These Are The Period Dramas You Should Be Watching

updated

29
icon-slides Created with Sketch.

Masterpiece

Downton Abbey was a period drama masterpiece, and it had everything you would ever want from a period show. It had gorgeous costumes, sprawling manors, bubbling class warfare, and scandalous romances. You became invested in every character, whether they were good or bad, and couldn't wait for the next episode to air. It's been quite some time since Downton Abbey wrapped, and even though reruns still air on PBS, many viewers are still looking for a period drama that could replace the hole that Downton left during binge-watching evenings. 

Luckily for us, period dramas are very trendy at the moment, and there have been plenty of shows that could step up and fill Downton's place. For those who don't like to spend days on end in front of the TV, there are mini-series period pieces that you could wrap up in three to four hours, like Mrs. Wilson. For those who love a good Jane Austen story, there are shows like Sanditon, which was written by the screenwriter of Pride & Prejudice. And for those who think Downton Abbey could never be topped, there is Julian Fellowes' newest project, Belgravia. Grab a big bowl of popcorn, because you will want to watch each one of these period pieces.

'Victoria'

1 / 29

Masterpiece

Victoria is a Masterpiece production that chronicles the life of young Victoria, Queen of England. The series begins with the death of King William IV in 1837, and Victoria's accession to the throne at just 18 years old. The show follows Victoria's evolution from a young, sheltered girl to a powerful monarch, and explores not only her personal relationships, but also what was happening in history at that point in time. The series aired in 2016, and is currently in its third season. It originally aired on UK's ITV channel, but in the US it debuted on PBS. You can also catch it on Amazon Prime.

'Outlander'

2 / 29

Starz

Outlander is based on an eight-part historical-romance book series written by Diana Gabaldon. Outlander first aired on Starz in 2014, and is currently in its fifth season. The series follows Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who was vacationing with her husband. She walks into a stone circle and is transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she meets the highland warrior Jamie Fraser and his fellow Jacobites. The show flip flops between the 18th century and the mid-1940s, and as the plot line progresses, the characters march closer to the 1800s and all of its changes. You can currently watch it on Netflix.

'Poldark'

3 / 29

Masterpiece

Poldark first aired on BBC One in 2015, but was a remake of a classic Masterpiece series. It follows the life of Captain Ross Poldark, a British soldier returning to Cornwall after the American Revolutionary War. When he returns back to his farm, he finds that his father passed away, the estate was left in shambles, and the woman he loved married another man.

The series is predominantly a drama, and follows love triangles, class struggles, and shows a transforming England that was right on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. The show was available on Masterpiece right until it wrapped in 2019, and now is available on Prime.

'The Durrells in Corfu'

4 / 29

Masterpiece

The Durrells in Corfu is another PBS Masterpiece series, which follows a family struggling to find its footing after their father passed away. As a fresh start, Louisa Durrell, the mother and widow, moved her family from England to the Greek island of Corfu in 1935.

The series is a comedy-drama, and follows the adventures of the entire clan. You get to watch Louisa's cautions flirtations with the local men, the kids coming to terms with their new surroundings, the teens branching out into dating, and the youngest falling in love with animals. Right now, you can watch this either on Masterpiece or on Prime.

'Sanditon'

5 / 29

Masterpiece

Sanditon is an eight-part adaptation of Jane Austen's final novel of the same name. The novel was written months before her death in 1817, and is a slow-burning love story that explores what you would give up for family. Austen never finished her novel, but screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and PrejudiceLes Misérables) created a beautiful ending that would make Austen proud. 

The series follows Charlotte Heywood, who is staying with an upper-class family that is trying to launch a beach resort. Originally a production for UK's iTV, it also aired on Masterpiece, and you can currently watch it on Prime.

'Still Star-Crossed'

6 / 29

ABC

ABC's Still Star-Crossed is a Shonda Rhimes creation that expands on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It picks up the story at its end, when Romeo and Juliet both die, and explores the reactions of the feuding families. The series follows the various members of the Montagues and Capulets, and how they retaliated after learning their children died.

While there is plenty of palace intrigue and backstabbing, there is also newfound love between unexpected characters, and their chemistry makes you want to keep watching. While the show ended in 2017, you can rent episodes on YouTube or Prime.

'The Spanish Princess'

7 / 29

Starz

The Spanish Princess premiered on Starz in 2019, and is set in the Tudor period. It follows a teenage Catherine of Aragon, the Princess of Spain, who was promised to the English Prince Arthur. An alliance between the two countries seems lost when the prince unexpectedly dies, but she quickly sets her sights on the new heir, Prince Harry. However, she becomes betrothed to his dad, which makes things a little...dicey.

The show is unique in that it is told through the point of view of women, and it also shows the experiences of people of color who lived in 16th-century London. You can watch The Spanish Princess on Starz, or you can watch it on Hulu or Prime if you have a Starz subscription.

