My family and I have been BBC and PBS devotees since I was about age ten. I have always enjoyed just about everything the English have offered when it comes to the classics, history, and entertainment.
The following is a guide to some of Britain’s best television mini-series. They haven’t been ordered in any particular way because all of these series are simply lovely.
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensability
Several new adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels were release back in 2008-2010 by BBC. While Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet stole the show as Elinor and Marianne in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, we have another winner. The moral depth of this story compels, the music score enthralls, and the seaside cinematography invites.
Lark Rise to Candleford
Lark Rise to Candleford is a quaint, family-friendly series that follows the small-town lives of the folks of Lark Rise and the “city” folk of Candleford. Sound boring? It’s not. Each episode holds a different plot so you can jump in any time. But if you follow sequentially the characters will grow on you in the most familiar way and before you know it you’re wishing the season wasn’t over.
Call The Midwife
Call The Midwife is a recent release from PBS. Based on a true story, this series is a behind-the-scenes to the demanding work of the on-call midwives of WWII. Endearing, eye-opening, and entertaining.
My parent’s introduced me to this one. Garrow’s Law is a engaging drama that gives you a fly-on-the-wall view of the 19th century courtroom. There is romance and betrayal, justice and mercy. Some of the sub-plots I could leave behind, but overall, I got into it to the point that I couldn’t wait for the next episode.
My favorite of all. Based on Dicken’s classic, this version of Little Dorrit holds the story of one of my personal literary heroines. The quiet yet strong Amy Dorrit is raised in debtor’s prison due to her father’s past. After a chance meeting with Mr. Clenem, her life is never the same. The character development and plot interconnectedness is breathtaking. I’ve seen it maybe three times in full and always discover something I hadn’t seen before. Producer Andrew Davies outdid himself with this one.
Another Andrew Davies series, Dicken’s Bleak House is a second close to Little Dorrit. I was introduced to the selfless character, Esther Summerson, when my Dad and I started watching this together. Her example of purity, selflessness, and lack-of-vanity came to me at just the right time. With another outstanding plot and rich character development, you’ll laugh, cry, puzzle, and marvel.
The PBS adaptation of Jane Erye is near and dear to me. I wrote a little about this favorite classic here.
Our most recent watch: Foyle’s War. I had never been interested in the murder mystery drama series. Sherlock and the others? No thanks. But upon my parent’s recommendation we gave it a try. Taking place during WWII, Inspector Christopher Foyle is one of the most steady fictional chaps you’ll ever meet. He’s witty and gentlemanly and is always in the right place at the right time. Every episode we think, “Surely we’ll figure this one out before the end” and we haven’t once yet. As a English friend of ours said…It’s just so British.
Upstairs Downstairs was one of the pioneers to depict the now distant but once drastic social differences within the early 1900’s household. I would recommend the 1970’s version any day before the 2010 edition.
All Creatures Great And Small
My very first introduction to British television was through the story of country vet, James Herriot. Based on his books, All Creature’s Great and Small will take you through the hills and dales of the English countryside farms and village families who are always in need of the expertise of Herriot and Farnon for their furry friends. When I saw my first live birth of a calf at my husband’s farm, it felt almost like second nature. I bet I could sheer a sheep or stitch up a sow after learning what I did from this entertaining drama.
And last, but not least, the one and only Downton Abbey. This sensation has been nothing short of epic. Truly. The drama can be a bit unbelievable at times, but the upstairs-downstairs perspectives of this historical fiction series are compelling. Taking place around the turn of the century, Downton depicts the evolution of gentry and commoner roles in the face of a modernizing world of electricity, world war, equality and much more.
If I come across more note-worthy series I will add them to this post, so check back in the future if you’re looking for more…but that shouldn’t be for several years…
Which are your favorites? Any to add to this list?
photo credit: BBC and PBS