my favorite period drama miniseries | part 2

by | May 20, 2021 | Favorite Things | 27 comments

I wrote a blog post about my favorite period dramas miniseries a few years ago and it was such a popular post that it was worth adding to the list.  Period drama miniseries are my absolute favorites, especially the ones based on Jane Austen and Charles Dickens novels.  I will give any of them a try, though.  Here are some that weren’t shared on my list last time or have been made since then…

little women

This adaptation of Little Women was about to come out on PBS when I wrote my last list and I really loved it.  I know I’m not alone in feeling a little sad and frustrated by some of the turns the story takes, but I feel like this series addressed those very well while staying true to the novel.  It’s definitely my favorite version of Little Women.  I also love the music!

favorite period drama series | little women | miss mustard seed

all creatures great & small

This recent adaptation of All Creatures Great & Small is so wonderful!  It’s wholesome and entertaining and I can’t get enough of the idyllic scenery and all of the beautiful knits!  I have since read the first book and, while the details of the story are dramatized a bit for TV, I think they did a nice job capturing the spirit of the book.

favorite period drama series | all creatures great and small | miss mustard seed

jamaica inn

I revisited Jamaica Inn in January and enjoyed it even more then than I did the first time.  It has a Poldark sort of vibe to it, maybe a little Brontë thrown in.  The heroine is a young woman sent to live with her closest relatives – an aunt & uncle who run an inn and a little smuggling business on the side. It’s a little dark and moody with good people getting caught up in a bad situation.  It’s a lesser-known series that some of you may enjoy!

jamaica inn | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

miss scarlet & the duke

The two leads in Miss Scarlet & the Duke are wonderful and the series is a nice balance of stand-alone mysteries to solve in each episode with an overarching story that threads it together.  It is funny, suspenseful, and enjoyable.  I cannot wait for season two to come out.

miss scarlet and the duke | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

jamestown

This series is a bit of a mixed bag, so I almost didn’t add it, but I do love some of the characters and storylines.  Over three seasons, it tells the story of the Jamestown settlement through the eyes of three women.  It is not particularly historically accurate and the series ends in an unsatisfying place (I think it was canceled, so many storylines are left hanging), but it’s still worth a watch.  As I said, there are some characters that you’re rooting for, so it’s enjoyable from that perspective.

jamestown | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

poldark

Poldark is another mixed bag for me.  I feel like some storylines are interesting and real winners and others seem forced and unnecessary.  It can get a little soap-opera-ish.  I don’t mind flawed heroes in a story, but there are times in this series when I don’t really like anyone!  But, it is beautifully made and there are redeeming qualities.

poldark | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

Mansfield Park

I actually love the 1999 movie version of Mansfield Park just a little bit better than this one, but this one includes Fannie’s brother along with some other storylines that aren’t in the movie version.  I enjoy seeing different takes on classic novels, so this is one I revisit when I’m in a Mansfield Park mood.

mansfield park | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

sanditon

I almost didn’t include Sanditon, because I know it’s controversial!  For those who don’t know, Sanditon is an unfinished Jane Austen novel.  The characters and setting are ones she created, but the amazing screenwriter, Andrew Davies, is the one creating the story where Jane Austen left off.  Andrew Davies has written the screenplays for several Jane Austen series, so I felt like this was in good hands.  It definitely pushes more content boundaries than other Austen series (instead of scandalous behavior being talked about, it’s actually shown), so just be aware of that.

(A few spoilers are in the paragraph below, so skip over it if you haven’t seen it yet!)

The other downside is that the end of season one was left at a very un-Austen-like place, which was incredibly disappointing.  The idea was to make a season two, which initially wasn’t going to happen.  The show has now been renewed for a second and third season, but the leading man, Theo James, is reportedly not returning.  So, in this series, it seems like Sidney Parker will end up being more of a Wickham or Willoughby when I’m guessing Austen intended for him to be more of a Darcy.

The upsides are the costumes and scenery are wonderful.  There are some wonderful characters typical of Austen’s stories and some that feel refreshingly new.  I personally love the storyline with Esther Denham and Lord Babington, but we’ll see where that goes.

I think you have to approach this series with the understanding that it’s based on Jane Austen characters in her world, but then it sorts of goes its own way.

sanditon | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

jane eyre

While there are some odd twists to this classic story, I do love how Jane Eyre is written.  Some of the dialogue is so, so good.  There are a few Jane Eyre versions that I like, but I really love this version of Jane Eyre by BBC.  I think the 1996 film version is more beautifully filmed, but I like how the BBC series covers the story a bit better.

jane eyre | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

the tenant of wildfell hall

This version of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an older one, but there are a few things I really love about it.  First of all the heroine is an artist and I love watching her paint the scenery and looking at the art supplies!  Second, I like how Gilbert pursues her.  I also love the houses in this one.

