Halp! What to Watch Now That Downton Abbey is Over?

WHOA. DID YOU SEE THE END OF DOWNTON ABBEY?! That was crazy. How could they?! Wha? So confused…but LADY MARY! Gah. I can’t even talk right now.

Yes, folks you’ve just seen the shocking end of Season 3. Actually, I was already spoiled and had seen the episode beforehand, but I still wanted to participate in the big reveal with you guys! It’s been hard not talking about it for months! Don’t worry, I still won’t reveal any spoilers here in case you haven’t caught the episode yet.

So… uh… now what do we watch? Season 4 will likely not air in the UK until September and not until January 2014 in the US. (That is, unless PBS decides to air the episodes earlier!) Luckily, the UK has no shortage of quality period dramas full of gorgeous clothes. The gals at Yes Totally are certified Anglophiles, so we can guide you through the best.

Gosford Park – While not a TV series, this movie inspired Downton Abbey, so it’s definitely worth a view – especially since it was written by Downton creator, Julian Fellows. This time, Gosford Park is the name of the stately manor where all of the action takes place. Essentially, the movie is a murder mystery that involves all members of the household. As an added bonus, you get to see an absolute WEALTH of British actors ranging from Michael Gambon (Dumbledore!), badass mofo Helen Mirrin, and even Maggie Smith, playing an early version of our snarky dowager countess.

Upstairs Downstairs – You might call this the original Downton. The series ran during the ’70s and followed the lives of a wealthy family and their servants living in fashionable Belgravia. The show also covered a similar time period, spanning 1903-1930. The acclaimed series won many British awards and even managed to snatch up some Emmys and Golden Globes here in the US. In 2010 the series was revived by the BBC to compete with Downton, but ultimately lost the ratings war, and was axed after only 2 seasons. I’ve never actually seen either of these two, but intend to very soon!

Pride and Prejudice - The miniseries that launched millions of hearts a-flutter. Of course, I’m referring to the lovely 1995 BBC version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. This is still the standard I hold all British dramas to. It’s wonderfully cast and visually beautiful, with every Regency period detail in order. I’m not going to risk overselling it to you, but it’s worth a look at, regardless if you are interested in Jane Austen or not.

Cranford - You won’t necessarily see costume and location porn in Cranford. Instead, you’ll get to know the folks in the small village of Cranford and what encompasses their lives. Adapted from Elizabth Gaskell’s three novellas, the story mainly focuses around the female inhabitants who struggle to maintain their comfortable, traditional way of life. The cast is superb, starring Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, and hunky ginger, Simon Wood.

Lark Rise to Candleford – Similar to Cranford, this series focuses on the small town life. Lark Rise is a poor village, home to laborers and farm workers. Their neighboring market town of Candleford is much wealthier and the series often uses this juxtaposition to form storylines. It stars the talented Julia Sawalha as Candleford’s headstrong postmistress. You can also find her in both Pride and Prejudice and Cranford, so she might as well be the queen of British period drama. Also VERY familiar is our own Mister Bates, Brendan Coyle, who plays another long-suffering, working class hero.

North & South – Can’t get enough of Mr. Bates? He makes ANOTHER appearance as a poor working class stiff. Dude, TYPECASTED. This time he works for a terrible cotton factory, owned by the dreamy, dreamiest Richard Armitage. You heard me. Thorin Oakenshield the head DWARF in the Hobbit. I’m still mad about the beard thing. Anyway, this is also an adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s works, so if you like Cranford, give this one a try as well. Again, it shows the contrast between the rich and poor upon a small town backdrop.

Sherlock - Okay, seriously. If you haven’t watched Sherlock yet, I don’t know if we can continue being friends. It doesn’t really fit on this list at all since it takes place during modern times, but it is simply the best British drama to have come out in years. Yes, much better than Downton and its soap opera-y tendencies. A thoroughly modern reboot of the franchise, each episode of Sherlock is like watching a movie. Indeed, an episode is an hour and a half, so there is plenty of time to develop a strong plot. I’m so pleased that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are getting international recognition. Please, spend your non-Downton time off watching this series. It doesn’t start up again until 2014, so you have plenty of time to fall in love with such a clever show.


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