Fans of Downton Abbey will have to wait several months for the addictive drama to return to the screen, leaving unanswered questions and only a few spoilers to tide viewers over until Season Three returns on PBS Masterpiece Classics.
Until then, however, there are plenty of mini-series, television shows and feature films that are sure to appeal to Downton fans, whether they're drawn to the show because of the thrill of historical dramas, the bosom-heaving romances among the upper and lower classes or simply want more of the writers, producers and actors that make Downton Abbey so unforgettable.
From films like Gosford Park to help Maggie Smith fans get their Lady Violet fix to mini-series like North & South to capture the smouldering fire behind the Branson-Sybil romance, here are seven shows (and several films) for fans to watch as they wait for Season Three of Downton Abbey.
1. For Those Who Want Another 'Downton'
Also known as the 'Downton Abbey' before 'Downton Abbey,' 1970s Masterpiece Upstairs, Downstairs produced five seasons of winning drama with a healthy dash of political intrigue. Beginning in 1903, the original series begins in the Edwardian era and carries its two families (the wealthy Bellamys and their servants) through the First War and Inter-War period in the fashionable London neighborhood of Belgravia.
All of Upstairs, Downstairs is available on Netflix Instant and on DVD. For those who find the original series somewhat dated, however, a new version of the show began in 2010, featuring a new family in the Bellamy townhouse but with Jean Marsh reprising her role as Rose Buck, now head housekeeper. The first season is now available on DVD, with the second season now running in the U.K. and set to be on PBS Masterpiece in the months to come.
Watch the first part of Upstairs, Downstairs below:
2. For Those Who Can't Get Enough of Maggie Smith
Before Smith was Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess, she was Constance, the Countess of Trentham. The 1930s cheeky murder mystery Gosford Park, with a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon,Clive Owen and Stephen Fry, is another Julian Fellowes-penned classic. It also features some of Maggie Smith's best zingers on the silver screen, including one memorable line after a character's death: It's a pity, really. I thought it was a good idea to have someone in the house who is actually sorry he's dead. The movie can be found on Netflix Instant or on DVD.
Watch the trailer for Gosford Park below:
3. For Those Who Were Rooting for Matthew and Mary
For those who can't stay away from the will they/won't they/almost did/now they are storyline--and really, who can avoid those in period dramas--checking old the Pride and Prejudice mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The series' six-episode arc revitalized both period adaptations and Jane Austen mania, and the sexual and intellectual chemistry between Firth's Mr. Darcy and Ehle's Elizabeth Bennett is unrivaled in almost any other production. The series is available on Netflix Instant and on DVD.
For those who can last until mid-April, meanwhile, PBS Masterpiece will be airing a new version of the World War I era love story Birdsong in the U.S., focusing on the affair between a soldier and a married woman. Based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks, the series stars Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Wrayford and Clemence Poesy of Harry Potter fame as Isabelle Azaire.
Watch a clip from Pride and Prejudice below:
4. For Those Who Were Rooting For Sybil and Branson
Unlike the back-and-forth botched proposals of Matthew and Mary, Sybil and Branson's romance is another breed of period drama angst: the slow burning romance, featuring two characters from completely different worlds who feel an immediate attraction and spend the whole series trying to overcome the barriers between them. And when it comes to that level of smouldering passion, few do it better than Richard Armitage as John Thorton and Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale in the 2004 mini-series North & South.
Not to be confused with the ampersand-less Civil War drama starring Patrick Swayze, John and Margaret's love story is set against the backdrop of a social turmoil similar to what separates Branson and Sybil (if set a few decades beforehand), with Armitage playing a self-made man from the industrial North and Denby-Ashe as the genteel daughter of a reformist clergyman in the South. Armitage's smouldering turn as John Thornton has made him as post-Darcy sex symbol for the period drama-loving crowd, and Downton Abbey fans who love Mr. Bates will be thrilled to see Brendan Coyle co-star as union leader Nicholas Higgins. The mini-series can be found on Netflix Instant or on DVD.
Watch a clip from North & South below:
5. For Those Who Want To O.D. On Masterpiece Classics
Masterpiece Classics is about to have a serious case of Charles Dickens fever. Having already aired The Curiosity Shop, April 1 will see the start of a 2-part mini-series taking on Great Expectations, often heralded as one of the author's greatest works and starring Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, Douglas Booth as Pip, Vanessa Kirby as Estella and David Suchet of Hercule Poirot fame as Jaggers. Then, on April 15, the psychological thriller The Mystery of Edward Drood, based on the final novel by Dickens, will finish a month of Victorian literary adaptations, with a cast that includes Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) and Julia MacKenzie (Miss Marple).
Watch the trailer for Great Expectations below:
6. For Those Who Crave More Julian Fellowes
Although reviews for Fellowe's take on the unsinkable ship in new mini-series Titanic have been mixed in the previews, critics who love the four-hour series set to air April 14 and 15 on ABC have praised it as a retelling that cleverly weaves action, mystery and romance.
As with Downton Abbey, Fellowes is juggling a huge cast and several distinct plotlines. Unlike at Downton, however, where the war touches its residents largely (though no less potently) in an indirect fashion, Titantic promises plently of action, which considering how close it arrives to the James Cameron film's theatrical re-release can only help it along. Fans of Downton Abbey, meanwhile, will recognize one character, Mrs. Bately, as Maria Doyle Kennedy, the actress responsible for making Mrs. Bates one of the most deliciously hateful characters in the Downton universe.
Watch the trailer for Titanic below:
7. For Those Who Want A Modern Take On Old Classics
Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton is not only responsible for bringing classic pieces like Pride and Prejudice to TV viewers and promoting the work of Julian Fellowes through productions like Downton Abbey. She's also responsible for helping to bring iconic works into modern times, promoting writers who refashion some of English literature's best loved characters and stories and bring them into the 21st century.
In her 25 years at Masterpiece, one series in its Mystery series stands head and shoulders above the rest: BBC's Sherlock. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, the show boast three hour and a half episodes per season (the U.K. just finished enjoying its second run now) based on some of the great detective's most well-loved cases and penned by scriptwriting geniuses Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, The Adventures of Tin-Tin), Mark Gatiss (Doctor Who, Lucifer Box) and Stephen Thompson (Damages). Anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes or who simply can't get enough of beautifully shot television that acknowledges and celebrates its viewers' intelligence should check out this show asap. The first season is currently available on Netflix Instant and on DVD.
Watch a clip from BBC's Sherlock below:
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