Thursday, February 4, 2016

After Downton Abbey: Some fun shows and documentaries you might enjoy as much as I did...

Bye, bye Crawley family! It's been a blast!
And just like that, my beloved Downton Abbey has ended! On TV it is still airing in the US once a week. But, since we do not pay for TV channels anymore and only watch what we can stream, I pre-ordered Season 7 after Christmas and binge-watched it in 3 days upon its arrival. It ended very satisfactorily, but I'm also sorry to say goodbye to these characters.

What then for entertainment? We're still in the middle of very overcast, cold, rainy days here in the Pacific Northwest. Time to search for fun backups.

I will admit that none of them, sadly, have measured up to Downton, in my opinion. But there are some very fun documentaries out there that make you feel as if you're still in that world, or even centuries before it.  Here are some fun shows and documentaries I've discovered over the last few months to make me miss Downton Abbey (only slighty) less. All are available for streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime. None of them are boring, I promise.  At least, I didn't think so...

(Netflix)
While waiting for Downton season 7 to arrive I began watching Agatha Christie's Poirot, a show I've had in my Netflix queue for ages. David Suchet excellently plays Christie's fastidious Belgian sleuth. This is a show I don't normally binge-watch, but it is a fun show with a slower pace. This show has been running since 1989, with about 8 episodes per season. I'm only on Season 2.

(Amazon Prime)
Once Downton Abbey concluded, I watched the special features included on the DVDs, and then this one hour documentary about the manners and etiquette of the time. It is hosted by Alastair Bruce, consultant on all things Edwardian to Downton Abbey. From gloves to posture, nothing is overlooked. 

(Amazon Prime)
I love fashion and its history. Dr. Lucy Worsley takes you on a tour in this documentary of the evolution of British fashion in the monarchy. It affected more than you think. It also made me appreciate the comfortable clothes of today!

 (Amazon Prime)
Although I liked the doc on fashion better, this one is also interesting. I saw this one many months ago and understand the importance of the "royal bedchamber" more in an historical context. Producing a male heir was everything!

(Amazon Prime)
Speaking of male heirs, there's the story of Henry VIII--the spoiled, fearsome, played-by-his-own-rules king who was a spectacular failure when it came to fathering a healthy male heir. (His son, Edward VI died at 15.) Despite his 6 wives, 2 of which he beheaded, he did father Elizabeth I, one of the most memorable monarchs in British history. 

(Netflix)
After getting a thorough knowledge of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in her first starring role, made a lot more sense.  She's fabulous in this movie, holding her own with such presence while sharing screen time with Geoffrey Rush and Richard Attenborough. This movie does have an R rating, but it was also made in 1998, more like today's PG-13.
(Amazon Prime)
The silent character in Downton Abbey is, of course, the house itself, 
which is actually Highclere Castle. This documentary (which can also be found on YouTube) is a lot of fun, and hosted by the house's current owners, Lord and Lady Carnarvan. Yes, those Carnarvans, descendants of the Lord Carnarvan who funded the excavation of King Tut's tomb in 1922. That fabulous green wallpaper in the drawing room? A wedding present to the couple by the bride's father. You also learn about the monumental task of maintaining a huge country estate.

(Amazon Prime)
Another country house that has survived for over 500 years is Althorp, the childhood home of Princess Diana and her final resting place after her death in 1997. In this documentary Diana's younger brother, Charles, current owner of the house and it's earldom, shares the history of the estate and the Spencer family. Very interesting and fun.


(Amazon Prime)
The most surprising documentary I saw on England's country houses was about Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (pronounced "bew-lee.") Like Highclere and Althorp, Lord Montagu tried to come up with innovative ways to fund his estate's upkeep. The lengths he went to are amazing. I had never heard of Beaulieu until I saw this documentary. Nor did I know that over 1500 country houses were torn down after WWII because they were too expensive to run, making the remaining homes very special indeed. 

(Amazon Prime)
If you like shows that are a bit more intense, you might enjoy this 3-part mini-series. Be forewarned, there is a bloody scene in the first episode, but overall, it is pretty good with a satisfying ending. I've seen David Tennant in 4 different movies and he is one of those chameleon actors who is very good in every role. 

(Amazon Prime)
Currently I'm in the middle of episode 5 of BBC's Poldark, based on the book series by Winston Graham. I had never heard of the books until recently and the reviews say that the show is pretty faithful to them. It's about Ross Poldark, who, upon returning to Cornwall after fighting for Britain in the War of Independence, must reorder his life, his home, and business.  There are 8 episodes in Season 1 and they've kept my attention so far. 

Other British shows I've enjoyed over the last few years:
(Netflix or PBS.org)


(Amazon Prime)
 (Netflix)
(Amazon Prime)

I have NOT enjoyed, for various reasons:
Mr. Selfridge
Breathless
Grantchester
Last Tango in Halifax
Wallander

I enjoy shows that keep a good pace, have interesting characters and storylines and are not intense. Favorite current American show? Undoubtedly, The Good Wife. That's for another blog post. 

Happy watching!










1 comment:

Sharron Carmichael said...

Kristie, I, too enjoy "The Good Wife". Some of the characters I find very laughable. Just like real life. Sharron