tenant of wildfell hall | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

the living & the dead

This one is a bit darker and it has some twists to it, but it is well made and I really enjoy the two leading characters.  I put The Living & the Dead on my watchlist years ago and only recently watched it!  I was sorry I waited so long.  I tore through it once I started.

the living and the dead | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

the paradise

If you liked Mr. Selfridge, you’ll enjoy The Paradise.  While this series does tell the story of the owner, the lead character is a shop-girl named Denise.  I enjoy watching her grow and how her creative approach to her work leads to advancement.

the paradise | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

the mill

I bought The Mill a few years ago on DVD, but it is now available to stream.  It gives a look at what life must’ve been like working at a mill, specifically for children and families.  It also follows the rise of unions and the fight for worker’s rights.  I enjoyed the characters and the story of this two-season series.

favorite period dramas | the mill tv series | miss mustard seed

godless

I hesitated to add this to the list because it is rated MA and it definitely earned that rating, mostly for violence and some other adult content.  The story is set in the American West, which was a violent place, and it follows a group of outlaws as well as a town made up almost entirely of women.  The only two men left are the sheriff and his deputy.  All of the rest of the men were killed in a mining accident.  One of the outlaws who broke off from the group is taking shelter in this town of women and the story goes from there.

The reasons why I decided to add this to my list are 1.) I think it’s underrated and 2.) there are some beautiful themes that run through this series.  Belonging, redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice, bravery…  It is very deep and so well-written.  The characters are all rich…the heroes aren’t all good and the villains, even though they seem to act without conscience, aren’t all bad.

So, I definitely suggest reviewing the content prior to watching if you have any concerns (I just fast-forwarded through some parts), but if you like a good western and stories with rich characters, this is a good one.

godless | favorite period drama series | miss mustard seed

I’m even thinking of more as I am typing, but I am going to leave the list there.  That should give everyone a suggestion or two to watch and I’ll share a part three when I’ve compiled another good list.  You can find more of my favorite period drama miniseries in THIS POST.

Which of your favorites am I missing?

27 Comments

  1. Monica

    Thank you for this – we’ve been really scraping the bottom of then barrel for something to watch!

    Reply
  2. Marilee

    Comment
    I loved North and South, probably have watched it at least once a year. One of my other favorites is Mercy Street. Unfortunately it was left up in the air. I think you had mentioned them in your previous posts. I also think Pillars of the Earth is excellent, stellar cast. I think it’s available on Amazon, but not sure. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1453159/

    Reply
    • Jenny Fitzgerald

      I LOVE North and South- I think it’s my all time favorite. I recently watch Ms Scarlet based on your recommendation and fell instantly in love!!!!

      Reply
  3. Kathleen

    Thanks so much for the heads up on these movies. Anxious to watch them!!

    Reply
  4. Meredith

    I really loved “Doctor Thorne” as well as “The Moonstone,” both still on Prime. You included a few new to me, and I look forward to checking them out!

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    Well we share more than just Home decor taste!! 🙂 Most of these are my favorites too! But I appreciate that full list! I found some new ones to take me into summer!! All the best- beautiful Marian!

    Reply
  6. Candice Hope

    I love it when you do this! I am a period drama junkie! I have seen some of these and some are on my list. Recently I have been watching Ripper Street, it is definitely for a MA audience but I really like it. And I love that it has Matthew McFayden in it because I love him as Mr. Darcy and as Father in the Nutcracker. I am also looking forward to watching Death and Nightingales on Starz.

    Reply
  7. CHI-Southside Mom

    I love everything BBC and shows on Acorn. I especially loved The Paradise and another show created by Bill Gallagher called Lark Rise to Candleford.

    Reply
  8. Cristie

    I also love Larkrise to Candleford! I’ve watched the series at least 3 times.

    Reply
  9. Crystal Brown

    I enjoyed Sanditon why was it controversial? It was pretty tame by today’s standards. I was really disappointed how it ended. Happy to hear it was renewed, but also sad Theo won’t be back… Also enjoyed Godless, it was thought provoking. Some others, I’ll need to check out. I loved the All Creatures Great and Small books, and still haven’t made the time to watch it. I also really enjoyed Call the Midwife. Which isn’t your typical period drama but it’s set in the time right after WWII and it was fun watching styles… and medicine change through the decades.

    Reply
  10. Julie | Home On The Hill

    I also enjoyed Sanditon, knowing it was only based on the unfinished novel by Jane Austen from the start meant you didn’t compare it to a finished story & I felt the characters had the correct Austen feel to them. Not sure I will like it so much ongoing though if the lead male character has left.

    We can’t get the new All Creatures Great & Small here in Australia without subscribing to a new streaming service who are the only ones showing it. 🙁

    One thing I do find annoying though is in some shows – not any you listed – the historical inaccuracy in character depictions, costumes etc ruins the show for me. When I know something is supposed to be set in a certain era but they are not being historically accurate in obvious ways it makes the story harder to believe. But maybe they rely on people being ignorant enough of history that they don’t even notice?