'The Bletchley Circle'

8 / 29

PBS

The Bletchley Circle was an ITV series that was picked up by PBS' Masterpiece. It consisted of two seasons that aired from 2012 to 2014, and told the story of a group of women who worked at Bletchley during the war decoding messages. They were brilliant, and the sharpest of all of the decoders, but once the war ended, the women returned to either their homes or underappreciated jobs — that is until a murder occurred years later, and the women got together to solve it. You can catch this show on Prime, and its reboot is on Netflix.

'Roots'

9 / 29

History Channel

Roots is a mini series adaptation of Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It follows a West African man, Kunta Kinte, who is kidnapped and enslaved and brought to America to be sold to a plantation owner. Kunta (played by Malachi Kirby) never loses hope of escaping and returning back home, and challenges his fellow slaves to also fight for their freedom, especially when the American Revolutionary War begins.

Emmy winner Laurence Fishburne plays Haley; Grammy nominee Anika Noni Rose plays Kunta's daughter, Kizzy; and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker plays Fiddler, who mentors Kunta. Roots first appeared on the History Channel, but now you can catch it on Hulu. 

'The Paradise'

10 / 29

Masterpiece

The Paradise was co-produced by BBC Studios and Masterpiece, and aired on PBS in the US in 2012. It has two seasons, and follows the various employees in The Paradise, Britain’s glamorous department store. The central character is Denise Lovett, a country girl looking to better her life by landing a spot as a sales clerk in the store's women's department...and possibly start a romance with  the shop’s mysterious and dashing owner, John Moray. You can currently stream The Paradise on Prime.

'Upstairs Downstairs'

11 / 29

PBS

Upstairs Downstairs is a 2010 series that first aired on BBC One, and was picked up by Masterpiece. It had two seasons, and is a continuation of the 1970s British TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, which ran from 1971 to 1975 on ITV.

The series resumed the story of 165 Eaton Place six years after the original series ended. A new couple moved into the house, and it explored the relationship between servants and the upper class, the marital problems of people who "have it all," and how the world changed during the outbreak of World War II. You can currently stream it on Hulu.

'Call The Midwife'

12 / 29

PBS

Call The Midwife is a PBS Masterpiece favorite, which aired in 2012 and is currently in its ninth season. The beginning of the series follows a newly licensed midwife from a nursing convent, and how she helps impoverished East London women. It begins in the 1950s, but the newest seasons explore the mid-1960s. The series was adapted from the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, so it has the added bonus of being based on a true story. You can currently stream it on Netflix and Prime.

'The Great'

13 / 29

Starz/ Hulu

If you like satiric shows that give historical moments a modern, quirky twist, then you will love The Great. This Hulu series is based on the rise of Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia and the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia's history.

While the show is fictionalized, it does loosely follow the real history of how Catherine overthrew her husband to snatch his throne. The series itself is dark, irreverent, and downright hilarious. The show is created by the co-writer of The Favourite and stars Elle Fanning.

'Mercy Street'

14 / 29

PBS

Mercy Street was a show that was cancelled way too soon. The fantastic series aired in 2016 and lasted two seasons. It's inspired by real events during the Civil War, and follows two nurses from opposing sides who have to work together at the Union-occupied Mansion House Hospital in Virginia. It takes a peek into the dramas and lives of doctors, nurses, Southern loyalists, and freed slaves, and how sometimes the lines of war aren't so black and white. You can currently watch Mercy Street on Prime.

'World On Fire'

15 / 29

Masterpiece

World on Fire originally debuted on BBC One but was picked up by Masterpiece for US viewers. This WWII-era miniseries is only seven episodes long, so it's perfect for a weekend binge. It looks into the lives of five people and how the war affected them in various way. It also stars Sean Bean (Ned Stark from Game of Thrones) and Helen Hunt, so it's a gem. You can currently stream it on PBS or Amazon.

'Reign'

16 / 29

The CW

The CW's Reign is a drama that is loosely based on the story of young King Francis II of France and his bride, Queen Mary Stuart. Since it's on The CW, at times it feels like a teen romance, but the show has all the points you would want a period piece to have: romance, intrigue, and a royal 16th-century court full of beautiful costumes. 

You can currently stream Reign on Netflix.

'Dickinson'

17 / 29

Apple TV+

Dickinson is a lot like The Great, in that it's a modern, tongue-in-cheek re-imagining of historic events. It follows Emily Dickinson when she just began as a writer, and it captures the beginning of her lifelong romance with her childhood friend Susan Gilbert, explores gender politics of the 1800s, and the class struggles of her family. The show is poetic, young, and very witty — a must watch. 

You can currently stream it on Apple TV+.

'Gentleman Jack'

18 / 29

HBO

The HBO series Gentleman Jack is inspired by the true-story of Anne Lister, and was based off what she wrote in her journals. Set in 1832 in West Yorkshire, England, Lister is determined to save the dilapidated estate she inherited, reopen the coal mines that belong to her family, and find herself a partner to love — though she doesn't plan that partner to be a man. You can stream Gentleman Jack on HBO.

