If you know me, you know that I love nothing more than a good period drama. (Okay, that might be an exaggeration – there are, in fact, things I love more than I love period dramas…but not many!)
It’s no secret that my favorite period drama of all time is Downton Abbey. But we all know that Downton ended more than a year ago. So, what have I been doing since that dreaded day in March 2016 when we said goodbye to the Crawleys? Well, I’ll tell you…
Today I’m sharing with you ten of my favorite period dramas that you will enjoy if you loved Downton Abbey. In reading this, you may think I watch way too much TV; however, an episode here and there does add up, and many of these shows have short seasons. Plus, I personally consider anything not from my country of origin nor my time period of living to be educational. So there’s that. 😉
Lark Rise to Candleford (Amazon Prime)
In this adaptation of Flora Thompson’s memoir of her childhood, Laura Timmins leaves the Oxfordshire hamlet of Lark Rise for a job in the market town of Candleford, where her mother’s cousin, effervescent Dorcas Lane, is postmistress. Farm workers, craftsmen and gentry make up the community of families, rivals, friends and neighbours. (1)
You guys, Lark Rise to Candleford is one of my absolute favorite shows I have ever watched! Plus, if you love Downton Abbey, you’ll immediately get excited to see that the actor who plays John Bates is Laura’s father. There are four fabulous seasons of this show, but oh, how I wish there were more!
Cranford (Amazon Prime)
Set in the early 1840s in the fictional village of Cranford in the county of Cheshire in North West England, the story focuses primarily on the town’s single and widowed middle class female inhabitants who are comfortable with their traditional way of life and place great store in propriety and maintaining an appearance of gentility. (2)
This show is adorable. I mean, how can you go wrong when Judi Dench is the center of the show?! Cranford is adapted from three novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell published between 1849 and 1858 (Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, and Mr Harrison’s Confessions). I have to admit, I have never read any Elizabeth Gaskell, but after seeing this show I have added her novels to my to-read list!
Call The Midwife (Netflix)
The plot follows newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee, and the work of midwives and the nuns of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, and part of an Anglican religious order, coping with the medical problems in the deprived Poplar district of London’s desperately poor East End, in the 1950s. (3)
You guys, I have to admit that when I started this show I was starved for period dramas. I had not yet discovered that Amazon Prime had so many options, and this was all that Netflix could offer me at the time. BUT – even after discovering all the other shows on this list – I still LOVE Call The Midwife! I am so attached to its characters and am beyond excited for the new season to start on PBS this April.
Sherlock depicts “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) solving various mysteries in modern-day London. Holmes is assisted by his flatmate and friend, Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman), who has returned from military service in Afghanistan with the Royal Army Medical Corps. (4)
Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. “Jen, this is NOT a period drama.” And you’re right! It’s a modern-day twist on the story of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s genius and it’s based on a period drama, so IT COUNTS! Benedict Cumberbatch has become one of my favorite actors because of this show. Even if you don’t like mysteries, you have to check this show out. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
(Please note: I highly recommend skipping the episode entitled, “A Scandal in Belgravia.”)
Grantchester (Amazon Prime)
Anglican priest and former Scots Guards officer Sidney Chambers (James Norton) and the overworked Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green) forge an unlikely partnership in solving crimes. Keating’s gruff, methodical approach to policing complements Chambers’ more intuitive techniques of coaxing information from witnesses and suspects. (5)
This show is so interesting to me – I mean, a priest who solves mysteries?! Who would have thought? Since Sherlock is basically over forever (BRB while I go cry), I needed a little drama and mystery in my life. This definitely did the trick! Plus, if you pay attention, you’ll discover multiple Downton Abbey faces throughout the series. And, I nearly forgot – the soundtrack was composed by John Lunn, so it’ll give you all the Downton Abbey feels!
The Paradise (Netflix)
The Paradise begins in 1875, and portrays the lives and loves of the people who work, shop and trade, in and around the first English department store. The owner of The Paradise department store is widower John Moray. Into this world comes Denise Lovett, from the small town of Peebles in Scotland. Denise takes a job at The Paradise and is soon seen by Moray as a rising star, to the annoyance of Miss Audrey, the head of ladies’ fashion, and of Clara, a fellow shopgirl. (6)
Who doesn’t love The Paradise?! This show sucked me in, and I fell in love with all of its characters. I highly recommend watching this after you watch Lark Rise. If you have an eye for recognizing actors from one show to the next, you’ll love this one!
When Calls The Heart (Hallmark Channel, Netflix)
When Calls the Heart tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a young teacher accustomed to her high-society life. She receives her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley, a small coal-mining town in Western Canada which is located just south of Robb, Alberta. There, life is simple—but often fraught with challenges. (7)
THIS SHOW. It makes me laugh, cry and everything in between. Sadly, it’s not British, but it is such an amazing, feel-good show. I promise you won’t be able to resist it.
Doctor Thorne (Amazon Prime)
Doctor Thorne is a 2016 three-part television drama adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel Doctor Thorne scripted by Julian Fellowes. Mary Thorne, penniless and with undisclosed parentage, grows up under the guardianship of her uncle Doctor Thorne. She spends much of her formative years in the company of the Gresham family at Greshamsbury Park estate. As they close on the world of adult cares and responsibilities, the past starts to impinge and the financial woes of the Gresham family threaten to tear relationships apart. (8)
All you need to know about this show is that it was scripted by Julian Fellowes, who wrote Downton Abbey! I don’t know about you, but that was all the reason I needed to check it out. It was a really cute miniseries.
Pride & Prejudice (Amazon Prime)
Jane Austen’s classic novel about the prejudice that occurred between the 19th century classes and the pride which would keep lovers apart. (9)
This BBC miniseries is certainly not my favorite adaptation of Pride & Prejudice; however, we are talking television shows here, so the beloved Keira Knightley film doesn’t count! I have watched this version of my favorite novel twice now, and I have to admit I have a growing appreciation for it. I love that Lydia is played by Julia Sawahla (from Lark Rise), and you just can’t beat this version’s Mr Collins!
Downton Abbey (Amazon Prime)
The first series, comprising seven episodes, explores the lives of the fictional Crawley family, the hereditary Earls of Grantham, and their domestic servants beginning the day after the historic sinking of the RMS Titanic on 14/15 April 1912. (10)
I love Downton, and you love Downton (otherwise you wouldn’t be here)! So, why not go back and watch it again? I’m actually doing this right now because there will always be a Downton Abbey void and the only way to truly fill it is with, well, Downton Abbey.