follows the events of the characters over two decades." I watched it back in the '70s and was completely gripped despite theoretically not caring about British parliamentary life.

A Dance to the Music of Time: I haven't seen this, but the cast is terrific and I'm enjoying the novels a great deal, so I'd bet it's worth your while. It's about English life in the early to mid-20th century.

The Jewel in the Crown is a British television serial based on the Raj Quartet novels by Paul Scott (which I also highly recommend!), about the last years of the British Raj in India. One of the best series I've seen on television.
posted by languagehat at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Foyle's War is really good if you like mysteries. Set during WWII and it seemed good at portraying life in England during the war.
posted by carolr at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh my, where to start? Add Foyle's War to your queue, for sure. Nthing the recommendations of the 1995 version of P & P, Gosford Park and Call the Midwife. Adding to it, the 2005 version of Bleak House, the 1999 version of Mansfield Park and 1994's Middlemarch. If you can bear to watch modern stuff at all, the current BBC version of Sherlock is also not to be missed. Enjoy!
posted by kayzie at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2014

Another vote for Larkrise to Candleford. It is really good and I was truly sad when it ended.

And if you like Rome you have to watch Vikings. It is super good and I would put it up there with Rome.
posted by cyml at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Poldark! Set in 18th century Cornwall.

I, Claudius, all on youtube.

Nthing Upstairs, Downstairs - at least season 1 is on youtube. Edwardian Britain! WW1! Titanic!
posted by rtha at 3:07 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another vote for Upstairs, Downstairs, which is basically Ur-Downton. A lot of classic Masterpiece Theater productions might be right up your alley, in fact -- such as Poldark (which is awesome, once you can get past the budget costumes and sets for the first season), The Duchess of Duke Street, and Brideshead Revisited (not actually Masterpiece Theater, but definitely in that zone). And if ancient Rome is up your alley, one of the very greatest of the bunch is I, Claudius.

Movie-wise, don't miss Gosford Park (also written by Julian Fellowes). This question I asked a few years ago yielded some wonderful gems, so you might find it helpful, too.
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

So it's not exactly Downton Abbey, but -- I recommend "Casualty 1900s," a.k.a. "London Hospital" (aired title in the US), a British hospital drama set in the East End, from 1906 to 1909. I *think* it was available streaming on Netflix, but I can't quite remember. It's not available there now, apparently. You can find it on Youtube. Wikipedia entry: Casualty 1900s
posted by infodiva at 3:11 PM on January 14, 2014

I can't believe I forgot - Jeeves And Wooster is all on Hulu now, as are a bunch of other BBC things that aren't available elsewhere.
posted by Sara C. at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. They're totally delightful.

The House of Eliott might be up your alley. It's a series about two sisters running their own fashion house in 1920s London, and was created by some of the people behind Upstairs, Downstairs.

Also, I haven't seen it yet but I've been hearing very good things about Death Comes to Pemberley.
posted by escapepod at 3:22 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really enjoy Agatha Christie's Poirot, the British series starring David Suchet as the famous Belgian detective. The Art Deco sets and fashions are stunning, the acting is superb, and the plots highly entertaining!
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 3:49 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Buccaneers (with Mira Sorvino!) from the unfinished Edith Wharton novel about wealthy American debutantes marrying titled poor Englishmen. Miniseries.

London Hospital (can be QUITE GRAPHIC), called "Casualty 1906" or something in the UK, which was quite short but I really enjoyed a lot and binge-watched in basically three overnights while nursing a croupy baby. Several short seasons.

I loved Lark Rise to Candleford, although I was getting all sad in the fourth season with the coming industrialization. I also really enjoyed the Forsyte Saga, though the I loved the book so much it was hard for the TV adaptation to stand up for me. :) Forsyte Saga is a little hard to get into because there are a LOT of characters, but it's worth it.

On the movie front, these sorts of shows always put me in the mood for any of the many Jane Austen movie adaptations (Emma, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility), The Young Victoria, 1994 Little Women. A little further back in time to the Tudors, Lady Jane (Helena Bonham Carter, Patrick Stewart, Cary Elwes) and Elizabeth and its less-great sequel. My husband suggests Miss Potter over my shoulder.

