What I'm Watching on Britbox this Summer
Summer is beginning to wane, and with it the acorns are ripening, the goldenrod is showing the first signs of its yellow blooms, and still proud and fair the zinnias and lavender are dancing in the breeze of a declining August. My reading habits change with the seasons, and so does my hankering for period dramas, which I particularly wish to share with you today. With so many adaptations of our favorite classic novels to watch and so few ways to find them all in one convenient place, I've been delighted this summer to try Britbox, a streaming service created for all who enjoy classic, beloved British telly. I'm not sponsored by or affiliated with Britbox, but I absolutely adore the service and it has completely supplanted every other streaming platform in my affections.
Before Britbox, I didn't have a good relationship with the majority of streaming services, mainly because there's just so little to offer the kindred spirit. I try to be conscious of what I do watch, and as a rule I try to pick programs that lend a bit of loveliness or goodness in my life in some way. Clearly, Netflix isn't going to lend much of that... (except for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I can only hope will one day be available to watch without a subscription).
For myself, I'm a period drama watcher with a weakness for British drama series. Britbox, you can imagine, was an ideal solution. With so many of my favorite programs available through the streaming platform, and many titles that had been recommended to me by so many, there was only too little time to watch them all and even more anticipation for resuming my watching next season. From the best Austen adaptations to beloved British dramas, comedies, even cooking with Mary Berry, I was only too thrilled to have, for the first time, so much loveliness right at my fingertips.
Whether you already have a subscription to Britbox or you're ready to be persuaded to try it, I've assembled a list of my favorite programs available through the service, all of which I've personally been loving this summer. Britbox offers a free first week as well, should you wish to give it a try before deciding whether it's right for you! :)
1. Pride and Prejudice (4K restoration)
First things first: if there's one thing the Janeite or the period drama lover simply has to experience, it's the 4K restoration of our beloved 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. If you've been watching P&P all these years on dvd, you're going to be fairly stunned by this...and even if you've been watching the more recent blu-ray restoration, you'll still be stunned!! The 4K restoration is only available to watch on Britbox, and I've already watched it twice this summer. The revised coloring and the vividly clear picture make this simply a must-see in my book. Every scene feels new and fresh, as though you haven't seen it well over fifty times already (which I know you have)! :)
2. All Creatures Great and Small (1978-1990)
My beloved James Herriot has found his forever home in my heart this summer. I wrote about my first-time experience with his books, as well as the tv series, here. I have yet to review the newer Masterpiece PBS All Creatures Great and Small series which aired early this year (and has already been renewed for a second season!), but in my heart, it's the original series that holds an insurmountable place of love and warmth and delight. It's become my ultimate comfort-watch this summer, and I simply adore it. However, I would like to add that after the first three seasons, there was a several-year long break before the show returned for seasons 4-7, which I was not personally a fan of. It's the original seasons 1-3 that I adore through and through. Join Yorkshire country vet James Herriot in the late 1930s through countless heartwarming stories in this utterly tender-hearted, utterly good series!
3. North & South (2004 mini series)
I have a confession for you: It was not until this very summer (thank you, Britbox) that I finally watched Sandy Welch's impeccable, magnificent North & South for the very first time. I have completely fallen in love with this mini-series, and I'm absolutely convinced that you will, too, if you haven't seen it yet. Based on Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novel, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her Southern England roots to the Northern county of Milton, where she discovers new ideas and conflicting ways of life and work, particularly in the solemn, hard-working Mr. Thornton (played by the gorgeous Richard Armitage).
4. As Time Goes By (1992-2005)
Jean and Lionel were young and in love in 1953, until a soldier's lost letter didn't reach his sweetheart, and two inseparable hearts were broken. Forty years later, Jean (now widowed) meets Lionel (now divorced) again, and they are offered a second chance at finding love in their later years. The legendary Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Charles star in this situation comedy that is, without a doubt, one of the greatest shows ever made in the whole of British television. Running for 9 seasons (with a Christmas special in 2005), As Time Goes By is truly a heartwarming treasure, never dulling with the years, never failing to warm hearts season in, year out. I can't even count how many times I've seen it through the years. A further note: it isn't in the least bit a show for "older" viewers! Don't let anything stop you from enjoying this pure delight of a series that you are sure to love.
