For access to British programming, Amazon Prime is becoming one of my go-to streaming sites for beloved series like Downton Abbey, Poldark, Endeavour, Call the Midwife, Victoria and others. Although, two of my favorite series, North and South and The Paradise can be found on Netflix.
But Amazon Prime is also a source for many other lesser known British series productions, as I am happily discovering. Many of these are based on true stories or literature by well-known authors. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised so far by how much I am enjoying some of these series. Here are just a few which I have seen lately and can recommend.
Did you know that The Moonstone written by Wilkie Collins is generally considered to be the first published detective novel and also served as a template for all the detective stories to follow? Though there are several screen adaptations of this book, this is the first one I’ve seen. Populated by a host of new faces and a few familiar ones, as well, I found myself intrigued by the mystery presented in this 2016 version. The story takes many twists and turns and left me surprised by the conclusion. With only five episodes, it’s a worthy investment of time, if you enjoy a good British mystery.
I’m a history nut and particularly love learning about prominent families. This six part series is based on the Lennox sisters who lived in 18th century England. Their father was a duke and a grandson of a king. Through their marriages, they managed to leave an impact on both English and Irish history. Because this series spans several decades. at times I felt the pace was rather abrupt. It skipped chunks of time and also jumped from sister to sister, but overall I found it very interesting.
When making my way through the classics in my English courses, I was assigned to read Lord of the Flies. The violence literally sickened me and I was unable to finish. With the permission of my English teacher I was able to choose another novel. I chose Ivanhoe and for a time all the entries in my diary had a very middle English structure to them. True story. It’s been long enough that I don’t remember much of what I read. But I’ve watched the MGM adaptation with Robert Taylor multiple times. I was skeptical about this version, but found it remarkably compelling. With six episodes, it gives a lot more time to the original story, including details that were left out of the film. Populated with several familiar British actors, including Ciaran Hinds, this Ivanhoe seems much more true to its’ time than the clean and glitzy MGM version I love so much.
I was surprised to find this series was actually produced by Hallmark. It does not carry the “hallmarks” of that channel. (I’m cheesy, I know.) Fans of The Swiss Family Robinson will most likely enjoy this more realistic portrayal of that famous family. As much as I enjoy the Disney version, I found Stranded to be much more intriguing. It also reminded me quite a bit of the Robinson Crusoe film I watched recently. I do believe Stranded follows the original source story more closely, with a more detailed back story and motivations.
I kept hearing about good things about this adaptation of a classic British novel. But until recently, I was unable to find it anywhere. I knew nothing about this story going in to the series, and was expecting it to be a sweet Romeo and Juliet style tale of star-crossed lovers. However, I found it also included a lot of action and even violence with its’ focus on both interpersonal conflict between the lovers’ families and the larger political instability in seventeenth century England. Though I didn’t love this, it was still rather engrossing and I’m curious how it compares to other film adaptions.
The Count of Monte Cristo (1975)
Here’s another popular classic with numerous screen adaptations. The 2002 version starring Jim Caviezel is one of my favorite movies ever, though I understand it takes liberties with the original novel. It took me a while to really get into this version, but once I did, I was hooked. Though it is clearly a product of the seventies, this made for television production is remarkably well done with its more limited budget. With popular film actors like Tony Curtis, Louis Jourdan and Trevor Howard, it is Richard Chamberlain who magnetizes the screen with his portrayal of Edmond Dantes.