1. Downton Abbey – this has become a popular one and most people know about it, which is great. Unfortunately many Americans think British television begins and ends here and they compare everything to this show, don’t be that American. I first discovered this show when season one was out on Netflix and then sat around and twiddled my thumbs for about a year waiting for season 2 to rear it’s head. It did not disappoint.
The show opens somewhere around 1914 with the sinking of the Titanic, then takes you through World War I and we are now heading into the Depression. The social dynamics of the show are what most people love, a country, a culture, a staff and a family trying to hold on to tradition and a legacy while the world around them rapidly begins to change.
Here in the states you can catch it when it airs on PBS Masterpiece Sunday nights. If you need to catch up with the past seasons you can look on Netflix, Amazon (etc) or your library or purchase the DVD’s
2. Upstairs Downstairs – remake. The original Upstairs Downstairs was produced by the BBC in the 1970s. I think they did a good job with the remake, season 1 was a bit fluffy but it definitely started gaining some bite towards the end. Season two was fantastic! The show starts pre World War 2 and is more of an introduction to the characters and their interactions with each other. Similar to Downton Abbey, you see the dynamics of the staff and the household and their place in society as well as with each other. Season 2 starts with the threat of war and the outcome of that threat. I’m looking forward to season 3, a country at war.
Upstairs Downstairs can also be seen on Netflix etc, season 2 just ended but when the show resumes you can catch it on PBS Masterpiece on Sunday nights.
3. Hell on Wheels – two words, Anson Mount. The hero and the villain of the wild west, Cullen Bohannen played by Anson Mount is a heart throb and a half! The show takes place in Colorado post Civil War with the expansion of the railroad to the west. You have murder, mayhem, vengeance and everything that makes a western a western. This is basically like watching your favorite western movie every week. The character development is outstanding and the plot definitely has you on your seat. I hope AMC brings it back for another season – I hope I hope I hope.
Hell on Wheels can be seen on AMC
4. The Hour – Not sure how I missed season one but I saw season two being advertised and found season one on BBC on Demand. 1950’s cold war era England being played out on an hour long news show produced by the BBC. It has espionage, political unrest, and great acting. I’m really looking forward to season two after the cliffhanger of season one – who’s the KGB agent at the BBC?! And, it has Dominic West in it, I’m sold!
The Hour can be seen on BBC America – or your local BBC station. Season two starts November 28th.
5. Mad Men – Of course I have to include Mad Men. One of the most successful period piece dramas on American TV since maybe MASH. The advertising world of the 1960’s. Smoking, drinking, affairs, failures and success. There isn’t much to say about Mad Men that hasn’t already been said. So I’ll leave you with the details.
The show airs on AMC, currently they are on hiatus, rumors about why, I have no idea nor do I care, just hoping it comes back soon. You can catch up on past season on Netflix etc.
6. Copper – I wanted to like this show. Set in New York post Civil War, it has all the grit and drama to make it a great show. There is something lacking in the characters of the show that leave it a bit flat for me. However, this is simply MY opinion and I wouldn’t deter anyone else from watching a good period piece program.
Copper airs on BBC America – check it out and formulate your own opinion.
7. Ripper Street – coming soon BBC – I’m excited about this one. The show takes place post Jack the Ripper in East London’s Whitechapel, an area where dock workers, factories and workhouses dominate. A time when crime was at a high and the government were determined to clean up East London. It stars Matthew Macfayden, whom I love.
The show will air in the states on BBC America January 19th.