Ready or not we are mere days away from the finale of Downton Abbey. I'm currently drowning my sorrows on the subject in a Diet Coke (with a Reese's egg on the side). Side note: the egg shaped Reese's is by far the best peanut butter to chocolate ratio of all the holiday Reese's. Just in case you were wondering. Seriosuly though, I have entered a semi-mourning state over the show ending. By far this has been one of the best BBC productions of all time, and I know, because I've basically seen them all. Well it's like I have.
I feel like Downton helped make Masterpiece on PBS cool for a new generation. (I'll concede that Benedict Cumberbatch being Sherlock probably helped too). In years gone by, there have been so many amazing shows that the masses missed out on because of the stigma that PBS was for old folks. So today I'm making it my job to help you fill up your Netflix queue with some of the best to help detox you off period pieces slowly. So without further ado and in no particular order...here's my top 10 shows to watch after Downton ends.
- MANSFIELD PARK
- Yes it's an Austen novel, but stick with me. I prefer the version that the BBC produced in2007. Fanny is the lowly poor relative who comes to live with her aunt & uncle. They have plans to help marry her off to wealthy neighbors, but her heart has other ideas. Like her cousin. Because nothing like a little 1880's family inbreeding to make for a classic movie.
- By far my favorite of all Jane Austen novels, yet most people have never heard of it. Her family says you shouldn't marry a military man. So she becomes a spinster of sorts, until life shakes up in years to come and they cross paths again. Stick with the 2007 version, and you'll get a taste of life in Bath, England to boot.
- THE FORSYTE SAGA
- This is actually a mini-series from 2002, so keep in mind the 10 episodes will take you a good four hours to get through. The story follows a couple who divorced in Victorian England that both later remarried. The drama ensues when the lives of their children from their second marriages intersect. The relationships aren't all good, so be prepared that it's all far from roses.
- DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLY
- PD James wrote this mystery novel a few years back that takes place a few years after Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett are married. Captain Denny has been shot and of course Wickham is to blame. Or is he? This one still has the period piece feel, but it's nice to know that some recently written literature is worth being made into a delightful show.
- JANE EYRE
- Such a classic novel, yet so depressing. But so lovely in its own way. Stick to the miniseries from the 2000's rather than the newer release. I think it's a bit more thorough in covering the details of the plot, plus I think the guy who plays Mr. Rochester is more believable.
- LITTLE DORRIT
- Who doesn't want to watch a show set in debtor's prision? Dickens isn't one of my favorite writers, but I adore this story. Trust me, you'll like it. You'll recognize Matthew MacFayden in the cast.
- BLEAK HOUSE
- This Dickens adaption made by BBC into a mini-series in 2005 won tons of Emmys. So of course that's all you need to know it's worth watching right? It really is a great way to see the best and worst of Victorian England, all with Gillian Anderson as the familiar face to guide your plot.
- MR. SELFRIDGE
- This series started a few years ago, and we actually stopped into the Selfridge's department store that remains in London to this day when we visited, all because of the show. The plot follows a rich American businessman who comes to London to open his new type of department store in an effort to restore the industry. There's everything from fights over window decorations to broken relationships. Jeremy Piven plays the main character charmingly. Season 4 will air later this year.
- LARK RISE TO CANDLEFORD
- Main character: training to be a postmistress in a small country town. Who knew that in the 1800's women could hold a government office? A more lighthearted mini-series than some of the others - perfect for a lazy weekend. Even better is "Mr. Bates" has a role in this one!
- CRANFORD (& RETURN TO CRANFORD)
- A great series based in a rural town that is ruled by the older ladies (headed by Judi Dench). There's always good gossip and a constant tug-of-war with the future as the Industrial Revolution starts to creep into their neck of the woods.
Thanks for the memories Downton. Thanks for the chance to wear my great-grandmothers pearls and jewelry from the 20's. Thanks for forcing me to try tea with milk (and inspiring me to have high tea at the Organgery at Kensington Palace). But most of all thanks for the sarcasm and plethora of one-liners to last us through the years. What better way to wrap up than with my favorite quote of the whole series, of course by Violet Crawley to cousin Isobel in what I believe is the best TV feud of a lifetime. "Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?" There's just nothing like some good ole family strife to make for high-quality TV.