With the end of Downton Abbey upon us here in the States many of us may find ourselves with a Sunday evening television void. I’ve compiled a list of somewhat similar movies, series and mini serieses that those who loved Downton might also enjoy. Several of these can be found on Netflix, but if you don’t see them there, check the dvd selection at your local library!
This is certainly not an exclusive list of interesting shows, but they are all mostly similar to Downton in style and period. I have come back to many of these time and time again and I hope others enjoy them as much as I do! (I haven’t provided any links to the shows, as many of the sites contain spoilers- and I would never do that to you!)
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Gosford Park– Written by Downton’s creator, Julian Fellowes. It is very similar to Downton in that it deals with the changing times and the Upstairs/Downstairs interactions. This is a feature film with lots of familiar faces and follows a Murder Mystery Weekend format (like Clue).
Lark Rise to Candleford– Beautifully set and filmed series based on a series of novels. Main themes are the push and pull of country vs. town life in a changing era (the onset of the industrial revolution) and the coming of age of a young woman. You’ll love Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) in his sweet and paternal role. Fairly light and has a number of quirky characters.
North & South– Dark, romantic mini series set in a 19th century mill city. You’ll see Mr Bates again in this one, as a rabble rousing union leader, but the main story plays out more in the vein of Pride and Prejudice. Wonderful costumes and withering glances own the day, with a respectable pinch of illness and death. Perfect for a rainy weekend!
Cranford– While based on stories by the same author as North & South, Cranford has a much lighter tone. It follows the stories and interactions of the residents of Cranford. The entire cast is fantastic- look out for Dame Judy Dench, Jim Carter among many other notable actors.
Bleak House (2005)- Long, meaty mini series based on Dicken’s novel of the same name. It is as complicated as it is dark and it’s characters as ridiculously named as you would expect from Dickens. You may want a cheat sheet to keep track of the hundreds of main players, but the effort will be worth it!
Little Dorrit– Another complex Dickens story, this one however, takes a brief holiday in nineteenth century Venice. Debtor’s prison, family secrets, misunderstandings and the flux between poverty and riches keep the story moving along, with a bit of both requited and unrequited love. Of particular note is the visually perfect and mentally infuriating scene in the Circumlocution Office.
Death Comes to Pemberley– If you liked Pride and Prejudice you should love this. Haunting and beautiful, I appreciate the way the characters stay so perfectly in character, despite being penned by a modern author. And as someone who has always loved Lizzie Bennet it is so wonderful to see her grow from an awesome young adult into a confident wife and mother and detective.
The Forsyte Saga– Follow the Forsyte family through several generations of exile, betrayal, love, murder and other intrigue as they negotiate the changing times between the 1870s and the 1920s. Not for the kiddies or the faint of heart, but deep and complex and beautiful. And a nice treat for any other Detective Lestrade fans out there.
When Calls the Heart– This is Canadian, but don’t count it out! It’s a clean cut pioneer story of a wealthy city girl gone to find herself teaching in a wilderness town. The episode plots lean a little towards the saccharine, but they’re a pleasant way to pass the time.
Selfridges– I like to think that maybe Lady Mary (but more likely Lady Sybil) might have popped in for a stroll around the shop while spending the Season in London. In any case, the newest season is coming back to PBS at the end of the month, so it’s a great time to catch up on DVD if you haven’t seen this, based on real life- ish, department store drama.
Murdoch Mysteries– Another, mostly family friendly, Canadian show. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the costumes, sets and storylines are perfectly period in this police, murder mystery series. It took me a few episodes to acclimate to the squeaky clean persona of Murdoch, but I have grown to love him and his Newfie sidekick, Crabtree.
Miss Fisher’s Detective Agency– Fascinating, upbeat murder mystery series straight from 1920s Australia. Amazing costumes, interesting characters and a strong confident female lead. I can’t seem to get enough of Phryne Fisher!