5. Emma (2009 mini-series)
It's considered by many Janeites to be one of the most beloved Austen adaptations ever made, and it's found its home on Britbox for you to watch again and again at your leisure. It will never be a sure thing which adaptation of any Austen novel is the best one (and this isn't actually my favorite Emma, truth be told) but I know that this version is incredibly beloved and heralded by so many as one of the best of the best. Follow Emma Woodhouse through her match-making schemes as she gradually begins to realize that perhaps the only person whose love-life she ought to be arranging...is her own. :)
6. Jane Eyre (1983 mini-series)
We'll never quite determine indefinitely which Jane Eyre adaptation tops all, but I think it just might be this one. I have to credit a few friends on Instagram who first told me about this adaptation, otherwise, I confess, I would likely have never bothered watching it, as so many of the 1980s period dramas (Mansfield Park in particular) are rather...poorly done. But let me promise you, this Jane Eyre is the exception. My very favorite book is brought to life (word-for-word life, I might add) in this absolutely marvelous adaptation (with Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester!!). Dare I say, it really is the best and will completely take you by surprise.
7. Persuasion (2007)
I don't think we've yet been blessed with the perfect, definitive adaptation of Jane Austen's glorious, heart-wrenching Persuasion. You either love, like, or fiercely hate the 1995 film or this, the 2007 film, and I really couldn't blame you whichever way you lean. I personally prefer the 2007 film to the 1995, and I think it's very well worth watching despite being a mixed bag of good and bad things. I watched this version for the first time this summer (again, thanks to Britbox) and at first-watch I really, really enjoyed it. On the second watch, I couldn't decide how to feel about it. There are scenes so perfect, so tender and beautiful...but there are also quite a few scenes that bothered me endlessly. Most of the supporting cast is downright bad, and a few directorial choices were rather off, but all in all, I think this is a "good" adaptation that the Janeite will enjoy. :)
8. Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989-2013)
Nobody does comforting murder mystery like the British, and I personally think Poirot takes the cake as the best of the best. Agatha Christie's beloved Belgian detective comes to life as though he's stepped right out of the books, thanks to the legendary portrayal of the character by the incomparable David Suchet. I admit I've seen more of the early seasons (which majorly cover Christie's short stories) and am still working my way through the later book-to-feature-length episodes, since the latter tend to spoil me for the mysteries I haven't read yet. The early seasons are generally quite safe from that, and I especially adore Hugh Fraser's portrayal of the adorably gullible Captain Arthur Hastings. :)
9. Cranford (2007-2010)
Dame Judi Dench stars in this beloved adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's classic story about the rural town of Cranford and the community response to Industrial changes in 1842. I'll admit, I'd never before seen this series despite hearing so much about it, and I'm so delighted to finally have it available to watch on Britbox. This is one I'm meaning to start very soon, and I'm looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts on it either here on the blog or over on my Instagram! :)
I still have quite a bit to enjoy on Britbox while summer is still here, and I'm especially looking forward to watching a few period dramas that are completely new to me and have been recommended by so many kindred spirits, especially Lark Rise to Candleford, which I hear such good things about.
I hope this list has helped you decide whether to try out Britbox for yourself, or to add a few more titles to your watchlist! :) If you have any recommendations for me, or you have a few favorites featured here in my list, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below if you fancy sharing!
Until next time,
Want to follow along on Instagram? You can find me @austensandalcotts to see what I'm reading next, interact with other readers, and hear what's new on the blog. You can also subscribe to the Austens & Alcotts mailing list at the bottom of this post to get a twice-monthly newsletter from me to your inbox, where I share reading updates, shop releases, and more subscriber-only details!