I love period drama! There, I admitted it. Who’s with me?
A good period movie or television show has the same effect as reading historical romance. It takes me away to a different time and place, and I often learn something along the way. Of course my favorite time period is the Victorian era, so while I do admit to having half a dozen adaptations of Jane Austen novels on DVD, I always get particularly excited when a Victorian era period drama comes along. All the better, if it’s a series rather than a single two-hour movie.
Recently, there’ve been lots of Victorian-set shows to choose from. If you’re looking for something to watch in these last weekends of summer, or want something to do once the excitement of the eclipse has passed, I recommend these four Victorian era series. Each was released in 2016, and at least one of them is definitely coming back for a second season in 2017.
This lavish, gorgeously filmed series features Jenna Coleman as the young Queen Victoria, Rufus Sewell as a tantalizing Lord Melbourne, and Tom Hughes as enticingly forward-thinking Prince Albert. The show has revived popular interest in the woman who became queen at 18 and ruled for more years than any other British monarch ever, until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her great-great-grandmother in 2015. According to PBS, which aired the series this year after its BBC debut in 2015, it was the highest rated PBS show in twenty years. The seven-episode serires captures Victoria’s anxieties as a young queen, her complicated feelings for her first prime minister, and her raw passion for Albert. I can’t recommend this one enough. And the best news of all? Victoria is returning for a second season in 2017!
TO WALK INVISIBLE
This BBC drama tells the story of the troubled Bronte family, and the three extraordinary sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, who wrote and successfully published poems and stories in order to support themselves and their family. There were quite a few published lady authors during the Victorian era, but for three sisters from the same family to find publishing success was a notable feat, especially since so much of their work is still cherished today. This isn’t an idealized view of the Brontes, by any stretch. The show has a quality of realism that’s sometimes disturbing, particularly the scenes exploring the troubles of their brother, Branwell. Still, if you love the Brontes and want to know more about the challenges they faced as women writers in the Victorian era, this short three-part series is definitely worth a watch.
Julian Fellowes, writer of Downton Abbey, penned this three-part series, an adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel of the same name. It’s set in the mid-Victorian era and includes all the lush fashion and strict etiquette of the era, not to mention filming at gorgeous country estates in the English countryside. It also features an amazing cast, with stellar British actors like Tom Hollander and Ian McShane in supporting roles. The story follows the struggles of penniless Mary Thorne, who’s been raised by her kindly uncle, Doctor Thorne. Frank Gresham, son of an upper class family, is madly in love with Mary, but he must marry a wealthy wife to maintain the family’s estate. Can you guess how this one turns out? I think you’ll enjoy watching to find out.
THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
This one is quirky and includes some paranormal elements, but if you like a good story, you’ll enjoy this series. The show starts out in modern times, but only stays there briefly before taking the viewer back to 1894 and into the lives of Nathan Appleby (played by Colin Morgan of Merlin) and his wife, Charlotte. He’s a psychologist and she’s an accomplished photographer, but they decide to claim the country estate Nathan has inherited and try to make a go of being agricultural land owners. For a “modern” Victorian couple, this change in lifestyle has its challenges, but the biggest dilemmas they face are of an inexplicable kind. Strange phenomena start to plague them and the series takes an unexpected turn.
Are you a period drama fan who can’t get enough? Any recent Victorian-set period dramas to recommend?