The Best Historical Drama Shows on PBS Masterpiece

A collage of some of PBS's masterpieces.

Who doesn’t love good, sweeping historical fiction? The costumes, the drama, the music – there’s nothing like it.

We are here in Mary Sue chatted a lot about how much we love historical crime shows like Try And Grantchester, and while PBS Masterpiece boasts plenty of entertaining mystery series, there’s plenty more to enjoy. You’ll also find Jane Austen-style romance, high-stakes royal drama, family comedies, globetrotting adventure stories, and more. Here are the best period dramas to watch on PBS Masterpiece.

Victoria (2016-2019)

Jenna Colman as Queen Victoria in ITV's Victoria

Jenna Colman stars in this historical and artistic portrayal of Queen Victoria’s long reign. The sweeping historical drama chronicles Victoria’s rise to the throne at the tender age of 18, her romance and marriage to Prince Albert of Germany (Tom Hughes), the ongoing conflicts within the royal family, and Victoria’s journey as one of the youngest monarchs in British history. . If you’re looking for a series that will keep you going until… Crown returns to Netflix, Victoria it’s certainly worth a look.

All creatures, great and small (2020-present)

Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot and Rachel Shenton as Helen Aldersen in the third season of All Creatures Great and Small during their wedding scene.
(Channel 5)

All creatures, great and small follows the adventures of Scottish veterinary surgeon James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) as he begins a new life in the Yorkshire Dales. An adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novels of veterinarian James Alfred Wright, written under the pseudonym James Herriot. All creatures, great and small it’s a gorgeous, cozy, touching drama in which James falls in love and finds a new family while caring for the animals he cares so much about. If you haven’t watched it yet, now is the perfect time…All creatures, great and small Season four will premiere on PBS Masterpiece in January 2024 and will follow James and his new family as they deal with the looming threat of World War II.

Around the world in 80 Days (2021-present)

Ibrahim Koma as Passepartout, David Tennant as Phileas Fogg and Leonie Benes as Abigail Fortescue all stand in front of a steam locomotive in Around the World in 80 Days.

Want even more action-adventure atmosphere? Then there’s the BBC’s new (and somewhat loose) adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel. Around the world in 80 Days for you. Following Phileas Fogg’s (David Tenant) reckless desire to prove to his peers that he is more ambitious than they think, he embarks on a dangerous journey across the world. He is joined by Ibrahim Koma’s Passepartout and Leonie Benes’ Abigail “Fix” Fortescue, completing a trio that is both wonderfully charismatic and compelling. The BBC were so confident in the series that they commissioned a second season before the first premiered, so if you enjoyed it as much as I did, rest assured there’s more to come.

Durrells in Corfu (2016-2019)

The Durrell family has a picnic by the ocean at Durrell's in Corfu.

Based on the memoirs of world-renowned naturalist and conservationist Gerald Durrell. Durrells in Corfu sees world-weary but determined widow Keeley Hawes Louise uproot her Very An English and slightly eccentric family from the Greek island of Corfu. There, each member of the Durrell family (rediscovers) their true passions and love for each other, while surrounded by the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen on screen. If you’re looking for something truly funny, comforting and sunny then Durrells in Corfu should be your next watch.

Long song (2018)

Tamara Lawrence as Julie in The Long Song

Nominated for a 2022 Peabody Award, the three-part television miniseries is based on award-winning author Andrea Levy’s debut novel of the same name. Set during the final days of slavery in colonial Jamaica, the story follows Julie (Tamara Lawrence), a skilled and indomitable enslaved young woman forced to work on a sugar cane plantation owned by the terrible, ridiculous and deeply insecure Miss Caroline (Hayley Atwell). . ). According to, Sir Lenny Henry, who plays a slave named Godfrey in the series, said of the adaptation: “It’s a fantastic mixture of heartbreaking and humorous,” and continued: “And both are stronger for being around each other, I think . Overall, this is a touching yet heartbreaking and brutally honest adaptation of Levy’s powerful and historically significant narrative.

Downton Abbey (2010-2015)

Downton Abbey Poster: From left to right Joan Froggatt as Anna Bates, Jim Carter as Charles Carson, Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley, Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley and Brendan Coyle as John Bates

Downton Abbey perhaps the most famous historical drama in existence. Created by renowned writer Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey follows the lives of the respected aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants, set on a large country estate in Yorkshire. While the Crawley family has to deal with its fair share of drama and their love for each other is truly palpable, it’s those living downstairs that make the show so compelling. There are six seasons to enjoy, and if after all that you’re still looking for more, there are two more feature films to watch.

Les Miserables (2018)

Olivia Colman, Adeel Akhtar, Dominic West, Lily Collins, David Oyelowo, Josh O'Connor and Ellie Bamber in the 2018 BBC adaptation of Les Miserables

If you were looking for something stellar, look no further. While the BBC miniseries based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Miserables It may not contain songs or musical dance numbers, but it does have a wealth of talent – Lily Collins, Dominic West, David Oleyewo, Josh O’Connor, Ellie Bamber, Joseph Quinn, Adeel Akhtar and even the film’s only star Olivia Colman. this is a gripping, heartbreaking, yet affirming story of despair, hope, love and compassion. If you happen to enjoy the BBC’s epic adaptation War and Peaceyou’ll likely become a fan of this production too—the same writer, Andrew Davies, is credited as the lead writer on both productions.

Sanditon (2019-2023)

Rosie Graham as Alison Heywood, Rose William as Charlotte Heywood and Crystal Clarke as Georgiana Lamb in Sanditon Season 2

Based on Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel. Sanditon follows the adventures of Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) in the seaside town of Sanditon, where she finds friendship and love (several times) while trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Crystal Clark plays future co-host and Antiguan heiress Georgiana Lamb, who struggles to come to terms with her condition, her place in society and her efforts to track down her birth mother, while the Parker family tries to build a seaside resort in the city. it may not be ready for such a massive undertaking. There’s a lot of great drama, heartbreak and swooning here, but most of all, this show provides a truly happy ending for all your favorite characters.

Tom Jones (2023)

Sophie Wilde as Sophia Western and Solly McLeod as Tom Jones hugging each other in the ITV miniseries Tom Jones

If you’re looking for something a little more comedic, then… Tom Jones This is the mini-series for you. Based on the classic novel by Henry Fielding. The Story of Tom Jones, Foundling, this modern adaptation boasts all of our favorite rom-com tropes: a chance meet-cute, no TV interaction, matchmaking shenanigans, and two unlikely but ultimately perfect lovers. There are also plenty of great costumes and a talented cast, including Solly McLeod as lead Tom, Sophie Wilde as Sophia Western and everyone’s favorite football club owner, Ted LassoThis is Hannah Waddingham.

Miss Scarlet and the Duke (2020-present)

Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin in the second season of Miss Scarlet and the Duke

Okay, I couldn’t help but add another crime show to this list. Miss Scarlet and the Duke It has it all: a female detective trying to make it in a male-dominated profession, a slow-burn will-they-won’t-they romance, action, adventure, humor and plenty of mystery to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a real treat and the chemistry and relationship between Eliza (Kate Phillips) and William (Stuart Martin) will leave you asking for more. And you’re in luck! Season 4 Miss Scarlet and the Duke It will premiere on PBS Masterpiece this January. Who knows, maybe we’ll finally see Eliza and William admit what viewers have known since the show’s very first episode.

(image: ITV/BBC/PBS)

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