Costume dramas have been a staple of British television since the fifties. They come in all forms; romance, adventure, adapted classic and contemporary novels, and even original stories written for the screen. They have not only captivated the British audience, but after making their way to America, we fell in love with them as well. The Story of the Costume Drama is a five part documentary series that explores the history and key aspects of why costume dramas have been and continue to be an important part of television culture.
As we learn in episode one, Robin Hood (1955), is considered to be the first costume drama on British television aired on ITV. Robin Hood was also picked up in America, thus beginning the love for costume drama on both sides of the Atlantic. Episode one then continues to give the general history of the costume drama focusing on the shows that helped to create what we have today. Costume dramas would be nothing without the actors. Some actors have gotten their start in costume dramas and others are drawn to them after they have already made a name for themselves. Episode two looks at the actors from both views. In this episode there are interviews discussing their thoughts on acting in costume dramas, with the likes of Helen Mirren (Elizabeth I), Alex Kingston (The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders), Billie Piper (Mansfield Park), Hans Matheson (Dr. Zhivago), and more. Episode three and five look at one kind of costume drama, romance and action/adventure. The locations, costumes, and makeup is explored in episode four of the series.
The information in The Story of the Costume Drama presented in hour long episodes, is given through narration, interviews, and clips from various series. The interviews are interesting and it is obvious that the interviewees really enjoyed the work they did as well as the work of others. Along with the narration and interviews, clips are used through key scenes in the series to demonstrate the information. Although the clips will not give away too much about each particular show, they do give wonderful examples of what you will see in the different dramas. Enticing you to pick up and watch some that you may have never seen before. Through the narration and interviews we not only learn about various shows but their impact on the culture, both within television and in the general public.
The impact and importance of costume dramas is learned through The Story of the Costume Drama. Whether the drama is looking at cultural norms or challenging those norms, the public is given something to cling to. At times, the drama may touch on subjects that are controversial. Through their entertainment qualities, these subjects can be explored by the audience as well as the makers of the drama itself. At other times, costume dramas are there to bring to life loved classical stories as a wonderful escape. Not matter the way you like to watch costume dramas, whether for the cultural commentary or simply the escape, The Story of the Costume Drama will surely make you love costume dramas more than you already do!