Since you liked the Tudors and Game of Thrones, I feel I can pimp my FAVORITE BRAIN CANDY TELEVISION EVER, which is the CW's current and wonderfully campy "Reign." Nostradamus is BFFs with the Queen of France who is played by Anne of Green Gables and she is trying to maybe murder her son's fiancee Mary Queen of Scots because MAGIC and the whole thing is basically Ren Faire fan fic as dressed by Hot Topic. The women have interesting and complicated relationships and ideas about power and responsibility, and then men are there to be eye candy. It is WONDERFUL. I want it to get renewed so more people need to watch it!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:03 PM on January 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

You said, "I don't like American period dramas as much".

I agree totally. I used to not like British shows but now I get on Netflix or Amazon video and seek out a good Brit show. American drama now things sex, big boobs is all they need to be a hit.

I especially enjoy British detective stories. I got addicted to "Foyle's War". If you want some humor mixed in try "The Last Detective". I don't know what it is about Brit shows but it makes one more thing that America is falling behind in.
posted by nogero at 4:15 PM on January 14, 2014

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is set predominantly in Melbourne, not Sydney. Also Ballarat. Probably doesn't matter much to you guys in NorAm but it has been awesome to see bits of the city and suburbs where I live on the small screen, which more than makes up for any deficiencies of plot! The books by Kerry Greenwood are also good - more historical elements and complications they had to leave out from the TV series for budget, simplicity, etc etc.

You could also try Love in a Cold Climate which was based on the Nancy Mitford books; Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons book) and I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith book). Funny how all of these are based on books, I'm not being sarcastic but they do seem to work well when the books were really good as well.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:25 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mapp & Lucia

I also want add to the recommendation upthread of The Pallisers. I enjoyed watching the series so much that I went back and read the six Anthony Trollope books it was based on.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:39 PM on January 14, 2014

I'm seconding that most miniseries written by Anthony Davies are good. I liked Pride and Prejudice, Vanity Fair, Tipping the Velvet, The Way We Live Now, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and South Riding.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:42 PM on January 14, 2014

And if it turns out you like the older series like Upstairs Downstairs and the Pallisers you might also like The Duchess of Duke Street.

Those older series have that lower budget, kind of stagy English 1970s TV style, but if you don't mind that they are very good.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:47 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

They remade (rebooted?) Upstairs Downstairs a couple years ago. Available streaming from Amazon Prime. Takes place in London at the start of WWII.
posted by jeoc at 5:05 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have exactly the same requirements as you and I LOVED North&South (the British BBC one) and also BBCs's "Lillies," which is about 3 sisters in Liverpool. It's amazing!
posted by katypickle at 5:39 PM on January 14, 2014

Bramwell. It's a series about a woman trying to become a doctor in Victorian England. I've seen the first three seasons, but I've heard the forth isn't worth watching.
posted by mmmbacon at 5:41 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, and The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister, BBC miniseries based on, well, the diaries of Anne Lister which were written in code because it really wouldn't have been much fun to have everyone know you were a woman who loved women in late 18th/early 19th century rural England.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:47 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh god yes, if you're up for comedy, then definitely Mapp & Lucia. (I recall the books being pretty fun, too.)
posted by scody at 5:55 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you like mysteries there is a long running Canadian series called Murdoch Mysteries. It's streaming on Netflix Canada but I'm not sure about elsewhere. It's set in turn of the century Toronto as a police procedural.
posted by five_cents at 6:36 PM on January 14, 2014

Ripper Street and Murdoch Mysteries are period detective series. Ripper Street is darker and grittier, but both are entertaining.
posted by Nickel at 6:41 PM on January 14, 2014

This is a movie and in French and Spanish, but I absolutely LOVED The Women on the 6th Floor. I had it in my Netflix queue for months and months, thinking it would be a decent movie, but when I finally got around to watching it I adored it and didn't want it to end. It has the lively servant aspect of Downton with fantastic 1960s period French style, plus family dysfunction.
posted by Maarika at 7:35 PM on January 14, 2014

Definitely Duchess of Duke Street! The BBC re-did the Jane Austen miniseries a few years ago and they're all quite good, but watch the 1995 P&P first.

Mapp & Lucia is a bit of a slow starter. It gets better after the first couple of episodes when they move away from Riseholme.
posted by apricot at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2014

I came in to recommend Murdoch Mysteries, too. It is CSI 1895 set in Toronto. Entertaining in many ways. Netflix has Seasons 1-3 and Amazon has Seasons 1-5. There are a couple more seasons, but not yet streaming in US.

