The Crown is now into its third series; as is Victoria, and both are hugely popular period dramas based around the British royal family. Period dramas give the audience a chance to be transported to another era – in recent years the viewing public have enjoyed Poldark, set in the eighteenth century, The Tudors, set in the sixteenth century and Gentleman Jack, set in the nineteenth century.
It’s popular history being shared to the widest audience at any moment in time. Sometimes, they are based around fictional characters such as Downton Abbey and Peaky Blinders other times they are based around real people and events like Catherine the Great and Edward and Mrs Simpson.
I’ll admit now, as a rule, I don’t watch these shows – as I’ve got older I watch less and less TV – but when I do indulge, it’s usually for a documentary or three – and if it’s not history, it’s true crime – even better if it’s historical true crime.
That said, this morning, St Stephen’s Day – otherwise known as Boxing Day, saw me take advantage of a quiet house, switch the TV on for my usual morning news, before flicking through the channels to find a documentary. I opted for Netflix as it’s a channel I’ve not used for a while and my son has recommended several true crime documentaries recorded for the service.
However, I settled on The Crown, a surprising choice for me, but I wanted something gentle to watch, not too taxing and something that would allow my brain to wander as I surfed the internet. Also, its promotional shot was somewhere near the top of the viewing suggestions and I was too impatient to look much further . . .
I was pleasantly surprised with the show! The start, where we witnessed the bloodied sputum of King George VI inside a Buckingham Palace toilet bowl I would happily have done without, but the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the lowly Prince Philip of Greece (after he renounced his Greekness to become a Mountbatten in time for the marriage) was the perfect start to the drama at the end of one reign and about to delve deeper into another.
Claire Foy is a beautiful Princess Elizabeth and Matt Smith a devilishly handsome Prince Philip. The casting of other roles is often spot on for me – Queen Mary played by Eileen Atkins, the Duke of Windsor played by Alex Jennings and Lord Louis Mountbatten played by Greg Wise stand out as particularly good examples of selecting an actor whose facial similarities reflect those of their subject.
I binge-watched to the end of almost four episodes before the household woke up and distracted me. I wasn’t fully engrossed during each episode, as well as opening multiple tabs on my laptop, I pottered about making tea and breakfast, but I know enough about the era to sit down having missed a few minutes without worrying – after a while though, I did hit pause on a couple of occasions – proving to me, at least, that I was becoming more interested in the storylines.
One of the reasons why I think this was a good choice for me to watch is that I didn’t have to invest any time into understanding each character, where they sit in the hierarchy and try to remember each name.
I’m not sure when I will manage to watch a few more episodes or even finish the series, but at least I’ve had a taster of what others rave about! Nevertheless, I was interested to find out how many others enjoy watching period dramas.
If you do, do you just watch those based on real characters?
Or those based on fictional characters?
Do you prefer a specific era?
And what about adaptations? Who can forget Pride and Prejudice (1995) starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth? That Jane Austin adaptation made Colin Firth a household name.
Do you have a favourite adaptation? I’m talking TV here, but I’m sure many of you can think of film adaptations from Dickens to Austen to F Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare. The very quantity of offerings of (sometimes romanticised) history proves that the public can’t get enough and eagerly await each new season. Will I join those ranks? I’m not sure yet, with less than four episodes watched I’m not yet converted, but you never know, stranger things have happened!