The British just know what makes good television and film (hello The Office! Pride & Prejudice! Harry Potter!), and they have a long and storied history to pull from when it comes to telling good stories. Case in point: Downton Abbey. American audiences were immediately drawn to the series when it finally hit the airwaves on PBS in 2011, so much so that it won six Primetime Emmy Awards in its first year. And the rest, as they say, is history as fans were obsessed with the trials and tribulations of the Crawley family as they struggled to maintain their manor and keep up with the changing times.
Luckily, there are a ton of other great British dramas (cough, Bridgerton, cough) about conflicted and complicated families at the turn of the century or even before. If you recently watched Shonda Rhimes’ Regency-era gift of a show and now are on a prowl for more saucy shows like Bridgerton, you’ve come to the right place. If you love the history, the clothes, or just the never-ending drama, we went ahead and rounded up the best series from the other side of the pond. The following shows are worth tracking down on any streaming platform for a solid weekend reverie into the British countryside and strict traditions of British society.
Come for Ross Poldark heroically riding his horse on the cliffs of Cornwall, stay for the romance, the family scandals, and endless issues with the mines. While Downton Abbey focuses more on society life, Poldark is set in the countryside and zones in on what it takes for a mine-owning family to keep their business (and jobs for the lesser off) alive in troubling times. And believe me, they are always troubling.
People cannot get enough of this Netflix series. Part Gossip Girl, part Downton Abbey, and part Pride and Prejudice, fans of any of those will love this show. There is dark humor, romance, and of course, a lot of empire-waist gowns. What more do you need?
3. Upstairs, Downstairs
This might be one of the closest shows to Downton Abbey that you can get, though it is a little more hilarious and less dramatic. The title refers to the fact that in a storied British manor, there is the noble family upstairs and then the surly staff downstairs. Quite frankly, it’s hard to pick a side, too.
4. Howards End
There are a ton of adaptations of E.M. Forster’s novel, in both television and movie form. While most are great, the 2017 Hulu series starring Succession‘s Matthew Macfayden and Tracey Ullman is a fun one to start with. The show is, like Downton Abbey, a story about the turn of the 20th century in England told through three families: the smartypants Schlegels, the wealthy and snooty Wilcoxes, and the Basts, a working-class family.
5. Call The Midwife
If you love the period-piece aspect of Downton Abbey, Call The Midwife should be your next long-haul watch. Luckily, there are a ton of seasons available to start with and you’ll be instantly drawn to the tale of a group of midwives and how they help each other and other women in their moment of need. All while dealing with their own personal dramas, too.
6. Da Vinci’s Demons
This show turns history on its head and gives Leonardo da Vinci one of the coolest origin stories. The series — filled with mystery, adventure, and a quest for the truth — follows 25-year-old Da Vinci. Just as brilliant as history describes, this Da Vinci proves ahead of his time, and his way of thinking makes him a target for rulers who aren’t ready for his genius.
7. The Crown
It’s no secret the royal family has been subject to a bit of drama over the past few years, but the excitement is much older than Twitter. The Crown is a dramatic historical retelling of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Beginning in the 1940s and stretching into the present, the series brings history to life and squeezes decades of romance, rivalry, and personal conflicts into one Netflix series.
Dickinson is a creative coming-of-age series that follows iconic wordsmith Emily Dickinson throughout her young adult life. In this clever series, Hailee Steinfeld plays a young Dickinson as she embarks on a journey to understand how she relates to society, her family, and her sexuality. Dickinson may be a 19th-century poet, but this series makes her relatable, funny, and a character that truly jumps off the page.
More Shows Like Downton Abbey
- The Durrells
- The Tudors
- War & Peace
- Wolf Hall
- North & South
- Gentleman Jack
- Lark Rise To Candleford
- Ordeal By Innocence
- The Spanish Princess
- Bleak House
- The Windsors
- North & South