British period dramas should be honoured as a genre of their own because they are quite unique. It is not only the accent and corsets that have gained them their popularity. Most of these shows transport you to a different century and make you feel nostalgic. We also have to acknowledge the thoughtful and well-written dialogues. Characters with elegant mannerisms and gestures don't hurt either. And many of them are adapted from novels. If you are new to British period dramas, here are some of the best ones.
Bridgerton is the Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn's novels of the same name. The story is set in a world inspired by the Regency era in London during the debutante season. Producer Shonda Rhimes did not hesitate to create an alternate history in which London is a racially integrated society. The drama follows the aristocratic Bridgerton family and in season 1, the eldest daughter Daphne is out to find her epic love. The series met with widely positive reviews and had a viewership of 82 million households. It became the number one in 76 countries on Netflix. The show has been renewed for three more seasons.
Outlander is a historical drama TV series with a lot of fantasy elements and time travel. The show is based on the ongoing novels of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. The plot is set in Scotland and follows a military nurse who is transported from 1945 to 1743. The Highlands split her life into two. The audience gets a glimpse of rebellious Highlanders and British redcoats. The plot refers to many historical events. The show has enjoyed a big fandom since the first season premiered in 2014. The sixth season is to premiere in 2022, and the show has been renewed for a seventh season.
The Crown is a historical drama about the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The show has been controversial from the beginning due to its real-life references that are a lot more than mere references. Neither the showrunners nor the royal family of Britain has stated that the show is inspired by the real royals. The first season of The Crown shows Elizabeth's marriage to Philip and her coronation. The fifth and sixth seasons are expected to cover the Queen's reign into the 21st century. Princess Margaret and her controversial choices have also been the main plot of the show.
Downton Abbey is another British historical drama depicting the lives of the English aristocracy. The plot is set in the early 20th century and follows the fictional Crawley family, the hereditary Earls of Grantham. Many historical events play a part in the show's plot and some of them are the sinking of the Titanic, the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Irish war of independence. The sixth and final season showed the rise of the working class in England and the eventual decline of the aristocracy. It is filmed in the many castles and manors of Britain.
The two movies Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age stars Cate Blanchet as the monarch Elizabeth Tudor. The first film focuses on her ascension to the throne after her sister's death and early years as queen. The sequel is set nearly after a decade and it shows the queen leading England into a golden era. Elizabeth I (also known as Gloriana and Good Queen Bees) was the last of five monarchs of the House of Tudor. She reigned for 44 years and helped England forge a national identity.
Any discussion about British period drama cannot be complete without one of Jane Austen's creations. While all of her novels made it to screen several times, the miniseries 'Emma 'stands out as a classic. The plot revolves around Emma Woodhouse, a content and charming woman who wants to help others find love and happiness. Similar to Austen's other heroines, Emma is a feminist icon living in the early 19th century. Emma is also unique among Austen's novels because the protagonist's misplaced confidence in her matchmaking abilities leads it to being a coming-of-age story.
Poldark is a historical drama based on the novels by Winston Graham. The BBC show is set between 1781-1801. The show begins in 1783 when Captain Ross Vennor Poldark returns fro m the American War of Independence to his home of Nampara in Cornwall and finds that his life back home is in ruins. His father is dead, the estate is in considerable debt, and the woman he loves is engaged to another. Over the five seasons, the show deals with the lives of Poldark and the woman he marries, Demelza. Lost loves, death, and war are the major themes of the show.
Jane Eyre is one of the most popular English novels of all time. Being a classic, the Charlotte Bronte novel has been adapted to screen several times. But, the four-part BBC television drama is among the most favourite ones. The plot follows an orphaned child Jane in the care of her cruel aunt Mrs. Reed. After her best friend's death, Jane decided to become independent and take up a job as a governess. Most of the story is set in Thornfield Hall, a typical English manor. Ruth Wilson plays the role of the titular character Jane Eyre, and it remains one of her most prominent roles to date.
Bleak House is another TV show inspired by a classic novel. Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name was published in 1852-1853. BBC adapted the story in 2005. The story begins with the Bleak House welcoming orphaned cousins Ada Clare and Richard Carstone. They are also potential heirs of the master of the house. The show has everything from secret engagement to murder with no shortage of suspects. The show has only one season consisting of 15 episodes.