    I did enjoy the latest movie adaption of Emma starring Anya Taylor-Joy, it had a few departures from the original, but stayed fairly true overall.

    Reply
  11. Kris

    We have similar taste! However, I’m not an Austen fan and I tried to like Sanditon but was bored silly. I think the PBS version of Little Women was most true to the book …. I LOVED All Creatures although it departed somewhat from the story line in the books …. loved Miss Scarlett …. and I like, but don’t love, Poldark. It seemed eye-roll worthy in many places but there was something enticing about it.

    I agree with the other commenter about Call the Midwife–perhaps because I work in health care–it has the ring of authenticity. Mercy Street is another PBS drama and I was sad that it got cancelled–it was about a hospital during the Civil War which was in Union-occupied Virginia and I thought it did a great job of intersecting the different loyalties of the characters and how that would have played out in real life.

    A fun movie from several years ago is The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain. Love that one. Lightly humorous with quirky characters, it takes place during WWI in Wales. Map-makers from England come to a small town in Wales to map the mountains and the locals take it personally when they are told their “mountain” is, technically, a hill, and they take things into their own hands. It touches on concerns from the war, especially shell-shock.

    Reply
  12. Sue P.

    Thanks for the list and your comments. I’ve written down several that I need to see if I have access to. When my husband and I vacationed in Cornwall, UK in 2017 we visited the Botallack Mines and they were filming Poldark there that day! Ross and Dwight walked by us with some of the crew and a lot of “extras” were milling around. They told us not to take pictures of the actors but that was one time I was glad that my husband didn’t follow instructions well. 🙂
    I’m really enjoying watching “Atlantic Crossing” on PBS. I get an email each week from Masterpiece/PBS explaining what was historically accurate and what was just made up.

    Reply
  13. Gay Correll

    If you get the chance to watch the James Herriot series from the 70’s, I think you’ll be pleased. It is more true to his books than the new shows, though we enjoyed them (but really, older is best!!)

    Reply
    • Paula Moreshead

      I totally agree with your comment regarding the older version of All Creatures. I have loved that series for years as it feels more authentic than the newer version, although I enjoyed certain things about the new one. I feel that I’m in the minority when it comes to British dramas since I almost always love older versions. It seems that the major emphasis was on the story and characters and not so much on production. I’ve been watching British dramas since they started in the 70’s, and my mom watched the original Upstairs, Downstairs.

      Reply
  14. Gayle

    I hate to come across as scandalous, but Bridgerton on Netflix was good. The costumes, the mystery, the music. However, it should be rated at least R and is not for families with children. It does show sexual scenes between married people.

    Reply
  15. Kathyk

    Are you watching Atlantic Crossing? So good! Have you watched Dickensian? Fascinating blend of dickens stories creating a backstory to each.

    Reply
  16. Babs

    I love most period dramas but some of them just seem to disappear into thin air…like what happened to the story lines?? I could not get into Poldark even though I tried mightily. I enjoy the costumes, furnishings and exterior architecture as well as the stories. Grantchester was quite enjoyable as were so many others.

    I don’t watch regular tv much but will watch these series over and over. Feel like I am not really wasting time on fluff since they are “educational” or at least, that is what I tell myself.

    Reply
    • Patricia Emsley

      I couldn’t get into Poldark either. Just way too much drama. It was too painful to watch. I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t and I like almost all period dramas, old and new, original and remake. Except Poldark.:)

      Reply
  17. Nancy Sullivan

    Try these old PBS mini series A Town Like Alice and The Ginger Jar. They are both taken from really good books, but the mini series are very nice and a couple of my favorites that you have not mentioned.

    Reply
    • Patricia Emsley

      Loved both of those.

      Reply
  18. Karen B.

    Rosemary,
    Thank you for this. I’m watching Little Women as we speak. I had never seen this particular version. I love it.
    I’m saving the list so I can watch them one by one. I’m in need of some new shows.
    Karen

    Reply
  19. Emily Cleverly

    I am so glad to have some new recommendations, period dramas make my life better. Not kidding. A good show to watch is one of my very favorite pleasures. I really, really loved all creatures great and small. I watched it twice, the second time with my 9 year-old daughter. It was really fun to have an entertaining show for us to bond over.

    Reply
  20. Laura

    I haven’t seen anyone mention Outlander. It is truly one of my favorite series! Warning though, sex scenes in almost every episode so definitely NOT for families/children! I love the storyline Claire and Jamie create and the landscape/scenery and staging are both absolutely stunning!
    Other series/movies I’ve loved are Larkrise to Candleford, The Buccaneers, Cranford, Downton Abbey, Pride & Prejudice (Keira Knightley), The Paradise, Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow), Mercy Street, Turn (Washington’s Spies).

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I love some of those as well! I mentioned Mercy Street in part one. I failed to mention Turn, but that one is great, too.

      Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

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