In Defense of the Costume Drama

Image: BBC

In a recent Daily Mail article, Heidi Thomas, the writer of the new episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs that will air here in the spring (and will be faithfully recapped here, don’t you worry!) Talked a bit about what it is about costume dramas that makes us love them. It’s so good, I felt it only right to reprint it on The Armchair Anglophile:

“There is a tendency these days to look down on ‘costume drama’, and questions are asked about its relevance. But my feeling is that so much contemporary TV is focused on serial killers, maverick detectives and gangsters with a grudge that we struggle to see ourselves reflected on the screen.

It is a veritable roll call of the damned, and yet we are told that this is real, this is relevant, this is about being British today.

Faced with such an unpalatable picture, it is not surprising that we seek to sink into the past. There is deep comfort to be found in the frocks and the flowers and the shining hair. In shows such as Upstairs Downstairs there are also deeper truths about humanity.

Stories about rules and why we break them, about suffering and belonging. About love, and what it does to you. We connect with the past because we can reach out and touch it; we look into its eyes and see our faces shining back.

Perhaps…costume dramas connect us to our deeper, better nature. Perhaps they simply make us happy for a while.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself!



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