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What to watch after 'Downton Abbey'

Here's what to watch after Downton Abbey...
Here's what to watch after Downton Abbey... (Image credit: ITV)

Desperate to know what to watch after Downton Abbey? Need a Downton fix after watching them all?!

The good news is a second movie version — Downton Abbey: A New Era — has just been filmed. The bad news? It’s not expected to hit our cinemas until 2022. But panic not. We’ve picked the best period family sagas for you to help fill the Downton Abbey gap. So whether it’s the sumptuous costumes and sets that appeal, the struggles of the plucky downstairs staff that touch you, or you just like to see rich people being as miserable as the rest of us, there’s something here for you.

 

Here's what to watch after Downton Abbey — Bridgerton

Rege-Jean Page (left) as Simon Basset and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in the Netflix series "Bridgerton."

Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor play Simon and Daphne. (Image credit: Netflix)

If you haven’t caught this series yet, you really must have been in complete and total isolation this past year.

Although it’s more corsets and carriages than Downton’s posh frocks and flash cars, the familiar politics of family, wealth and status still drive this show.

Set in the regency era, it sees widowed Violet Bridgerton presenting her daughter during debutante season. She hopes to find a suitable husband for Daphne, although the spirited girl has plans of her own.

The show caused a sensation when it launched, with leading man Regé-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings fast becoming the country’s number one heart throb. Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne was the other breakout star. She is the daughter of Coronation Street legend Sally Dynevor, who has played Sally in the soap opera for four decades, fact fans.

Word of warning, the series quickly grows far racier with its bedroom antics than we ever saw with the Crawleys and co. Let’s just say we wouldn’t like to be Sally sat at home watching our daughter doing all that Daphne does in episode six…

Number of seasons: 1 (season 2 due in 2022)

Episodes: 8

Average episode length: 58 minutes

Where to watch: UK: Netflix US: Netflix

Upstairs Downstairs

The classic 1970s UK series was a huge hit both at home and in the US. The series formula of master and servant tales told in tandem was undoubtedly the inspiration for Downton.

The show is set in a swish London townhouse rather than Downton’s country pile. However, it’s fair to say that the characters and quite a few of the stories will be reassuringly familiar to fans of Downton.

Spanning three decades from the early 1900s, it follows the Bellamys and their servants through the first world war and beyond, as the residents of the house are forced to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

The show was co-created by actress Jean Marsh, who won an Emmy for her role as Sarah the parlourmaid - just one of a cabinet full of gongs the show grabbed on both sides of the Atlantic.

The series also features future Oscar nominee Pauline Collins and soon-to-be Hollywood starlet Lesley Anne-Down.

And with five full series, it’ll keep you going for a while! And if that’s not enough, you can even seek out the continuation of the series that ran for two seasons from 2010.

Number of seasons: 5

Episodes: 68

Average episode length: 52 minutes

Where to watch:   US: Amazon Prime Video; UK: Britbox

Mr Selfridge

Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge.

Jeremy Piven plays the driven store owner Harry Selfridge. (Image credit: ITV)

This opulent drama brings us the real-life story of Harry Selfridge, who built and launched London’s famous department store.

Opening at the start of the century, as women’s’ freedoms and tastes broaden, the show sees Harry (Jeremy Piven, Entourage), on a mission to bring his new vision to shopping.

He puts his plan into action to build the biggest and best department store in the world. But as well as his struggle to make the store a success, Harry has to settle his family into London life.

Produced three years after Downtown first became a smash hit, the series was undoubtedly designed with Abbey fans in mind. Glorious sets and period attention-to-detail make it a real feast for the eyes. Meanwhile, the stories of the shop workers bring that above stairs/below stairs vibe to the drama. In fact, when launched in the UK, the series even inherited Downtown’s exact Sunday evening timeslot, just to nail the point home.

Number of seasons: 4

Episodes: 40

Average episode length: 45 minutes

Where to watch: US: PBS Masterpiece; UK: Britbox.

A Suitable Boy

Lata in the library with smitten Kabir.

Tanya Maniktala as Lata with her suitor Kabir (Danesh Razvi). (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

If you’d like your tale of family drama and class battles in a more opulent setting, then this might be the one for you.

Set in 1950s India after independence, the drama follows the efforts of Rupa Mehra (Mahira Kakkar) to arrange the marriage of her free-spirited university student daughter, Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala), to a "suitable boy". But guess what? Yes, it turns out Lata has very different ideas to her mum.

As well as the ever-present matters of class and status as Lata chooses between three suitors, the story is undercut by the religious tension – with one of Lata’s beaus Kibar being Muslim while she is Hindu.

The stunning drama was filmed on location in India, and was lauded for being a major BBC TV drama featuring an entirely non-white cast.

Number of seasons: 1

Number of episodes: 6

Average episode length: 58 minutes

Where to watch: US: Acorn TV; UK: BBC iPlayer.

Victoria

Doctor Who and The Serpent star Jenna Coleman stars as the legendary monarch in this lavish series. Think of it as a bit of a prequel to The Crown, as we follow the story of our current Queen’s great-great-grandmother from her ascent to the throne aged just 18.

