You loved Downton Abbey, now you love...
October 8, 2018 1:35 PM   Subscribe

My wife just told me she's looking for a series that is "like Downton Abbey." I basically take this to mean a period drama that is juicy and fun. I'm open to all suggestions, because I know that there are people here who have trod this ground. (Incidentally, bc I'm not sure if she'd like it, how is the adaptation of Wolf Hall if you loved the book?)

Last Q on this was 2014, so I figure it's time.
posted by OmieWise to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
A Very English Scandal
The Crown
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
Mr. Selfridge
Call the Midwife (more emotionally heavy than fun)
posted by rhapsodie at 1:48 PM on October 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Harlots and The Crown come to mind.

And the adaptation of Wolf Hall is a delight and joy, especially if you're steeped in the books. Mark Rylance isn't who I would've picked to play Cromwell, but he has some absolutely some sublime moments, and Damien Lewis makes a wonderful Henry in that period. And Claire Foy as Anne Bolelyn is incredible.

Not a series, Gosford Park was Fellowes' first bite at scripting that kinda thing, and well, if you loved Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey, she's arguably even better in Gosford park.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:50 PM on October 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

posted by something something at 1:51 PM on October 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

The Howards End miniseries starring Hayley Atwell was really good! Didn't really get why Kenneth Lonergan was writing it at first, but it totally makes a difference-- the writing is crisp and crackly and just a total pleasure.
posted by acidic at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

My wife, a Downtown devotee, has enjoyed both Poldark and Outlander, and there are several seasons of each already available.
posted by cosmicbandito at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

There is a new version of Vanity Fair on ITV. She may also like Mr. Selfridge, also on ITV.
posted by parmanparman at 1:56 PM on October 8, 2018

Well, "Jeeves and Wooster" is contemporary to Downton, but they turn the dial over to fun, and away from juicy. There's a lot on Youtube if she wants to dip her toe in before investing.

Downton was playing up the formula long established in the long-running show "Upstairs/Downstairs."

My parents are big fans of The Crown, Mr. Selfridge and Call the Midwife, just as they were with Downton, which along with easy access on streaming (Prime or Netflix, i think they have both), they kickstarted a brand new affection for British drama, something I could never get them into when I was younger...though I go more for the detective fiction (though they do like Midsomer Murders, not a period show) and the comedy (I'm sure "Young Ones" is a bridge too far for them).

If she's into Regency England, there's Jane Austen, of course, with lots of good movies (TV and cinematic) and miniseries to enjoy. There's also Cranford.

If Dickens and Victorian England are okay, then I suggest the excellent "Bleak House" series, and the "Little Dorrit" series.

Back to Preview-- Poldark is not too shabby; it's set among lower-class folks with lower-class problems, and there's a bit of lusty romance going on here and there, so there's your "juicy" end of the spectrum. I didn't stick with it; it wasn't bad, just not what I was looking for.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:57 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The new Upstairs Downstairs (the old one too).
Grantchester (features a crime-solving vicar).
posted by FencingGal at 1:58 PM on October 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's shorter (4 episodes), but Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne by Julian Fellowes is very good. There is always the Pallisers (am reading the book series but haven't seen this 1974 adaptation). There is also the Forsyte Saga.
posted by mrbarky at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Mr. Selfridge with a few caveats that gave me some pause. First, it stars Jeremy Piven, and if he just sort of annoys you, then you should pass. Second, his character is a terrible husband who has a lot of affairs, so if you want to avoid that type of thing, I'd pass.

Having said that, the show was shockingly good otherwise.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:04 PM on October 8, 2018

From the nineties but glorious if you can find it: The House of Eliott.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

What is it she liked about Downton Abbey? The period costumes? The soap-ish storylines? The ensemble cast? The master-servant drama? Maggie Smith's caricature of La Grande Dame? The benevolent patriarch-ism? I ask because I am probably one of the only people in the world who did not like Downton Abbey, despite generally being a fan of Masterpiece Theatre-type shows -- but I loved Upstairs/Downstairs (both the original and the reboot), The Crown, Gosford Park, and most Austen adaptations.

