The modern day television landscape is anything but under-saturated. At every turn there’s a new reboot which can be overwhelming at times. If you’re as tired as I am of reboot after reboot I’m here to introduce you to the vast and opulent world of period dramas, to be the delightful cucumber sandwich starter to your action-packed prime time meal.
In truth, most period dramas revolve around the lives of rich aristocrats, frivolous royals or the Knights of the round table; most of which are really white and privileged (although these words are synonymous). The plight of PoC in such eras wouldn’t exactly make for pleasant viewing and so like much of history it is swept under the rug. Although, I will acknowledge NBC’s Timeless which delves into the idea of struggling PoC throughout history while maintaining a different plotline.
Whilst these shows aren’t overly complex to the point that they make you re-evaluate the meaning of life, they instead pay tribute to the smaller aspects and offer witty social commentary, pretty dresses and skewed perceptions of history and let’s not forget whimsical romance to make you heart flutter.
Within the genre, many sub-genres exist, each with their own calling points. Those set in the 1800–1900’s have a familiar Jane Austen or Charles Dickens feel to the stories, whereas other delve into myths and legends and time travel pieces include a very engaging modern perspective. Other themes that are touched on and explored extensively include the omnipotent patriarchy, social classes, race and perhaps a dash of dragons here and there.
If my explanation of why you should watch period dramas has caught your attention, I have a few fanciful tales to recommend:
A true classic was the delectable Downton Abbey. The lives of the Crawley family and their servants enthralled and enchanted many homes. Maggie Smith drops perfectly times sassy one-liners, world wars and the Titanic go down(literally in one case) and the characters have to navigate their through the changing times, romances and many plot twists. A later explored plot line that is incredibly underrated and well-written is that of Thomas Barrow who struggles to accept his sexuality in a time where it was illegal and looked down upon.
If you’re a history boffin and comfortable with a few liberties taken, I would go for anything of the Royal variety. My personal favourites include the first two seasons of Reign which is often described as Gossip Girl meets Game of Thrones and follows the life of the bold Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane).
The Golden Globe Winning The Crown, which features stunning sets, politically accurate intrigue and the family life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy- Golden Globe winner).
Lastly Victoria, which you guessed it is based on the reign of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman), the tone is light-hearted and will leave you all sorts of giddy and amused.
My last recommendation is for the adventure seekers and it is BBC’s, Merlin. It happens to be one of the few shows with actual POC as leads and is of course based on the legend of King Arthur and the trusty Merlin. It is filled with incredible humor, devious villains, badass dragons and tons of magic. Also, Colin Morgan is adorkable and precious.
Bonus: Poldark- Hot Aidan Turner and A+ female character development.
The range of multi-faceted shows is extensive and I would be here all day if I had to recommend shows. For wonderfully curated reviews and lists, check out Silver Petticoat Reviews. So sit down, grab a bonnet, a hot cup of tea and explore a new era comfortably, you might be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy this newfound guilty pleasure.
Author: Faatimah Essack
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.