For three seasons Downton Abbey has come into our lives, taken us through its comedic highs and dramatic lows, and left us emotionally exhausted thanks to the stellar writing and the brilliant, brilliant performances. We survived the year-long wait after Season 2; survived the tumultuous joys and heartbreaks of Season 3; and now it’s time to get through another year of waiting as Season 4 begins to take shape. What’s a fan to do?! Well…a lot, actually. Whether you’re looking for more drama, more costumes, more of the cast, or more from the mind of Julian Fellowes, here’s a rather big selection of books and films to keep you entertained for the long journey to Season 4. If you’d like any more info on these selections just leave me a note, a tweet, or any other form of message that you fancy. Otherwise sit back, deep breaths, step away from the spoilers, and enjoy.
North & South // A Room With A View // Daniel Deronda // Cranford
Island at War // Sense & Sensibility // The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel // The Turn of the Screw
a cheat sheet…
Brendan Coyle …… Mr. Bates
Timothy Piggot-Smith …… Sir Philip Tapsel
Elizabeth McGovern …… Cora Crawley
Hugh Bonneville …… Robert Crawley
Jim Carter …… Mr. Carson
Joanne Froggott …… Anna Smith
Dan Stevens …… Matthew Crawley
Dame Maggie Smith …… Violet Crawley
Penelope Wilton …… Isobel Crawley
Michelle Dockery …… Lady Mary Crawley
Of note: The 2008 adaptation of The Turn of the Screw was the first time Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery teamed up onscreen — with less falling in love and more possessed children — but, unfortunately it’s not yet available in the USA.
Must-see: North and South (currently streaming free on Amazon Prime) is possibly my all-time favorite period drama, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Guess who: In Cranford, Jim Carter costars with his fabulous wife, Imelda Staunton; and if one Downton star isn’t enough, Michelle Dockery makes an appearance in the Christmas special sequel, Return to Cranford. Cranford is a fantastic miniseries to watch if you’re a period drama enthusiast, as its cast members are all veterans of the genre. Watch it and see who you recognize!
Gosford Park // Snobs // From Time to Time
Titanic // Past Imperfect // The Young Victoria
And the Oscar goes to: Gosford Park, for which Julian Fellowes’s screenplay won an Academy Award, was the inspiration for Downton Abbey. Downton was originally supposed to be a spin-off of Gosford, but Fellowes later decided to set the story in an earlier era.
As seen on Downton Abbey: Dame Maggie Smith stars in both Gosford Park and From Time to Time, while Maria Doyle Kennedy (Vera Bates) appears in Fellowes’s 2012 drama, Titanic.
Fangirl moment: I have to segue here and briefly mention that Maria Doyle Kennedy is a really cool lady. Not only is she a brilliant actress (she made us all detest Vera, and she also dropped her Irish accent to play a Spaniard, Catherine of Aragon in Showtime’s The Tudors), but she’s also a rather lovely singer. Have a listen to her song with Damien Rice: Sing. Her albums are on Spotify.
A novel idea: Back to Julian. His writing has gone beyond the screen to several novels; Snobs, his first novel, was published in 2004 while Past Imperfect was published in 2008. Both are still in print.
Cambridge Spies // Mr. Selfridge (3/31, PBS) // Call the Midwife (3/31, PBS)
Glorious 39 // Birdsong // The Forsyte Saga
Suit and tie: When we talk about fashion in period dramas we often talk about the women. But Cambridge Spies – about British men recruited as spies for Russia in the 1930s – features some fabulous style moments from its male stars: Toby Stephens, Rupert Penry-Jones, Samuel West, and the terrific Tom Hollander.
Downton Abbey for fashion enthusiasts: Masterpiece Classic is taking a break after Downton, but it returns on March 31st with the premiere of Mr. Selfridge, a must-see drama for the style inclined. It follows American businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) as he creates the now-legendary Selfridge’s department store in 1909 London. Catch the trailer here.
From housemaids to midwives: Also premiering on March 31st is Season 2 of the tremendous hit Call the Midwife. The drama focuses on the nuns and nurses who worked as midwives in London’s poorest neighborhood in the 1940s. You can find highlights from the first season here and, if your interest is piqued, you can watch Season 1 on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video while you wait for the second season’s premiere.
Brody’s a Brit: The Forsyte Saga is definitely a must for Downton fans; great drama, a wonderful score, terrific writing, and beautiful costumes, not to mention the cast. Homeland viewers will catch Damien Lewis with his native accent when he gives a spine-tingling performance as Soames Forsyte, driven to first love, then obsession, then near madness over beautiful Irene.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey // While We Were Watching Downton Abbey // Below Stairs
The House at Tyneford // The American Heiress // The House at Riverton
Did they mention Downton Abbey?: One of the biggest trends in the literary world latelty is books inspired by Downton Abbey. From biographies on real-life ladies and maids who lived in the time of Downton Abbey, to fictional stories that ride the same wavelength as Downton Abbey, to novels about women who watch Downton Abbey… You can really just go hog wild here.