I love a lot of genres, but I believe that British television should be genre of its own. I really had no interest in British television until I saw Downton Abbey, but then again, Downton Abbey was almost the beginning of a British drama renaissance, at least for me it was. What I love the most about British television is really the diversity, history, sci-fi, murder mystery (a lot of that) and fantasy. Everytime I find a good British drama show, I immediately say, "That is my favorite!" Then about 3 months down the line, I find one that ends up taking its place.
Although, I really can't nail down exactly what it is I like about British drama, I would have to say that it all comes down to the writing. If you have exceptional writers who know how to weave a good story into history, sci-fi, murder mystery and fantasy, then you may already have a successful hit on your hands. The eight shows pictured in the graphic are my all time favorites with hopefully more to come!
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1.) Downton Abbey
Of all shows represented, Downton Abbey still reigns supreme with its incredible writing of historical events, personable characters, beautiful music and a balanced blend of comedy and drama. You live in this household for almost 15 years and the characters almost become like family to you. Downton Abbey has had a wonderful six year run and I think it will be a while until another show will be able to compete for top British drama.
2.) Call The Midwife
. We live in a time where motherhood is severely looked down upon and unplanned pregnancies are considered the ultimate evil, but Call The Midwife celebrates the joys of motherhood and children. It also brings to light the realities and hard expectations of women, when they lived in a time where they were solely dependent on men. Heartwarming as well as heartbreaking, Call The Midwife is more than a medical drama, it's a historic representation of basic human life.
3.) Poldark (2015)
The remake of the 1975 BBC series and based on novels by Winston Graham, Poldark took summer 2015 by storm with its brilliant casting of Aidan Turner as the broody, but kindhearted veteran soldier Ross Poldark. Similar to a 18th century Robin Hood, Ross Poldark and his small community of Cornwall on the coast of England go through trials and triumphs of trying to survive in a failing economy. In the midst of their strife though, there are moments of happiness that makes this drama all the more endearing.
I started watching this show after it had ended, but I can understand why it had such a successful 5 season run. Growing up with Arthurian legends, I was immediately interested and it wasn't long before I became ingrained with Albion and all its residents including awkward (but brilliant) wizard apprentice Merlin (Emrys), honorable king in training, Prince Arthur, noble future queen, Guinevere and mysterious secret sorceress, Lady Morgana. In spite of its terrible ending, Merlin is the ultimate feel good television series.
5.) Upstairs, Downstairs (2010)
Like Poldark, Upstairs, Downstairs is based on the original series from 1971. Sadly, the show was overshadowed by the immense popularity of Downton Abbey, but it doesn't negate the fact that is was very well done. The show is done as a continuation of the original broadcast series while maintaining its own independent and original story. It only ran two season and despite mixed reviews, I greatly enjoyed Upstairs, Downstairs as it represents the English high life of the late 1930s and on the eve of WWII.
6.) Robin Hood
Robin Hood can be hit or miss depending on who is telling the story, but BBC's 2006 success got it absolutely right. The original legend, with a delightful modern day mix in its costuming and attitudes, brought the adventure, the romance and comedy into one great story of a man and his friends who refused to back down from tyranny. Utterly bipolar at times and even thought-provoking, Robin Hood, despite its short television run, will make you laugh and cry, but also give you a hero that the world desperately needs today.
7.) The Crimson Field
I was excited to see another Edwardian drama about WWI come to television, but The Crimson Field is hardly Downton Abbey. Showing the grisly realities of the warfront and the physical and mental damage that comes from service, the characters take a while to grown into. As the story continues real heroes begin to emerge in both soldiers and civilians, and the shades of grey areas that are revealed in one of the world's most horrific wars.
Although I've always enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories as told through many interpretations on television, I was never a big Holmes fan, but my family was and were quite skeptical about this up-dated version. They (like everyone else) were completely won over by Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of the legendary detective and Martin Freeman's spot on performance as Dr. John Watson. Turning the turn of the century sleuth into a 20th century scientist and detective was a risky move, but it was a risk worth taking in the creation of the new modern Sherlock Holmes.
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While it's only been five years since I've discovered this British drama craze, I have to say that I feel no shame at all. Before, I found most British television to be boring and really have no life at all, but BBC and ITV have stepped up their game every single year and the stories just keep getting better and better, and not just their shows, but their movies and mini-series as well. From Downton Abbey, which has now had its finale season, to Sherlock and who knows when the next season is going to be, thank you for making my Sunday nights so memorable, exciting and just all out fun!