I haven’t been reading much lately. I go through periods in which my brain just doesn’t want to let me concentrate very much. So, I watch TV. Sue me.
Here are some of my favorite period shows. These are totally binge-worthy!
Coming in at number 15!
The Indian Doctor
The Indian Doctor, about…well, an Indian doctor, played by Sanjeev Bhaskar, who sets up shop in a 1960’s Welsh mining town, has three seasons. I admit, fully, that I didn’t watch the third. I was afraid to. I might, one day. Maybe the next time I watch it, I’ll go all the way.
I didn’t go on to the third season because I felt like everything wrapped up so nicely at the end of the second. Happily ever after and all that. And the previews for the third season made me think it wouldn’t be so satisfying at the end. But I very much enjoyed the first two seasons.
I just loved Belgravia! Created by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame, it’s set in 1841 London and centers around a family secret. And it’s always a delight to watch Harriet Walter in action. She plays Lady Brockenhurst in Belgravia, but you may remember her as Fanny Dashwood in 1995’s Sense & Sensibility
Bridgerton is silliness, pure silliness. But it’s lusciously silly. The first season had so much sex—silly sex scenes, over-the-top, drawn-out sex scenes—that I hit fast-forward quite a lot. I’m not interested in watching people have sex. I’m like, “Get on with it!” The story, that is.
Luckily for me, and to the horror of trashy-romance-readers everywhere, Season 2 had, as I recall, only one or two ridiculously long sex scenes, one being so impossible to believe that I laughed all the way through it.
One thing I loved about Bridgerton was its diverse casting. Unfortunately, that joy was tinged by the “excuse” the show offered viewers. There’s a reason there are Black people in England’s nobility in the Regency period. This was done, I imagine, because the show is based on a series of books that I suppose are also diverse and that diversity is explained away in the same manner. (This leads me to wonder how, exactly, the author let the reader know what each character looked like.) If I’m wrong about that, and the show did it on its own, then shame on them. I much prefer the idea of the film Mr. Malcolm’s List: There are Blacks and Asians in the nobility of 19th-century England. Get over it.
Anyway, anytime I feel like giving my fast-forward button a workout, I re-watch Bridgerton.
No list of period pieces would be complete without Downton Abbey. It’s not may favorite, though, obviously. It’s one of those that I’ve watched a couple of times, and one day will certainly watch again. It’s beautiful and fun, and a bit silly at times. But it’s also addictive.
Downton Abbey starts out in 1912 with the news of the sinking of the Titanic. The entire six seasons and two movies span only about fifteen years. But it seems longer. Not in a bad way, mind you.
The costumes and sets are fabulous, and the stars, notably Michelle Dockery, Lesley Nicol, Phyllis Logan, and Sophie McShera, are amazing!
Victoria was canceled after Season 3, a tragedy. There is talk that its popularity in streaming will bring it back for at least another season. I sure hope that happens.
Victoria, with Jenna Coleman in the title role, tells the story of England’s Queen Victoria and her relationship with Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes. It’s rich, and beautiful, written and acted fabulously. I could watch it again and again.
This show is very much like The Paradise, with two differences. First, The Paradise isn’t as good. And second, The Paradise was canceled before the story was concluded. That being said, The Paradise ended in a way that you’d be able to foresee a decent ending for the characters, and it wasn’t so bad that I wouldn’t watch it again. But I’d much rather watch Mr. Selfridge again. And again.
It’s not the greatest show ever. The plots and writing are okay, if a bit clichéd and the acting isn’t award-winning, in my opinion. Bit it’s fun. Lots of fun.
The show is about Mr. Selfridge, obviously, an American businessman who opens up a department store, the first of its kind, in London. It’s about the store, its employees, and his family. Definitely binge-worthy soap-opera-y stuff.
The English Game
This six-episode, limited series is a fascinating take on the invention of soccer (or football, as they call it in the rest of the world). Created by Julian Fellowes, who also created Downton Abbey, it’s set in the 1870s. Kevin Guthrie stars as a great footballer up against the so-called gentlemen who control the game and don’t want to let the riff-raff have a fair shot.
Lark Rise to Candleford
This show is so wonderful! Based on Flora Thompson’s autobiographical novel and set in 19th-century Oxfordshire, it stars Olivia Hallinan as Laura Timmins a young girl from the small village of Lark Rise, who goes to work for a cousin of her family at the post office in the nearby town of Candleford.
