A few years ago, I watched the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for the first time. It sparked the beginning of my admiration for period dramas, and since then, I seem to have developed a weakness for any film that takes place in the Regency era. Maybe it’s the dazzling costumes, the beautiful soundtracks or the scenes where the two main love interests share a few dramatic stares of longing from across the dance floor. But for a while, my list of period dramas had fallen short. I had been struggling to find a new show or film that I hadn’t seen already—until Bridgerton was released on Netflix last year.
Bridgerton received a ton of buzz when its first season was released in December of 2020, but since the release of season two in March, it seems to have grown even more popular. The show is centred around the upper-class Bridgerton family in England and their lives as well-admired and highly established socialites. As each of the siblings tackle the ups and downs of finding love, they are also forced to deal with the high society scandal sheet written by the anonymous Lady Whistledown who does not refrain from sharing their precious secrets with the public.
I binge-watched the entire season in two days. I really enjoyed it, however, I will have to admit that I enjoyed the second season way more than the first. Maybe it was the slow burn and the enemies-to-lovers plotline that really sold me, but I also think that I was just way more interested in Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley’s characters. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love some good friendly banter?
Since I already finished the second season, I’ve been in desperate need of some new recommendations. If you’re feeling the same way, look no further! Luckily, there are countless other period drama shows that might be able to fulfill your desire for some romance and scandal, which I discuss in detail down below. But if you’d rather just rewatch Pride and Prejudice for the fifth time, I won’t blame you. After all, Mr. Darcy’s hand flex scene will forever remain superior.
Sanditon is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s final and unfinished novel. It follows the high-spirited Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) who moves to a quiet fishing village called Sanditon, where she meets the handsome Sidney Parker (Theo James). The series makes sure to include many of the elements that are typical of Jane Austen’s novels—the topic of marriage, social class, and of course, romance. When the first season debuted on PBS Masterpiece back in January 2020, it was a hit with audiences. According to The New York Times, the premiere was the most watched Masterpiece episode of the year and the average audience was more than twenty percent higher than their other period dramas. Despite its success, Sanditon was cancelled after its first season, but thanks to the outpouring support from fans, the show was brought back after PBS announced its return in May 2021. There have been many new cast members added to the show, and even though heartthrob Theo James won’t be returning, the new season has been well liked by audiences so far. It’s also not too late to start streaming the series either—according to PBS, the series will release its six episodes from Sunday, March 20 through Sunday, April 24. So make sure to start streaming Sanditon with PBS Masterpiece on Prime Video before the season finale is released.
Set in eighteenth century London, this drama follows Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton), a brothel owner and mother to two daughters; Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy (Eloise Smyth). When Margaret’s business is attacked by Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), a war breaks out over the city’s most profitable source of income—sex. Described as “obscenely enjoyable” by The Guardian, this series is led by a diverse range of strong yet cunning female characters. After premiering in 2017, Harlots ran for three successful seasons but was unfortunately canceled by Hulu in 2019. You can watch it with BritBox on Prime Video, and even though there won’t be any new seasons to look forward to, you can totally just binge the entire series in one day.
This hilarious and not-so accurate biography of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) and Peter III of Russia (Nicholas Hoult) is the perfect mix of stunning costumes, satire and morally grey characters. If you’re a fan of dark comedies but still enjoy romance, drama and sabotage, The Great could be your new favourite show. This series explores Catherine the Great’s journey to becoming Russia’s longest reigning female leader, and since its release in 2020, it has done quite well with audiences. It is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, achieving a Tomatometer score of 88% with many critics praising Fanning and Hoult for their performances. Not only that, but according to Harper’s Bazaar, The Great won’t be abandoning audiences any time soon—the series has been renewed for a third season, and in an interview, executive producer Marian Macgowan revealed that the team originally pitched six seasons. If you’re interested in diving into this wickedly fun series, you can start streaming it on Prime Video now.
HBO’s The Gilded Age is one of this year’s newest period dramas. It has been receiving quite a bit of craze online, especially after the release of its season finale on March 21. Deadline revealed that the show earned 1.6 million viewers across HBO platforms, growing from its initial 1 million viewers to 8.5 million. Set in 1880s New York, the series follows Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) who moves to New York to stay with her old-money aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon), before getting caught up in a social war between railroad tycoon George Russell (Morgan Spector), his wife Bertha (Carrie Coon) and their son Larry (Harry Richardson). Between this stellar cast and impressive ratings, it looks like The Gilded Age will be a strong contender at future award shows, and audiences should be prepared for the release of more seasons ahead.
Available on Apple TV+, Dickinson is a fictionalized coming of age story that follows poet Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) and her journey to becoming one of the world’s greatest poets. As she struggles to conquer the limitations of being a woman in the nineteenth century, Emily Dickinson chooses to rebel against society’s strict expectations in order to make her poetic voice heard. After receiving countless award nominations and wins, Dickinson has been praised for its ability to represent important issues with a modernized lens. The series has also been admired for its LGBTQ+ rep, specifically between Dickinson and Ella Hunt’s character Sue Gilbert. Despite the show’s time period, today’s audiences are undoubtedly able to relate to the issues portrayed in Dickinson. The series recently came to an end after the release of its third and final season back in December, but showrunner Alena Smith revealed that the vision was always to tell Emily Dickinson’s story through a three-part journey. So, if you’re looking for a series that is not too long and doesn’t have an abrupt ending, Dickinson might be the one for you.
I can’t guarantee that all of these shows will meet the same standards as Bridgerton or Pride and Prejudice, but they are definitely worth a try. Enjoy!