Monday, 20 October 2014

Period/Historical Drama Recommendations!

It probably comes as no surprise that, considering I love historical fiction so much, I'm partial to a good old historical/period drama show, too. If you're in the mood for one such show, here are some of my recommendations!

Okay, now before those of you who love your historical accuracy flee in disgust, please hear me out! Like you I had no interest in watching The Tudors when it first came out. I love my Tudor history, but pretty much every adaptation of their lives (aside from the Elizabeth films starring the stunning Cate Blanchett) have been a huge disappointment. I turned on an episode of The Tudors when it was on TV and was immediately met with a sex scene in the woods, between who I would later discover were Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I decided then and there that I wasn't interested in watching a show that was just about bodice-ripping and hanky panky and turned it back off. Then one of my friends introduced it to me in university and convinced me to give it another try, and I'm so glad I did - now it's one of my favourite shows!

Now I'm not going to sit here and say that this is the most historically accurate show on TV - although in its defense it put a lot more effort into being historically accurate than most other Tudor adaptations I've seen! - but what The Tudors has done that I appreciate and adore is humanise Henry VIII and all six of his wives. All of his wives, from Katherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr, are given likable and dislikable qualities, and I love all of them, grow frustrated with all of them, for completely different reasons. The Tudors is one of the few shows I've watched that has made an effort to remind its audience that Henry and his wives were real people and not just portraits.

Yes there's a lot of hanky panky - but unlike shows like Game of Thrones all of the sex scenes, apart from one which isn't graphic and is included because it is an event that is believed to have happened, are consensual - and there are a lot of pretty dresses and shaven legs and gorgeous men, but I don't care! I really like this show, and I recommend it to any history lover out there who's been hesitant to give it a try!

I discovered The Bletchley Circle fairly recently, in fact I'm still in the middle of watching it, but as soon as I realised it was a show about a group of women who broke codes during the war and were now using their skills to fight crime and the patriarchy I knew I had to watch it. Then, luckily for me, it was showing on TV again!

The first series follows Susan Gray, a code breaker during the War, who is certain there is a pattern to the killings and that she can use it to catch the killer, if only the police and her husband would listen to her. Frustrated, she contacts three women with whom she worked at Bletchley Park, and the four of them work together to solve the murders.

It's so good. Just watch it.

If I say to you: Richard Armitage. Richard Armitage in 19th century clothes. Richard Armitage in a top hat. Surely that's all I need to say to get you to watch the BBC's adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South?

This show was introduced to me by the same friend who introduced me to The Tudors, so we can blame her for me wanting to marry Richard Armitage. North and South is a very simple story, and yet it's enthralling; it follows Margaret Hale who must move from the South of England to the North when her father decides to leave the clergy and takes up a position as a teacher. The cold, dark, industrial North is very different to the idyllic South that Margaret is accustomed to, and she can't stand John Thornton, the owner of a cotton mill and one of her father's pupils.

When the workers begin to strike Thornton shows his true colours as a man who wants what's best for his family and those who work for him, and Margaret begins to see him in a different light.

At its heart North and South is a love story, but even if love stories aren't to your taste I still recommend this little serial - it's gorgeous!

Earlier this year the BBC brought another brilliant drama to our TV screens in the form of The Crimson Field, a show which follows the lives of four voluntary nurses, and the rest of the military hospital, during The First World War.

Each of the six episodes of the series explores a number of themes, from the early treatment of shellshock to the punishment of deserters, and they do so in a respectful, touching way. Sadly the BBC has chosen not to renew the series which is incredibly frustrating, not only because it is a fantastic show that deserves screen time, but also because there are many questions that have been left unanswered.

That being said the first series doesn't end on a huge question mark, so even though the show has been discontinued the first series is still worth a watch!

The Borgias is much more similar to The Tudors - it's raunchier and more violent, and oddly addictive. When I first watched the show it took me a couple of episodes to get into it - the first episode in particular I think is a little boring; when I first watched it I was convinced I wasn't going to like the show - but by episode three I was hooked, and I marathoned the rest of the first series in the space of a few days.

What really gives this show its wow factor is the cast; I love Jeremy Irons, and he's a brilliant Roderigo, but the two actors who really sell the show to me are Holliday Grainger and Franรงois Arnaud, who play Lucrezia and Cesare respectively. Their scenes together are mesmerising, and I definitely recommend checking this show out if you haven't already!

What have you been watching recently?

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