'Mr. Selfridge'

19 / 29

PBS

Mr. Selfridge was a historical drama that aired on Masterpiece, and it followed the legacy of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the rambunctious American entrepreneur who opened a department store in London in 1909. The series was created by Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Sanditon, Bleak House), and it not only followed the lives of Selfridge's family members, but also dove into the troubles and dramas of his store employees. 

You can currently stream Mr. Selfridge on Amazon Prime.

'Indian Summers'

20 / 29

Masterpiece

Indian Summers is another Masterpiece creation, and is a miniseries set in India during the summer of 1932. The show explores the political relations between the ruling English and their Indian subjects during the decline of the British Empire and rise of modern India. Julie Walters (Harry Potter, Oscar nominee for Billy Elliot) stars as Cynthia Coffin, the glamorous and ruthless owner of an English social club, which is the epicenter of all strained social relations. The series is beautifully filmed, and the romances are not only sizzling but memorably beautiful. You can currently stream Indian Summers on Prime.

'Year of the Rabbit'

21 / 29

IFC

Year of the Rabbit is a comedy penned by the Emmy Award-winning writers of Veep, Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil. The sitcom debuted in 2019 on IFC, and is set in Victorian London. It follows a group of detectives that fight crime on the grimy streets of London, and who accidentally get entangled with the affairs of a secret society.

You can currently watch Year of the Rabbit on IFC or stream it on Prime.

'Beecham House'

22 / 29

PBS

Beecham House is another Masterpiece hit, that is set in late-1700s Delhi, before India was British-ruled. The hit series follows a handsome former soldier of the East India Company, John Beecham, who purchased the mansion known as Beecham House as a way to start a new chapter in his life with his family.

You can currently watch Beecham House on Prime.

'Miss Scarlet And The Duke'

23 / 29

PBS

Miss Scarlet And The Duke follows the first-ever female detective in London in the 1800s. Eliza Scarlet inherited her father's detective agency, but she had to take on a male partner to run it. As a way around that, she joined forces with Scotland Yard Inspector (and known womanizer and general hooligan) William Wellington to solve crimes around the city. This show will be joining PBS' Sunday mystery lineup in 2020.

'Belgravia'

24 / 29

EPIX

Belgravia is the latest project from the Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, and is based on his 2016 novel of the same name. The show debuted on EPIX in 2020, and follows the scandals of the ouveau riche family, the Trenchards. The family attended the Duchess of Richmond's ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, where they met the Bellasis, one of the richest families in England. Twenty-five years later, the events of that ball begin to resurface, and scandal, drama, and intrigue ensues.

'Timeless'

25 / 29

NBC

NBC's Timeless is based on a plot of time travel, so you get to experience a vast array of periods while watching this show. In the series, a villain stole a government time hopping machine and is set on altering the future by interfering with every major moment in American history. To stop him, a group of time travelers (that consist of a historian, a soldier, and a scientist) must go after him to stop him. The show wrapped in 2018 after two seasons, but you can currently watch it on Hulu.

'The Miniaturist'

26 / 29

Masterpiece

The Miniaturist is a 2017 Masterpiece mini-series adaptation of the novel written by Jessie Burton of the same name. In 1686, 18-year-old Nella Oortman moves to Amsterdam to live in the home of her new merchant husband and his sister. While her husband was indifferent and did not give her a warm welcome, he did give her a miniature doll house, which was a replica of their home. The doll house was furnished by a Miniaturist, but the Miniaturist's creations seemed to be mirroring what was happening in the house, and predicting the future. As Oortman begins to discover the secrets of the house — both real and miniature — she begins to realize the danger that she walked into. 

You can currently stream The Miniaturist on Prime.

'Frankie Drake Mysteries'

27 / 29

PBS

Frankie Drake Mysteries is a PBS mystery series set in 1920s Toronto and follows a female-owned detective agency, run by Frankie Drake and her partner Trudy Clarke.

If you love the Roaring Twenties, and enjoy curling up with a light mystery before bed, this is a great series to take up. You can currently catch the newest season either on PBS or on Prime.

'The Forsyte Saga'

28 / 29

Masterpiece

The Forsyte Saga is an early 2000s drama that lasted for two seasons on Masterpiece. It is based on John Galsworthy's Nobel Prize-winning novels of the same name, and follows the lives of three generations of a powerful family from the 1870s to 1920s. According to The New York Times, before there was Downton Abbey there was The Foryste Saga, so if you haven't seen it yet, you should add it to your list. You can currently stream it on Prime.

'Mrs. Wilson'

29 / 29

Masterpiece

Alison and Alexander Wilson began their romance during World War II, and met while working within MI6. They led a supposedly happy life, but after Alexander passed away in the '60s, Alison discovered he had been living multiple lives, which resulted in multiple wives and sets of kids. The three-episode mini series follows Alison as she unravels the scope of her husband's betrayal. You can currently watch Mrs. Wilson on Prime.
Related Stories