Lark Rise to Candleford is plucky and sweet, written and told fabulously. There were a few hiccups. For example, one character’s love interest was dropped with no explanation between seasons. Oh, well, I loved the show so much I just didn’t care.
We’re probably all familiar with The Crown. It’s pretty cool how they change the actors every couple of seasons as the Queen and everyone else ages. The acting and story-telling are fabulous. I was really pleased to see Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles in Season 4. He played Lawrence Durrell in The Durrells in Corfu, one of my all-time favorite shows and Mr. Elton in 2020’s version of Emma (not my favorite).
The biggest problem I have with The Crown is their handling of the royal cousins in “The Hereditary Principle.” It was a blatant lie, and seemed orchestrated to paint the royal family in a negative light (as if they’d need to fabricate things to do that). I get that these shows have to be somewhat, okay, greatly, exaggerated and changed, but this seemed over the top to me.
Still, it’s a great show and I’ll definitely be watching it again.
Sanditon is based on an unfinished Jane Austin novel, so, the chances were pretty good I’d like it. I wasn’t completely down with the first season, mostly because of Theo James and his performance as Sidney Parker. Honestly, I can’t be sure how much of the problem for me was James, his performance, the direction of said performance, or the writing. I just know that I was rooting for the other guy.
The show was actually canceled after the first season, but it gained traction (shows aren’t given a lot of time these days) through streaming and the fans’ calls for more brought it back from the dead. Imagine my delight to find that Theo James (not to spoil it too much) wasn’t included in Season 2. And there’s definitely a Season 3 coming.
Anne With an E
This adaptation of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables veers from the books quite a bit, but it’s a delightful retelling. Amybeth McNulty stars as Anne opposite adorable Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe. The show runs only three seasons and the ending was a bit rushed. It’s a shame it couldn’t have gone on a bit longer.
The Queen’s Gambit
Set in the Cold War era, this limited series stars Anya Taylor-Joy as chess prodigy Beth Harmon. It’s gripping and fascinating and I didn’t understand any of the chess, but I’ve watched it a good three times and will definitely watch it again.
The show is based on the book by Walter Tevis but strays from it a little bit, most notably in one little aspect of the character of Jolene, played wonderfully by Moses Ingram. I recommend both.
All Creatures Great and Small
This show is so fabulous I can hardly wait for another season. Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot who joins the Farnon vet practice in little Darrowby Village, Yorkshire. And to my delight, Callum Woodhouse stars as Tristan Farnon. Woodhouse plays Leslie Durrell in another of my favorite binge-worthy shows.
The show is sweet, and funny. The scenery is superb. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with it.
Also known as The Durrells in Corfu, this show is about the real family of Durrells which produced naturalist Gerald, who revolutionized zoos all over the world, and also wrote the trilogy on which the show is based; author Lawrence Durrell; and author Margo Durrell.
This show is about their adventures on the island of Corfu when Gerald was just a boy. I just love it. I could watch it again and again (and I have). I often, however, skip the last episode, because it’s just too sad.
And the best show to binge watch is:
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
This is the show I watch the most. I probably watched Season 1 three or four times, the last in preparation for Season 2. Then I watched 1 & 2 a few times and once again in preparation for Season 3, and so on. Recently Season 4 dropped and I watched it twice, and then again from 1 all the way through once or twice, and then finally convinced hubs to watch it, so I watched it all over yet again! And when that was done, I was tempted to start all over again right away.
It’s that good.
For the uninitiated (and if you don’t have Amazon Prime and can’t watch this show, I am so so so sorry for you), Midge Maisel is a housewife in the late Fifties whose husband has aspirations of being a stand-up comic. When he dumps her the night before Yom Kippur, she gets drunk and goes to the coffee house he performed in, in her nightgown, and ends up on stage ranting about her life.
There are so many fabulous performances and moments in this show that it is a must-see.
I hope I haven’t left any of my favorites out. I left out some shows I didn’t care for at all.
Poldark, for one. I couldn’t even finish that show. I didn’t like the characters or the story, and at one point it just seemed to be rehashing plots over and over again barely disguised. So I quit watching.
Outlander is one that I never even watched. I read the first book and found it pretty silly. So, I have no interest in the show at all. I’m not sure it counts, anyway, as it’s more fantasy than an actual period piece.
And there are plenty of others that I just haven’t watched yet. I do spend too much time rewatching favorites. But with the world falling apart the way it is these days, I guess I’m due some comfort.
What are your favorite period TV shows?