Tonight, at 8/7 Central, Masterpiece Theater will present season two of Poldark on PBS and I am very much looking forward to it. In fact, I’m so much looking forward to it, I decided to compile a list of my top 5 picks from Masterpiece Classic.
If you love a good period drama be sure to check these and others out in the Masterpiece Archives for more information.
5. Indian Summers
I enjoy this series mostly because it is a part of history that I am not familiar with. Taking place in 1930s India, the series follows both British and Indian characters as the political and social climate shifts closer and closer to independence. Add in a bit of ambition, manipulation, and plenty of secrets, and you’ve got yourself a drama!
4. Little Dorrit
This miniseries, based on the Charles Dickens novel, came out on Masterpiece in 2009, but it’s still one of my favorites. Little Dorrit tells the story of Amy Dorrit, a faithful daughter who has grown up caring for her father inside the Marshalsea debtor’s prison, and Arthur Clennam, a man of some means who uncovers a mystery that may connect his family to the Dorrits’ misfortunes.
I have always had trouble reading Dickens, but seeing this miniseries and knowing how much I enjoyed the story onscreen is what gave me the strength to finally power through and finish the novel (I also went on to give Great Expectations another try too).
Well, I had to include it on the list, it’s the whole reason I’m making it!
Based on the book series by Winston Graham, Poldark follows Ross Poldark on his return to England from fighting in the American Revolution. His family’s mine sits abandoned and the girl he loves is engaged to his best friend, but Ross isn’t a man to be kept down. He re-opens the mine and seeks to improve not only his own fortunes, but the lives of his workers in a world dictated by class and money, ruffling more than a few feathers along the way.
2. Mercy Street
So, technically this one doesn’t fall under the Masterpiece banner, but it’s a PBS produced drama that aired during its time slot this spring, and I think it’s on track to become a great show, so I’m including it.
Taking place during the Civil War, it centers around a hotel converted into a Union hospital in Alexandria, Virginia and explores all the characters connected to it, from the southern family who once owned the property, to the doctors who serve there, and the soldiers from both sides that come and go.
Notable among the cast are Josh Radnor’s flawed but determined Dr. Jedediah Foster, a loyal Unionist from a slaveholding family. Often butting heads with Dr. Foster is the ambitious but less able Dr. Byron Hale, played by Norbert Leo Butz. Hannah James also provides a solid performance as the southern belle turned volunteer nurse whose loyalties are tested as her experiences open her eyes.
What I like best about this series, though, is that it is produced by PBS and shot in Virginia. That’s right: well crafted period pieces aren’t just for the BBC any more! Not that I dislike the BBC, they’re great; it’s just so exciting to see other outlets working on shows like this, especially American ones, because it’s more for me to choose from.
1. Downton Abbey
No list on Masterpiece Theater would be complete without Downton Abbey. Six seasons following the ups and downs of the aristocratic Crawley family and their household staff as they weather industrialization, WWI, the Jazz Age, and shifting class structure.
It’s amazing to compare the costuming and hairstyles season to season; you really see how quickly the world changed as it left the Edwardian era and approached the cusp of the modern age. It can get a bit soapy at times, but you’re so invested in the characters you really don’t care. If you haven’t watched this yet, you should not put it off any longer.
Seriously. If you’re not watching PBS yet, Lady Mary judges you.