We see Victoria’s marriage struggle as she juggles family life and Royal duty. Meanwhile, real-life historical events such as the Irish Famine of 1840 and her husband Albert’s drive to put on the famous Great Exhibition of 1852 push the drama along.

There’s also some below-stairs staff action, such as a forbidden romance between one of the Queen's ladies and a footman, which adds to the series’ heady mix.

Number of seasons: 3

Number of episodes: 25

Average episode length: 45 minutes

Where to watch: US: PBS Masterpiece; UK: Britbox.

The Forsyte Saga

The original 1967 BBC adaptation of John Galsworthy’s novels in 1967 was undoubtedly another inspiration for Downtown Abbey. The family saga was a ratings smash and set the standard for period dramas since.

This 2002 remake pulls out all the stops to live up to the original’s reputation. A star cast including Damian Lewis (Homeland) and Gina McKee (Bodyguard) and Rupert Graves (Sherlock). And the epic narrative has all our favourite themes of class, passion and families struggling to hang together in times of change.

The story follows two cousins, straight-laced Soames (Lewis), and the more free-thinking Jolyon (Graves). We follow the pair from the late 1800s into the 1900s, as their romantic choices impact the family, and their lives crossover several times through the decades.

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 10

Average episode length: 72 minutes

Where to watch:  US: Netflix/Amazon Prime; UK: Britbox.

Beecham House

Beecham House group shot of cast.

Tom Bateman leads the cast of Beecham House. (Image credit: ITV)

Downton in Delhi anyone? That’s certainly what producers were aiming for when they launched this spectacular drama set in India at the turn of the century.

The show sees Jon Beecham (played by Tom Bateman, Murder on the Orient Express) buy a glorious mansion for his family. Having grown uncomfortable with the some of the practices of the big trading company he was working for, he’s determined to start a new life and an honest business. But he can’t escape the secrets of his past and soon the matter of a mysterious child gets the servants gossiping.

For a real Downton touch, the show also stars Lesley Nichols – aka cook Mrs Patmore – as John’s domineering mother, Henrietta. She’s not quite as caustic as Downton’s Countess Violet, but Henrietta does bring a good dose of abrasion to the proceedings.

How many episodes: 6

Average episode length: 60 minutes.

Where to watch: US: PBS Masterpiece; UK: ITV Hub

Belgravia

Philip Glenister and Tamsin Greig

James and Anne, played by Philip Glenister and Tamsin Greig in Belgravia. (Image credit: ITV)

This one is the real deal – after all, it comes from Julian Fellows, who created and wrote Downton Abbey. This one-off series from 2020 is based on his novel of the same name.

The series opens on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo at a ball thrown by the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels. Among the guests are newly wealthy James and Anne Trenchard. Their daughter Sophia catches the eye of Edmund Bellasis, the son and heir of one of the richest and most prominent families in England.

Deals are made that night which will have consequences forever – as we’ll uncover 25 years later when the two families find themselves living cheek-by-jowl in Belgravia, a swanky part of London.

It might be set 100 years before Downton, but Julian Fellows has a ‘if it ain’t broken don’t fix it’ approach to this one. The series is packed with dashing men, terrible bounders, feisty women, and a nice smattering of servants below stars for good measure.

The all-star cast includes Philip Glenister (Life on Mars) and Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner).

Number of seasons: 1

Number of episodes: 6

Average episode length: 45 minutes

Where to watch: US: Epix; UK: Britbox.

You Rang M’Lord?

If it’s something a little lighter you’re after, may we point you to this classic BBC comedy series. Although devised as a spoof of Upstairs Downstairs, for reasons already outlined, that means it’s also not a million mile away from our beloved Downton Abbey.

Set in a posh London townhouse in the 1920s, the series follows the Meldrum family and its staff. The toffs upstairs are all brilliantly clueless or kind-hearted pushovers, while the workers below stairs are either on the make or too loyal to the family for their own good. There’s even a bossy cook to rival Downton’s Mrs Patmore.

The show’s 50 minutes length – as opposed to a sitcom’s usual half hour or so – give the characters plenty of time to breathe. And with the stories continuing from episode to episode, there are many emotional and even some tear-jerking moments among the japes.

Coming from the pen of Dad’s Army and writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft, this is a class act in every sense.

Number of seasons: 4

Episodes: 26

Average episode length: 50 minutes

Available to view: UK: Amazon Video or search on YouTube.

We hope you enjoyed our here's what to watch after Downton Abbey article!

 

Steven Murphy

Steven is a writer, editor, and commentator with a passion for popular TV and soap operas. He spent 20 years as the editor of Inside Soap magazine, documenting every punch up and pucker up in the Street, the Square and the village. As a feature writer he’s covered TV crime dramas, period dramas and even some real-life star dramas. He’s been seen as a talking head on more TV clip shows than he cares to remember, has a 

a life-long passion for TV sci-fi – the older and creakier the better – and is a slight obsessive about any reality show featuring hotels.