Friday, April 4, 2014

What We Watch

Now that I have a little down time from promoting the new series, I've been looking for films and series to add my Victorian video collection. I found the North & South miniseries here primarily because I'm a huge fan of actor Richard Armitage and have been ever since he starred in MI-5 (aka Spooks) as troubled heartbreaker Lucas North (yes, another North! That compass heading might end up being his trademark.)

At the moment I'm only about halfway through North & South, which is based on Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell's novel of the same title. The characters are strong, the plot is decisive and the settings and costumes are rather marvelous, but what I most appreciate is the focus on telling the story without the usual explicit or sensational elements that so often ruin television and film productions of fictional works. The actors carrying every scene based on the strength of their performances, and I really love that. There is a certain amount of violence, but it's very mild in comparison to what we see on the small and big screen these days, and I find it's appropriate to the story. P.S., for those of you who are Downton Abbey fans, actor Brendan Coyle (aka Mr. Bates) has a very interesting role in this production.

Writers, I think what we watch can help us shift gears. When you write in a certain time period, it helps to immerse yourself in that era however you can. While I'd rather read books or listen to music, watching films or television series set in the period can certainly help. Listening to authentic voices from the era of your fiction can help retune your inner ear for dialogue purposes, for example, and seeing the many different ways actors protray their roles can help you refine your character depictions on the page.

Aside from the value watching period shows and movies affords the work, it's just fun. I get so tired of contemporary crime dramas and psychological thrillers, and taking a bit of a time travel trip via a historial series or movie provides a bit of an escape. I may never be able to actually go back to the Victorian era, but I can visit it whenever I like -- thanks to North & South and many other wonderful productions like it.

Do you like to watch Victorian-era shows or films? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in comments.


  1. YES! I love this mini series! A few months ago I was looking online for titles I might be interested in and came across this one. I've watched it twice now since I bought it. I like the actor and I love the way the story is told.
    I also bought The Sally Lockhart mysteries "The Shadow in the North" and "Ruby In The Smoke". "Amazing Grace", "The Blackheath Poisonings", and a British Cinema collection containing 8 movies. Which includes "An Ideal Husband" which I already had and watch frequently. Another favorite is "Firelight" with Sophie Marceau, it's hard to find copies to play in the USA. I also like "An Englishmen Who went up a hill and came down a mountain" with Hugh Grant. I think it's a later time period though.

  2. My latest favourite crime shows are Murdoch Mysteries and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, although this is set in the 20s. I love seeing the way they solve the crime without technology, the clothes, manners and attitudes. I've not watched Downton but used to love Upstairs Downstairs.

  3. I haven't watched much Victorian. However, I do have this DVD and am just waiting for the appropriate time to watch. Craftlit, a literary podcast by Heather Ordover, is currently reading North and South. Heather is an English teacher so before the narrator (who is wonderful) starts the chapter she gives clarification and information pertinent to the book and its era. It is one of the best podcasts. You can find it here:


  4. North & South is a definite favourite...for mystery I also like Ripper Street...I am so gutted you are going no further with Disenchanted and Co..I was very surprised with this series and will miss Kit and her adventures - and of course the men in her life.
    I will spread the word.