Of the shows suggested, Doctor Thorne strikes me as the closest to Downton, which makes sense as they were both written by Julian Fellowes. (I did love The Way We Live Now, another Trollope novel adaptation, which I found more satirical.) Mr. Selfridge's is a more soap-opera/less social-satire version of The Paradise, depending on her preference. I haven't seen Poldark, but the way it's portrayed in the media reminds me of the more soap-y aspects of Downton. Viceroy's House is a very different time period, but has Hugh Bonneville reprising his role as the enlightened ruler of a sprawling cast. Call the Midwife felt like it had a tonal shift around Season 3 or 4 and became more sentimental/less medical. Outlander is definitely juicy (and steamy!) but also has a lot of political stuff, which she might find a pro or a con depending on her preference.

FrockFlicks is a great resource for period films in general. They have a snarky style, mostly directed toward the historical accuracy -- or not -- of the costuming, but she might find something she likes there.
posted by basalganglia at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2018

The team behind Downton Abbey recently launched Jamestown, which is now available in the US via PBS.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:07 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gran Hotel, available on Netflix, if you are OK with Spanish subtitles. It is like Downton Abbey on steroids.
posted by inatizzy at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Grand Hotel! And the steroids comment is accurate; it’s intense and fun.
posted by sucre at 3:55 PM on October 8, 2018

Honestly, I'm not sure Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall are freely substitutable. It's not even the same kind of eye candy. But if she actually likes the grimmer aspects of Wolf Hall, there was a recent BBC series called Gunpowder (unsurprisingly, about the Gunpowder Plot) that was decent.
posted by praemunire at 3:56 PM on October 8, 2018

I suggest taking a trip through the writing credits of Julian Fellowes, the creator and head writer of DA.

The last two things on the list aren't out yet, but they are a Downton Abbey movie (TV movie, cinematic, I don't know) and a new series called "The Gilded Age," set in New York in the 1880s, which sounds like it'll fill the Downton void to some degree.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:04 PM on October 8, 2018

I did not read any of Hilary Mantel’s novels, but Wolf Hall is so well-done that it completely makes me forget about how empty its scenes are (there should be many, many more servants and guards around all characters at nearly all times, right? I don’t think their onscreen absence can be justified thematically).

Wolf Hall is just sooooooo good. Mark Rylance is exceptional as a highly moral, mid-level courtier who doesn’t particularly care how venal he becomes as he engages in a courtly dance with masters of power and mortality. Completely different from what I’ve seen of Downton, though.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:15 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I cannot recommend Agatha Christie's Poirot highly enough. The period elements from the Interwar Period in particular are amazing. The art deco design in furnishings and architecture in the early episodes is especially well done. Most of the episodes roughly follow the plot of the books, with a few tweaks, some major and some minor.

David Suchet is a fabulous character actor who is brilliant as Poirot. The supporting players are just as strong.

The series does not have the soapish elements of DA. There are a few episodes with a bit of a romantic subplot woven in. There is also a bit of the upstairs/downstairs themes but it's not the primary focus. Christie's novels and short stories primarily focus on the stories of the rich and well-off. But when the upstairs/downstairs elements are included, they are well done.
posted by seesom at 4:26 PM on October 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Pallisers, a BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope's six-book series known as the Palliser novels. You can watch the entire series on YouTube, here.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:07 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lark Rise to Candleford
posted by aquablue582 at 6:26 PM on October 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thirding Gran Hotel! And yeah, those are some whiplash inducing plot lines.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:55 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love Mantel’s books and I though the tv Wolf Hall was crap. Cromwell should be thoughtful and mournful , but at heart he’s a thug. Rylance is great, but he doesn’t look like a murderer.

Also, way too much Ann Boleyn.

I have strong emotions about this that could take many paragraphs to express. My wife is also a big Mantel fan and she liked the tv show. So you should probably try it. But it’s bad. Grrr.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:33 PM on October 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

We loved Downton Abbey
We hated Poldark
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:01 PM on October 8, 2018

Just started watching The Durrells in Corfu on Amazon Prime, and it's very good 1930's fun.

