Thursday, February 4, 2016

If you like Downton Abbey...

It's an international phenomenon.  I doubt the creators of Downton Abbey knew just how popular this show would become.  I'll admit that I haven't been watching from the very start, but I did become a fan when the first season was wrapping up.  It has all the glory of a time period drama with a little more "risky business" and clever dialogue.  

With the last season currently airing in the U.S, you might soon be looking for something to fill the void.  Many would recommend Upstairs, Downstairs as it has a very similar story line of following the residents as well as the servants, but I personally couldn't get into that one for whatever reason.  So although these are not all just like Downton Abbey, here are a few suggestions of shows that I have watched and enjoyed.  And I'm even throwing a couple of books into the mix this time. 

1) Gran Hotel

I think this is best described as Spain's version of Downton Abbey mixed with a soap opera. The only obstacle may be that it is all in Spanish and therefore subtitled, but I promise it is worth it!  Grand Hotel is the story of a young man who comes to work incognito at a luxury hotel on the coast in order to find his missing sister.  There is love, murder and betrayal mixed with comedy.  If you're like me, you will love the character Javier (hilarious) and be insanely jealous of Alicia (gorgeous).  This one's at the top of my list and all seasons are available to watch on Netflix.

2) Mr. Selfridge

This show is part of the Masterpiece Classics series on PBS.  It follows the rise of an American businessman, Harry Selfridge, and his London department store.  The time setting is very similar to Downton, and also has characters in varying social classes.  There are some more adult themes, such as adultery, in this show but it doesn't get too naughty.  To date there are four seasons (well more like 3.5) available to watch at Simply June

3) Call the Midwife

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife is the story of midwives based out of a convent in poverty-stricken East London during the 1950s.  They ride from flat to flat on their bicycles, bringing babies into the world in sometimes deplorable conditions.  A couple of the nuns are quite funny, as is Nurse Stokes, but there are also really touching stories of families dealing with love and loss.  Warning:  If you are squeamish about childbirth, this might not be the show for you.  All the episodes are available to watch at Simply June.

4) Doc Martin

K, this one might be a little bit of a stretch as far as relating to Downton Abbey.   They really don't have anything in common except that they are British shows.  But I love it, so thought I would recommend it.  Dr. Martin Ellingham is a London surgeon who suddenly develops a blood phobia and moves to a private practice in the small coastal town of Portwenn.  It reminds me a little of the U.S. show House in that this doctor is socially awkward, to say the least.  But it is an upbeat and light-hearted watch and very entertaining.  It is available on Netflix.

5) The Crimson Field

Now I'm on a bit of a medical roll, aren't I?  Before I get into the details of this show, I should warn you that it was cancelled and so if you don't like to be left hanging maybe you shouldn't watch it.  I thought it had a lot of potential and watched it as it aired in the U.S. on PBS, so I'm bummed that they pulled the plug.  It is the story of a medical camp in France during WWI.  The doctors, nurses, and soldiers all come from different backgrounds and are there for different reasons, but united in the cause.

7) The Painted Veil

This is another stretch, but I love both of these actors!  The movie is a tad bit on the slow side but really heart-wrenching.  Edward Norton plays a British doctor who takes his loveless bride along with him to small village in China to treat a cholera epidemic.  It is an excellent period piece and worth watching in my opinion.

8)  The Forsythe Saga

The Forsythe Saga is a BBC miniseries made in 2002 that chronicles the lives of the Forsythe family over a span of three decades.  This one is all drama and I would say it is a little on the darker side.  Damian Lewis gives a haunting performance as Soames. 

9) Mercy Street

This show is currently airing on PBS and so far I have mostly loved it.  There are a couple of scenes it could certainly do without, but isn't that the way of most TV and movies these days?  I'm fascinated by Civil War stories and this is set in a Union Hospital in the border state of Virginia.  You can watch episodes now on PBS.

10) North & South

And while we're on the subject of the Civil War, I'm taking it back to the good old days of 1980s television miniseries with North and South.  I remember this on TV when I was a kid.  I have since bought it on DVD for my mom and now for myself.  Sure, it's a bit cheesy as a lot of 80s television is, but it's still worth watching.  It's the story of two friends on different sides of the Civil War. 

And I told you I'd throw in a couple books as a little bonus!

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I really enjoyed this book. It's the story of Cora Cash who seeks a titled husband abroad.  Daisy Goodwin does an excellent job of transporting the reader back in time to the turn of the century.  There are some twists and turns and you might find yourself second guessing.  If nothing else, it will leave you rooting for true love.  Very Downtonesque.

And the other book I'm recommending is also by the same author:

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

This is the story of Charlotte, an heiress to a fortune and avid photographer (a girl after my own heart!); Bay Middleton, a playboy horseman who can't seem to decide what he wants; and Sisi, Empress of Austria.  A love triangle to be sure.  Interesting to note is that these are all real characters and some of the story line is true.  You can even look up a couple of the photographs mentioned in the book.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hopefully you will enjoy one or two of these recommendations.  If you have recommendations of your own, I'd love to hear them.  Just leave a comment below :)

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