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…
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?