More crime:
The Inspector Morse mysteries and the continuation with Inspector Lewis are British mysteries. Set in Oxford, where a lot of university types get murdered, apparently. Various seasons stream from various sources.

The Hamish Macbeth series is good, too, but not available streaming if that matters. He is a small town constable in Lochdubh, Scotland, which is populated by a lot of characters. Very quirky in a Northern Exposure kind of way. (Only took about 3 episodes before we could understand what they were saying, but worth it.)

I liked Murder in Suburbia. Two female police officiers in suburban London investigate various murders. More character driven than forensic procedural.

For soap operas there's Monarch of the Glen.

I love the Cold Comfort Farm 1996 movie. The BBC series is not nearly as good. And I can't say often enough how much I like Call the Midwife.

For rip-roaring costume drama it is hard to beat the Horatio Hornblower series. There are 8 of these seafaring movies.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:09 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, I'm so glad you asked!

TV series:
Wish Me Luck - WWII, British women spying in occupied France, very serious
Upstairs Downstairs 2010 reboot - 1930s London, glitzy "drama"
The White Queen - Middle Ages/War of the Roses - based on the Philippa Gregory books, lots of sex & gore (it's on Starz)
more votes for Foyle's War, Duchess of Duke Street, Bletchley Circle (essentially a miniseries), The Hour (cancelled abruptly), British North & South (miniseries), Lark Rise to Candleford, Cranford
Da Vinci's Demons (on Starz) - Renaissance Florence, like the Tudors where everyone was young and sexy
Robin Hood - fun although they dress very hip for the Dark Ages
There's Borgia (no 's') - I don't remember where I found/watched this, but it's a European-produced show about the Borgias et al, in English

Jane Eyre - I don't love this story but Michael. Fassbender.
Crimson Petal and the White - a sad/serious story about a Victorian prostitute/kept woman
No one has mentioned Atonement yet? 1930s-through-WWII star-crossed lovers
Glorious 39 - right-before-WWII, amazing wardrobe
Daniel Deronda (miniseries) - I actually didn't like this story but as you can probably see by now, I love Romola Garai
The Last Station - a hot young protege of Tolstoy's (James McAvoy)
Young Victoria - romance between Queen Victoria and Albert
The Crown Prince and The Illusionist - love stories in fin-de-siecle Vienna
The Duchess - Keira Knightley is a stifled housewife/18th-century duchess
Becoming Jane - Jane Austen biopic
Marie Antoinette - this new Sophia Copolla is a little "funky" but the costumes and sets are gorgeous
The new Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley - I didn't love this but it's the same tone of romance as North & South
The Cat's Meow - a glitzy 1920s murder-mystery aboard a yacht
All the Merchant Ivory movies
Enchanted April - I think the 20s, some rich women rent a house in Italy
A Good Woman - more rich people (although I think they're Americans) running around Italy, in the 1920s
I love the Peter Ustinov Poirot movies - Death on the Nile, Murder Under the Sun, and Murder on the Orient Express
Princess of Montpensier - this is in French, about a young girl with no control over her life, 16th-century-ish, very beautiful

If you're willing to go modern-day British: Monarch of the Glen, Hamish MacBeth, Inspector Lewis, Rosemary & Thyme, Murder in Suburbia
posted by thebazilist at 9:53 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nthing I, Claudius, Upstairs, Downstairs, and The Jewel in the Crown. Also great: Elizabeth R, a fantastic BBC miniseries about Elizabeth I. And you definitely want the BBC North & South, because Richard Armitage. The Count of Monte Christo miniseries with Gerard Depardieu is also solid.
posted by culfinglin at 11:22 PM on January 14, 2014

If you're into the Tudor period, I've just gotten done binge-watching Tudor Monastery Farm. It's another in the series of well done living history documentaries by Ruth Goodman and friends. You can find the whole thing on youtube.
posted by antinomia at 6:08 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I whole-heartedly recommend the Mystery! Lord Peter Wimsey:

Strong Poison
Have His Carcase
Gaudy Night
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:13 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I asked a similar question and got great recommendations, you might find it helpful. That's where I found Campion, too, which I don't think anyone has recommended yet and is awesome!
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:40 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just now noticed that Netflix has All Creatures Great and Small. I can't promise that it won't make you cry sometimes, though.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on January 15, 2014

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