Watching snippets of the Story of the Costume Drama on youtube last night made me think about my favourites over the years. From my list you can see that I like a good romance though it doesn’t necessarily have to be the main component, that I like Jane Austen but also admire Elizabeth Gaskell, that each has its quota of fine leading men but I don’t need to swoon over them to like the story. But above all, each of these are compelling stories, beautifully acted and produced, that can be viewed again and again.
So in chronological order:
1. Pride and Prejudice (1995)
This was the first series I saw, the one that got me hooked. So much so that 15 years on I’m still able to anticipate all the dialogue. I no longer rewind Colin Firth diving into the pond over and over again, by the way, however you may watch it here.
2. Persuasion (1996)
This isn’t a series but a film, and although a Jane Austen story, very different to Pride and Prejudice. I loved it because it was more gentle, and in many ways, more real. The climax of the story is a beautiful, delicate proposal scene.
3. Our Mutual Friend (1998)
This series again opened my eyes, because Charles Dickens writes of a very different world to Jane Austen – a darker, more brutal world. This story encompasses all levels of London Society, and gives insight into how it ticks. 1850 isn’t very different from 2009 in that it still runs on money and power, and in the middle of it all are two poignant love stories.
4. North and South (2004)
There was a bit of a drought after Our Mutual Friend, but it was truly broken by this classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. Like Our Mutual Friend, it is a gritty story, this time set in the middle of Industrial Revolution Manchester, where our protagonists, from the north and south of England, meet…
5. Jane Eyre (2006)
I’ve been in love with this classic by Charlotte Bronte ever since I was 14, but my love for the story positively grew with this series – the characters of Jane and Rochester came to life in such a vibrant way.
6. Cranford (2007)
This series, based on stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, is different again, in that it focuses on a life in a small town. It’s also a huge ensemble piece, with so many well-known British actors that it’s bewildering. Consequently, there are many plot lines, but I loved the gentle humour running throughout. This sequence has got to be the funniest!
7. Sense and Sensibility (2008)
You might think that after watching 15 years worth of Jane Austen adaptations I would be sick of them. But one can never get enough of Jane Austen adaptations, even when they have been successfully adapted, such as this one. Well, ‘success’ is a relative term, because any costume drama with a foppish Hugh Grant in it, I think, is suspect. Ironically, the actor playing the Hugh Grant role here looks a lot like Hugh Grant – but thankfully he wasn’t acting like a complete git.
So there you have it, my current favourites. I’m sure I will add to this list as time goes on, but there won’t be any coming off the list. Search them out, watch them, you won’t be disappointed.