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drama

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Parade’s End (2013)

It’s 1914 and the world is about to change forever in this five-part adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s classic series of novels set in England before, during and after World War I. Christopher Tietjens is a traditional Englishman living by the old moral codes and conventions. His wife, Sylvia, strains against the limits placed on women and wives and challenges her husband—and “society”—at every turn. As Christopher tries to manage his marriage and resist changes to the status quo, he becomes drawn to Valentine Wannop, a young and feisty suffragette.

Borgen (2010-2011)

Birgitte Nyborg is the idealistic new (and first female) prime minister of Denmark in this absorbing political series drama. The intricacies of parliamentary politics are surprisingly riveting by themselves, in addition to the melodramatic back stories and personal lives of Nyborg and the other major characters, including her too-good-to-be-true husband, Philip (but is he really?), her media advisor/spin doctor Kaspar Juul (with a mysterious and ominous childhood), and the rising TV anchor star Katrine Fonsmark (Kaspar’s on- and off-again girlfriend).

Mad Men (2007-)

If you like TV antiheroes like Tony Soprano, it's time to start watching Mad Men, featuring Don Draper, a Madison Avenue ad man who is a poster child for poor judgement. This period drama takes place during the 1960s and watching it is like time traveling to a past that feels very nearby. Historical events are incorporated into the episodes, including the 1960 presidential election, the death of Marilyn Monroe, the assassination of JFK, and the mass rape and murder of eight nurses by Richard Speck in Chicago in 1966.

Berkeley Square (1998)

I admit I'm a sucker for BBC period costume dramas...but this is a really good one! Set in 1902, the ten-episode series revolves around three young women working as nannies in London's upper-crust Berkeley Square neighborhood. It's an "Upstairs, Downstairs" story that has it all: illegitimate babies, adorable children, feisty women, dashing and dangerous bounders, adultery, manslaughter, crime, romance, and great costumes. How much more entertaining does it get?

The Guilty (1991)

Barrister Steven Vey has it all: successful career, plenty of cash, beautiful wife, not to mention a recent appointment as Britain's youngest-ever judge. Then one night he drinks too much and rapes his pretty new secretary and faces the loss of everything if he doesn't find a way to shut her up. Michael Kitchen is superb as Vey in this suspenseful two-part psychological thriller from Britain's Central Television.

The Forsyte Saga (2002-2003)

This period drama has everything a miniseries-loving anglophile could want: strong acting and great costumes plus a rich cast of characters suffering from a variety of character flaws including arrogance, silliness, cluelessness, greed and snobbery.  Very high class soap opera!

Sense and Sensibility (2008)

This is the best film adaptation of Jane Austen's 1811 novel, in my opinion.  Because it is 170+ minutes long, the three-part series has plenty of time to tell the story of sisters Elinor (the one with sense) and Marianne (the one with sensibility) and their romantic trials and tribulations.

George Gently (2007-2011)

Another entertaining British crime series, this one set in Northumberland in 1964.  George Gently is the detective inspector, lately from a bigger-time city career, and John Bacchus is his arrogant, ambitious and inexperienced sergeant. The series takes place during a period of changing social attitudes and values, and the story lines incorporate themes like racism, women's liberation, homophobia and child sexual abuse. Based on the Inspector Gently novels by Alan Hunter (he published nearly one per year from 1955 to 1998!).

Treme (Season 1, 2010)

Watch a motley collection of New Orleans residents try to pick up the pieces of their post-Katrina lives in this HBO drama that begins three months after disaster hit.  It's worth watching for the music alone (check out the soundtrack on CD), but you will also be drawn into the stories of the people and the unique culture of the city.

Sword of Honour (2006)

This two-part WWII drama based on a trilogy by Evelyn Waugh is sort of like a British "Catch-22" in the way it satirizes military culture during wartime.   Englishman Guy Crouchback joins up out of idealism and a sense of honor, both largely shattered by the end of his war, which takes him to France, Scotland, Crete, Egypt, Croatia and Italy. Stay with the story through part two, when it becomes especially engaging and moving.

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