Thursday, February 27, 2014

5 Series to Watch in the Absence of Downton

Downton fans will know that the latest season has just wrapped up with quite a hopeful look towards next year's Season 5. I was a little skeptical going into this latest season as I thought perhaps writer/creator, Julian Fellowes was going to attempt to outdo the soap opera quality of drama he accomplished in Season 3. But, with the final episode that aired this past Sunday (Monday if you're like me and catch up via, I was thoroughly content with how the story is wrapped up at this point and the little "bites" Fellowes left to tantalize our British loving selves until next year.

If you haven't caught up as of yet, there's still 10 days to catch Downton Abbey Season 4 online or you can order a copy of the DVD to add to your shelf. Seasons 1-3 are available on Amazon Prime.

However, if you find yourself in the next 10 months itching for some new British historical mini-series, here are 5 of my favorites that I've found to be worth watching, along with one runner-up.

*To be noted, I didn't include Sherlock because honestly, does it need to be listed?*


Another PBS series now going into its 3rd Season (premiering on March 30. 2014), Call the Midwife is based loosely on the Memoir of Jennifer Worth. The drama is set in East London in the 1950s and follows the life of 4 midwives who live and work alongside the nuns of Nonnatus House. Besides delivering many babies to the woman from that district, they also attend to a number of diseases and duties required of them by the predominately poor and working class dwelling around the House. 

I found this series most entertaining though I dreaded the contraception and abortion faces that I knew would (and did) make their appearance. For the show being all about birth, there is very little actually shown. That being said, I wouldn't watch around children, but that's me. I was disappointed to some of the show's underlying (and sometimes right out in the open) views on large families and contraception, but it was still an enjoyable watch.

Available for free on Netflix. TV-PG.


As of right now, I have only seen one Season of The Paradise though there is a 2nd one out there - I don't believe it has come to the US as of yet. This series is also adapted from a book (The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola). I can only guess it's a loose interpretation since the book takes place in Paris. I have not read it though, so I can't make much further judgement. 

 The show begins in 1875 and follows its heroine, Denise, as she moves to London from the country in order to pursue bigger and better dreams. After realizing the mess her uncle's small dress shop in, she applies to and is hired as a shopgirl at the majestic department store that is making a name for itself on the streets of London: The Paradise. The owner of the store, Mr. Moray, has great dreams to offer ready made items to anyone who has the funds. Denise shares in his grand scheming, which sometimes finds her on the outs with her coworkers.

All in all, another fun viewing especially with the concept of "a one store fits all" being new and modern. The idea that a woman can either be a wife and mother or a working woman is also approached.



Land Girls

A historical drama set soon after the latest Season of Downton Abbey in England during World War II. It follows the lives of 4 women who are part of the Women's Land Army as they strive to do their part for the war effort by helping out on a farm. I have seen all three Seasons. A fun and interesting look into a whole new side of the War, at least for me.

Alongside their work which makes up for the main plot, there are stories of husbands that are POWs, a wife who is working with her husband visiting whenever he can, two sisters, love and intrigue, and so forth. There are a few scandalous instances that I would believe to be historically accurate; I won't give away details, but know they are there.

Available free on Netflix streaming. 


The Buccaneers

This pick is the oldest of the ones I am including. This mini-series, based on the book by Edith Wharton, came out in 1995. I seem to have a thing with groups of 4 young women because here's another one. The late 1800s in Newport, RI set the beginning scene as the four girls, all from "new" money bemoan the fact that they are shunned by the proper New York aristocratic set due to where the money comes from. After one of the girls marries a British lord, the other three girls come to visit London in search of their own husbands.

Beautiful scenery and costumes help to make this enchanting tale come to life. A coming-of-age in the very most turn of the century British meets America meaning. If you've read the novel, you will know it's unfinished, and therefore, to bring closure to the series, an ending was created for it. There are also a few changes purists will wince at. Still, a fun mini-series to enjoy. 

Available for free on Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime Instant Video.


Another mini-series, this one based on the novels by John Galsworthy, covers the multigenerational story of the Forsyte family. Set in the early 1900s in England, it also covers a timespan of several decades. Similar to the Buccaneers  the Forsytes are also "new" money.

The character development amongst the cast is superb and so well played out by those chosen to star in this adaption. There is so much happening throughout the many episodes that it is hard to even capture the gist of what it is about for you. And I don't suggest reading the Wiki page unless you want spoilers right and left. Just know it's a well loved series that I've watched several times. I did read the book after watching it, and as always, there are some minor strings but nothing horrible.

Available for free on Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Runner-Up: Upstairs Downstairs

So, this one didn't make the top 5 because while I enjoyed the first Season and found a quotable quote in it ("You stay away from my third shelf down!"), I just couldn't get into the second Season. I would equate it to Downton Abbey in the approach it takes of telling the stories of both those that lived upstairs and served downstairs. As a remake, I do think it was more interesting than the one from the 1980s. Well cast for some of the main characters, but then the others aren't memorable in the least. You might love it though, so give it a try if you're interested. 

Available for free on Amazon Prime Instant Video.

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And there you go: 5 mini-series to keep you occupied for the next 10 months, so you don't bemoan the ending of Downton Abbey too much. 

I'm always interested in new shows. Anything you would add to this list that I should check out? Do share!

Linking up today for Five Favorites once again with Hallie this week

Also consider this to be Post #3 out of the 7 Posts in 7 Days link-up over at Conversion Diary.

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This post 5 Series to Watch in the Absence of Downton first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 27 February 2014


  1. I just started Lark Rise and Candleford and have heard really good things about it, plus Bates is in it!

    1. I've heard great things about that one, too - it's based on a Elizabeth Gaskell novel, right? Adding to my list. You can't go wrong with Bates.


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