The Obsession With Period Dramas

17th Sep 15 | Entertainment News

We can barely contain our excitement. Downton Abbey is back on our screens on the 22nd of September on TV3.

We can barely contain our excitement. Downton Abbey is back on our screens on the 22nd of September on TV3.

I am devastated that it will be the final season but it is set to go out with a bang.

I fell in love with the Crawleys and the goings on in Downton Abbey.

Check out the trailer for this season here;

The global success of Downton Abbey has got me thinking. What is our obsession with the period drama?

There is something so reassuring about a good ole period drama. I know they’re not for everyone but some of us just can’t get enough. Many of my friends can’t understand why I while away so many hours watching “stuffy” and “quaint” period dramas.

I’m blue in the face telling my friends that a period drama isn’t just the stereotypical costume dramas set in the drawing room. Even the ones that fit the mold aren’t just about young ladies sitting around gossiping, embroidering and dying from the common cold.

Here’s a list of some of my top period dramas of all time.

Any Human Heart (Channel 4)

Starring Mathew McFayden, Jim Broadbent, Kim Cattrall, Sam Claffin, Hayley Atwell and Gillian Anderson.

This Bafta award winning four part adaptation is definitely the least known and most under rated show on this list. It’s based on William Boyd’s novel of the same name. Any Human Heart is an honest portrayal of the human character and our ever changing selves.

It follows the delectably flawed but lovable Logan Mountstuart who finds himself at the forefront of, well everything remotely exciting that happens in the 20th Century. He lives through many wars, literary and artistic movements, meets and befriends Kings, public and literary figures.

Most importantly, it’s the amazing women he meets and falls in love with that directs the story. It’s both hilarious and incredibly touching in equal measures. Did I mention that it has a stellar cast? Available to watch on All4 and YouTube. 

North and South (BBC 2004)

Starring Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Sinead Cusack and Brendan Coyle.

North and South was a runaway success when it was first aired. No wonder, Richard Armitage’s performance as John Thornton makes it for me. Step aside Colin Firth!! Meet the ultimate brooding period drama hunk. The show is based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1854 novel.

Set against the backdrop of trade unionism and the harsh reality of the lives of those consumed in the industrial machine. North and South begins as Mary Hale is wrenched from the comfort of the idyllic English countryside to be relocated to the bleak and harsh industrial town of Milton.

Mary is shocked by what she witnesses in the Mills of Milton and Northern and Southern manners clash in spectacular style. She hastily makes John Thornton, a successful Mill owner the scapegoat for all she despises about new industrial Britain. North and South raises the question, what really makes a gentlemen and genteel woman? Mary soon has to rethink her values and her idea of a gentleman. If you love a good slow burning romance then you will love this show. Available to watch on YouTube. 


Peaky Blinders (Sky 1)

Starring  Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Sam Neil and Helen McCrory.

Peaky Blinders is definitely my favourite show on television at the minute. Take a trip into the hellish inferno that is Birmingham where prostitution, crime, espionage and drug addiction are part of everyday life. The show is set in 1918 and it centres around the Shelby family who are rising to the top of gang land Birmingham.

If you like your shows with a bit of meat, then this show is for you. It is highly politically charged with themes of trade unionism, shell and IRA/UVF tensions running throughout with flashes of the mysterious world of Irish travellers and Chinatown in the mix.

Its stylish cinematography and soundtrack has undoubtedly sparked many a young man to adopt a ‘Peaky Blinder’ haircut. Cillian Murphy is absolutely mesmerizing in it and what about those blue eyes ehh? Seriously though, it has some of the best acting on television.

The female characterization is on point and so refreshing. The show is very violent yet the female characters resist being the victim, they are as strong and formidable as the men. Available to watch on Netflix and Sky GO. 


Jane Eyre (BBC 2006)

Starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

This is my favourite portrayal of Jane Eyre so far. If Jane Eyre was a real person and alive now I imagine her as some sort Lana del Ray figure or as a sassy spoken word performer. She is the ultimate proto feminist. This version sticks very close to Charlotte Bronte’s novel and Ruth Wilson is amazing in it.

Jane Eyre is an orphan who has the most miserable of upbringings as you can get. As soon as she comes of age she escapes the school that has been her home for so long. She gets a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall. Enter the master of the estate, the grumpy Mr Rochester played by the brilliant Toby Stephens.

They strike up the unlikeliest of bonds and then ensues the classic will they won’t they story love story. Yet It’s more than just a romantic story, it’s a journey of a strong young woman who refuses to be anybody but herself. Wilson captures the strength and independence of her character without making it unbelievable for the time. Available to watch on YouTube. 

Also worth a watch

Cranford, Bird Song, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice (1995) Upstairs Downstairs, Penny Dreadful and The Saboteurs.

Let me know what you think on Twitter @alantcawley