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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Period Dramas Draw TV Viewers

Written by Jon Williams

Based on a series of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, the hit TV show Call the Midwife focuses on a group of midwives and nuns working at Nonnatus House, a convent in post-WWII London. The show debuted to high ratings in 2012, and it has steadily gained popularity ever since. The sixth season currently airing on PBS (it concluded in March on BBC One in the UK) takes place in 1962 and sees the first effects of the cultural changes that took place in that tumultuous decade.

This sixth season is notable for another reason, as it will be the last as a series regular for Ben Caplan. The actor, who previously starred in HBO’s World War II drama Band of Brothers, has played policeman Peter Noakes since Call the Midwife’s first season in 2012. He’s looking to add some more variety to his acting career, but fans can rest easy. With the show already renewed through Season 9, Caplan is certain that his character will resurface somewhere down the line. The same is true of another fan-favourite that left the series previously. Miranda Hart, who played Sgt. Noakes’s wife Chummy, left the show after Season 4. Like Caplan’s character, a reappearance for Chummy is not out of the question for the show’s future.

British period dramas are very popular for PBS right now. The trend got rolling with Downton Abbey, which ran for six seasons beginning (on PBS) in 2011. That show was both critically acclaimed and very popular, leading the way for the current wave of shows, including Call the Midwife. The series Poldark follows a man returning to the shattered remains of his former life in Cornwall following America’s Revolutionary War. Beginning in 2015, it’s an update of a 1975 BBC series, and both are based on a series of novels by Winston Graham. Beginning earlier this year, Victoria details the early life of the UK’s long-serving queen. Former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman plays the role of the queen in question, and there’s also a companion novel by show creator Daisy Goodwin.

Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to just PBS. With the popularity of these shows and others like them, it’s no surprise that the streaming services have jumped in to bring some to their audiences as well. When the show Ripper Street was threatened with cancellation after its second season, it was picked up by Amazon Video in the UK (the series has been available on BBC America in North America). Focusing on the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, the recently concluded sixth season was the show’s last. Still in progress, on the other hand, is Peaky Blinders, a show about a criminal organization in the days after World War I. The first three seasons are available from Netflix in the US, and at least two more seasons are in the offing.

This is just a small sampling of the period dramas that are so popular right now. TV lovers will love to see these in your library so they can check them out and binge-watch, and that’s especially true for shows on cable and streaming services, which everyone may not have access to. What’s popular in your library right now? Let us know your patrons’ current favourites in the comments section below.