film reviews | movies | features | BRWC STEEPED IN HISTORY - BRITAIN’S MOST POPULAR TV SHOWS 

The Village is the BBC’s critically acclaimed TV drama that charts the life and turbulent times of one English village through the 20th century.

Series one of The Village unfolds in a Derbyshire village in the 20th century between the years of 1914 to 1920. Viewers are given an insight into the life of Bert Middleton and his fellow village residents. The second season continues the story into the 1920’s, following World War One, showcasing a time of energy and freedom with dance halls and jazz music influencing the lives of everyone in the village. However, with the election year that divides and inspires, the power of the woman’s vote and the breakdown of social barriers, big dramas and changes are brought to the village.

The Village is from writer Peter Moffat whose ambition is to create a 42-hour TV drama chronicling the lives of families in one village from 1914 to the Second World War, post-war Austerity Britain, and later.

To celebrate the DVD release of The Village: The Complete Series 2, out on 9th March, courtesy of Entertainment One, we take a look at some of the most well known TV shows that depict history over a long period of time. From the 1900’s all the way to the 1990’s, these unforgettable moments in history are forever captured in some of the most beloved TV shows that have ever been created.

Mr. Selfridge (1908 – 1919)


Mr. Selfridge is a series based on the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the legendary owner of the department store Selfridge & Co. on the world famous Oxford Street. The first series was set in 1908 and the story begins with the viewer following the flamboyant and visionary American founder on his mission to indulge and empower women whilst making shopping thrilling. The opening of this shows audiences what inspired the store in the first place – Harry Gordon Selfridge has just transformed Chicago’s Marshall Field’s into a modern department store and realises London needs a similar one in the “dead end” of Oxford Street.

The series was first aired in 2013, and was quickly renewed for a second season (set in 1914) and is currently in its third season (set in 1919), whereby the story continues with Harry and his personal demons, loves, life and store dramas.

Upstairs, Downstairs (1903-1930)


The British television drama, Upstairs, Downstairs, aired from 1971 to 1975 in five series across 68 episodes. The series title plays on the hierarchy seen in Edwardian Britain townhouses with the common notion that servants should always be downstairs whilst the family and masters should always reside upstairs. Set in 1903 to 1930 the series has been said to be commentary like of the social and technology changes throughout this moment in history.

Downton Abbey (1912-1924)


Downton Abbey is the internationally loved period drama about the lives of the upper-class aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the fictional Yorkshire country estate, Downton Abbey.

The show has run for five series so far and shows how the Crawley’s and their servants lives are affected by the unforgettable historical events between 1912 and 1924 including; the sinking of the Titanic, the Spanish influenza pandemic; and the United Kingdom general election of 1923, to name a few.

The 43 episodes of Downton Abbey have to date portrayed 12 years of English history and with the announcement of the sixth season, the popular show is far from done with the lives of the Crawley family and their servants.

Call The Midwife (1950’s)


Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the period drama series, Call the Midwife, is about the lives of a group of midwives, led by Jenny Lee the protagonist, and the nuns of Nonnatus House in the 1950’s.Together they help the residents of one of the then poorest areas in London, the East End, by carrying out nursing duties and helping to bring safe childbirth to the women in the area who desperately need help.

The first series aired in 2012 and was the most successful new drama series on BBC One since 2001 and led to the show being broadcast in the United States the same autumn receiving widespread positive reviews. In 2015 this resulted in the announcement of a fourth and fifth series to continue following the lives of the east-enders well into the 1960’s.

Heartbeat (1960’s)


British police TV drama show Heartbeat was set in 1960’s in North Riding of Yorkshire and followed the lives of the medical staff, residents and the police constabulary led by Constable Nick Rowan, who patrolled the countryside by dealing with issues and problems that occurred in the neighbourhood. The series was first aired in 1992 and was a big success, running for 372 episodes and 18 series with the final episode airing in 2010. Early series’ of the show consistently secured over 10 million viewers.

Our Friends in the North (1964-1995)


Our Friends in the North follows four friends from Newcastle upon Tyne in the nine part series portraying key years in British political history from 1964 to 1995, this included police and government corruption, the rise of Thatcherism, the UK miners’ strike and more. Throughout the 31 years the series spans over, the viewer is taken into the political struggles and how these affect the characters lives, hometown and Britain as a whole.

As the series came to an end in the 1990’s, it was commonly regarded as one of the most successful BBC television dramas of the era, and was also named by the British Film Institute as one of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century. It’s no surprise the then lesser well known lead actors went on to become household names; Daniel Craig, Christopher Ecclestone, Mark Strong and Gina McKee.



The Village: The Complete Series 2 is available on DVD on 9th March, courtesy of Entertainment One.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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