With four seasons under its belt, “The Crown” has become one of TV’s star treats that viewer discretion advises should be savored in small bites. Otherwise, you’ll be binging the ten episodes in one sitting, then regretting you polished off the whole box (set) too quickly, feeling guilty about overdosing on one of the best Netflix series. But, of course, if the show began on November 15th, by now it’s very likely that many of you crown fans are already in search of fresh titles to bridge the gap left by the lack of intrigues of the British Royals, which included a nice helping of Lady Di and Margaret Thatcher this season. Especially now, that the fifth season won’t hit the streaming giant until 2022. To try and fill the void until then, we’ve put together a list of five very British titles and one American soap opera that should satisfy anyone’s craving for scandal, drama and romance.
A Very English Scandal (2018), Amazon
As the title already suggests, this addictive miniseries tells of a very English scandal indeed. In fact, you’ll find it hard to get your head around the fact that everything that happens is based on real events. In the late 1960’s Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party and Britain’s youngest political leader in the last century was on the verge of becoming the next prime minister. But the politician hides a secret that could end his career: his former gay relationship with model Norman Scott. At the risk of his ex-lover speaking out, Thorpe will lie until he has only one way left to silence Scott for good. Hugh Grant stars in the miniseries as the first British politician to be tried for conspiracy and incitement to murder; With Russell T. Davies (‘Years and Years’) as screenwriter and Stephen Frears (‘The Queen’) as director.
Victoria (2016), Movistar+
Climbing up the family tree of Elizabeth II of England, we come across her great-great-grandmother Victoria: an equally influential and long-lived queen who has also been deemed worthy of having her own series. Because the Victorian era, six decades of splendor marked by industrial, scientific and cultural advances, takes its name from this queen who ascended to the throne in 1837, at just 18 years old, and ruled until her death in 1901, at 82. With three seasons already released, and without getting too Deep into spoiler territory, ‘Victoria‘ begins by narrating the circumstances that led the young princess to the throne, the difficult relationship she had with her mother and her courtship and subsequent marriage with Prince Albert. In short: a perfectly delightful period drama.
Another real life scandal, this time in the form of a scam they pulled on none other than the ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ quiz show. In 2001 Charles Ingram, a former commander in the British Army, correctly answered all 15 questions in the show’s British edition. But the producers denied him the prize of one million pounds, as they suspected his triumph has been obtained in a somewhat unsportsmanlike manner. Then came a very long drawn out trial, a play and a book telling the whole story, only to be recently topped off with this miniseries, a black comedy about justice, a drama that raises complicated ethical questions and entertainment to match the format on which it is inspired. With the talents of Matthew Macfadyen (‘Succession’) and Michael Sheen (‘Masters of Sex’) on camera and Stephan Frears directing, you can’t go wrong!.
Gentleman Jack (2019), HBO
The fact that a woman in the nineteenth century was a landowner, intellectual, traveler, mountaineer and writer is already somewhat out of the ordinary. But, in addition, Anne Lister was a skillful openly lesbian seductress who not only defied the conventions of her time, but also related her passionate life in great detail in her extensive diaries which were the basis for Sally Wainwright (‘Happy Valley’) to create ‘Gentleman Jack’, a drama as attractive for its content as for its form. Regarding the former, the series begins by narrating how the restless Lister has just returned from one of her trips to Europe determined to transform her faded ancestral home and family farm, revitalize its coal mines and seek out a life partner. Piece of cake, right?. Well, in terms of the latter, Suranne Jones, our protagonist in this drama, constantly breaks the fourth wall to speak to the audience, a resource that perhaps we may have seen a little too often in recent series, but which in this case serves a clear purpose: to bring viewers closer to the original source of Lister’s diaries and invite us in as participants in her thought process, plans and concerns. So far, we only have one season, but the second is underway.
The Durrells (2016), Filmin
It may be a simplistic comparison, but ‘The Durrells’ are to British TV what ‘Cuéntame’, is to Spain, in that they’re both historical TV dramas with a hint of comedy. The premise: In 1930’s England, an impoverished widow, Louisa Durrell, sells the family home, packs up her four kids and moves to the Greek island of Corfu. Based on the popular Corfu Trilogy, the autobiographical work of the naturalist, zoologist and television presenter Gerald Durrell – the Carlitos of the Durrell clan –, this series tells how this wealthy family must adapt to a lifestyle far removed from the luxuries to which they had become accustomed from a perspective of comedy focused on the manners and customs. A delight for any Sunday afternoon, as the series already has four seasons. Just as a footnote, cast members include Josh O’Connor, aka, Prince Charles of England in ‘The Crown’.
Even though this one’s an American series, we can’t leave you without mentioning ‘Outlander’, because if you’re up for a healthy helping of romantic drama, together with a pinch of science fiction with your period drama, then you couldn’t find a better option than ‘Outlander’. Based on the novels of the same name by Diana Gabaldon, this series tells the story of Claire Randall, a combat nurse married in the 1940’s who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743. Forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a gentleman (and stocky) Scottish warrior, Claire becomes entangled in a passionate love triangle involving two men with wholly irreconcilable lives. In other words, sex and adventure in the Scottish Highlands, but also an interesting reflection on belonging, pain and the blowback associated with trauma. And the good news is that they’ve already been renewed for a sixth season!