so you want to watch a costume drama right this instant

*This only applies to those folks who subscribe to that mail-in DVD rental service that makes select movies available for streaming. You know, Whatsitcalled. The ‘watch instantly’ feature is unlimited and therefore dangerous. Still, I find that it’s my duty to point out the best costume dramas available instantly. There are a lot out there, and, frankly, a lot of them are crap. Don’t start watching the crap ones until you find you’re addicted to the genre after watching these choice productions:

North & South (based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel) is a superbly crafted romance which equals the caliber of your Pride and Prejudice or your Sense and Sensibility, in terms of the right people finding out that they’re right for each other in the end. But it also throws in industrialization, regional politics, religious politics, a mill strike, and Irish scabs for your viewing pleasure. Hear the characters rail against the dangers of Speculation and long for better days!

Bleak House (based on Dickens’ novel) is about the corrupt court system in England back in the day and the complicated social structure we call ‘family’, but mostly it’s about its characters (featuring Scully from The X-Files). I think my favorite is Guppy. You’ll be able to relish in each one because this is the brainchild of Andrew Davies. Remember his name. He is the fairy godfather of costume dramas.

Daniel Deronda (based on George Eliot’s novel) is all about finding meaning in life. Ego vs. loss of ego kind of thing. Controversial in its day for being too sympathetic towards its Jewish characters. Andrew Davies wrote the screenplay, so you know it’s good.

Wives & Daughters (based on Gaskell’s novel) is another good old fashioned romance aware of all of the social norms dictating its subject. Sit back and enjoy the characters, because Andrew Davies wrote their lines.

Andrew Davies, of course, was also in charge of the famously excellent BBC P & P production from 1995. The Colin Firth one. Unfortunately not available for instant viewing. However, Bridget Jones Diary, which Davies cowrote, is hilarious and available for streaming.

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