Also loved Endeavor, a detective series set in Oxford in the 1960's. Think we had to subscribe to PBS Masterpiece (free for one week, $5.99 a month afterward) to see the last season.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:12 AM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Not sure if it's still there, but Netflix had "Turn: Washington's Spies" which my Downton Abbey-enjoying wife also very much enjoyed. Poldark and Outlander she gave up on because they got too soapy. Also Gunpowder like the other comment above.
posted by turkeybrain at 6:36 AM on October 9, 2018

Data point: I am right in this demo and love Downton also.

Could not manage to warm up to Wolf Hall, found it stultifyingly boring and visually dark.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:11 AM on October 9, 2018

I'm begging you to find the DVD for Berkeley Square and stick with it. PLEASE! Lower production values but the story is so gripping. My husband and I used to find ways to go home at lunch to watch an extra episode :).
posted by heavenknows at 8:39 AM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Brideshead Revisted (1981 series)
posted by ovvl at 9:27 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with Larkrise to Candleford.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! Repeats from the last time this was asked, but there is a lot of new stuff here too.

Honestly, I'm not sure Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall are freely substitutable. It's not even the same kind of eye candy. But if she actually likes the grimmer aspects of Wolf Hall, there was a recent BBC series called Gunpowder (unsurprisingly, about the Gunpowder Plot) that was decent.

Didn't mean to compare the two. I am the fan of Mantel and the books, I don't think my wife would like the show much. I just figured there was a good chance that people who would look at this question would have opinions on Wolf Hall.
posted by OmieWise at 12:21 PM on October 9, 2018

I cannot recommend Agatha Christie's Poirot highly enough.

Ditto, if she is okay pivoting to mysteries (some people are, some are not) I enjoy them, as well as Miss Fisher (mentioned above, set in Australia and Miss Fisher is a flapper!) and Doctor Blake (some of the same sets as Miss Fisher and he's back from WWI with some issues). They're all sort of cop procedurals, not very gory and all really neat period stuff with cool cars and outfits. Miss Fisher in specific has a lot of great outfits. I also didn't see The Tudors mentioned. It's a bit racier (in good and bad ways) but I liked it because it's gripping like DA but I also wound up learning a little more about that period in time plus cool outfits and great acting from people you'll recognize.
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on October 9, 2018

Call the Midwife!
posted by AliceBlue at 3:52 PM on October 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

If she's okay with foreign shows (more foreign than British), some Korean period dramas are available with subtitles and are definitely very dramatic and costumey.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:53 AM on October 10, 2018

A Place to Call Home. My mom calls it Downton Abbey Down Under. Set in the 1950s.
posted by QuakerMel at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2018

If you have access to Netflix, I absolutely love Father Brown, Cable Girls, Land Girls, and (though set closer to present day) Last Tango in Halifax. They're a very nice complement to Downton, with an aspect or other of Downton in each.
posted by arishaun at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2018

Willow & Thatch is a great website in regards to finding period pieces to watch and it's all very organized by TV or Movie and even time period. This is my go-to.

The Silver Petticoat Review is another good resource but it's focus is on Romance vs. Period but there are a lot of period pieces to find amongst it's pages.

Z, the Beginning of Everything is a period series available on Amazon Prime and I just loved it. I'm a huge fan of costume dramas. ""Z: The Beginning of Everything" tells the story of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful Southern Belle who became the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age."

Nthing the entire Upstairs/Downstairs series. Start from the very beginning back in 1971 - it's totally worth it and honestly is the closet thing to Downton. It's pretty low budget in the beginning - I remember seeing/hearing the camera move on the track one time, lol! But it gets better as time goes on.

I could name about 100 other shows or movies, but it depends on what your wife likes about Downton. The time period? The upstairs/downstairs vibe? The soap opera-ness?
posted by trixare4kids at 11:53 PM on October 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks! There is stuff here I’m excited to try myself even though Downton Abbey was too emotionally melodramatic for me to make it through an episode or two.

My wife loves the Midwife show so far!
posted by OmieWise at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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