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Three British Period Pieces Worth Watching

Blame it on a horrid stomach bug, but I’ve spent the last week fascinated by three separate BBC miniseries. All available now on Netflix Instant Watch. 

North & South

North and South posterThe plot itself is a bit Pride and Prejudice mixed with some Dickensian characters and commentary on poverty and the Industrial Revolution. It’s four episodes long, but very beautifully shot. Beautiful for BBC – who isn’t notorious for having the most crisp or clean-looking productions. But I can’t get the images of the white fluffs of cotton blowing around in the factory out of my head.

Features some spot-on acting by Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, who both do fine jobs portraying smoldering romance with fluttering eyes and lips. Other actors worth mentioning are Sinead Cusack as the crotchety but sympathetic mother foil, Brendan Coyle as union rabble rouser and Anna Maxwell Martin as a town girl with a chronic illness.

Be sure to watch this fan-vid after you view the series. It’s perfect.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey PosterIt struck a cord immediately – reminding me of a serialized Gosford Park and both of which I assume owe some kind of nod to Upstairs, Downstairs which is a series I’ve never seen myself. Either way, I much prefer Downton Abbey because it is visually quite a bit nicer than most of the other BBC television productions. Probably because it’s ITV. Oh snap. J/K BBC, I still love you.

Perhaps it’s not breaking any new territory in terms of focusing on the lives of nobility and their household staff, but I was immediately drawn to it – recognizing  Brendan Coyle from North & South, as well as Joanne Froggatt from Robin Hood. And of course – Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. Hugh Bonneville is wonderful too – though I didn’t immediately recognize him from something, his face was very familiar.

My only beef with this show is that the passage of time is not obvious (all the sudden the characters were like “well, it’s been two years”). The Titanic sinking was a great series opener and ended with World War I kicking off. Only eight episodes available on Netflix right now. I know there are at least sixteen.

Middlemarch

Middlemarch posterMight not be as charming if you haven’t read the book.

Unfortunately, this depiction of Middlemarch a 1994 jam, so the production value is low and you won’t recognize many well-known actors – aside from Rufus Sewell or perhaps Jonathan Firth, the younger, blonder brother of Colin Firth. Juliet Aubrey looks like she plays a bad-ass in current BBC productions, so go her.

What I love about this book/series? The characters aren’t all perfect but no one is really a villain outright – they all are just victims of themselves, their circumstances or bad choices. Like real life.

Runner Up: Robin Hood. Only three seasons long. A pointless main character death in the second season took a lot of wind out this series sails. And the dialogue was sometimes a bit off for the time period depicted. But it featured lots of sexy young things and a skinny hipster hero in Robin of Locksley. Worth watching if you’re unemployed. Or love Richard Armitage as much as I do. 😉

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

4 responses to “Three British Period Pieces Worth Watching”

  1. Jen says :

    Downtown Abbey! I love it. The next season is airing on TV as of this Sunday, I believe – on PBS under Masterpiece Classics. Yep, I’m that obsessed.

    Have you watched Merlin at all? I know at least 2 or 3 seasons are on Netflix right now. It’s much more in the “fluff” column than these shows, but is a lot of fun regardless.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Thanks for the tip! I think I may have missed a season though – I think they’re airing Season 3 so I’m behind on several episodes.

      Merlin is actually in my Netflix queue at the moment! Along with a show called “Legend of the Seeker.” Have you heard or seen much about that show? I think it’s a science fiction/fantasy. Another good one is Bleak House (which I’m enjoying at the moment, despite it’s weird sound effects and quick cuts).

      Enjoying that I’m starting to recognize British actors who have never starred in American cinema or television.

  2. Jen says :

    It’s actually the second season of Downton that’s airing here this week. It’s already aired over in Britain but we always get things late. I believe they just started filming season three or something.

    I have seen Legend of the Seeker. It’s okay. They are a little obsessed with the whole slow motion battle stuff (like a certain other show *ahem* Spartacus), and it can be sort of hit or miss, but it at least comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of the second, and last, season. The leads have some good chemistry.

    I haven’t seen Bleak House… I have a serious aversion to it since I had to read the actual book in college and hated it’s bloated-ness beyond belief.

    • tinyheroes says :

      Downton: Excellent news!!

      Legend of the Seeker: And the only two seasons is really enticing as well. I’m kinda swamped in entertainment at the moment and therefore appreciating the low commitment value of most BBC programs.

      Bleak House: It is pretty bleak. There aren’t too many characters I like at the moment, but I’m about 3/4s of the way through and since I never read the book, I’m probably gonna stick it out to conclusion!

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