The 10 Best Period Pieces Ever..

Long before the Queen had to ring Ocean Finance to consolidate her debts, England was a green and pleasant land. The middle class weren’t buying second homes in the shires and people knew their place. The rich and the poor, the have and the have nots, it was as simple as that. Social climbing was about as popular as rickets. The sun never set on the British Empire, we ruled the seven seas and we regularly fought the French and won. Do you yearn for those happy times?

Well this Sunday at 9pm Downton Abbey harks back to those halcyon days. Written by Gosford Park‘s Julian Fellowes, it focuses on the lives of the masters and servants of an Edwardian country house in 1912. But before you watch it here are another top ten period dramas, enjoy..

10. Mrs Brown

Generations of workshy scroungers living in unsuitable accommodation, making racist jokes and an endemic reliance on benefits. The Royal family have really fallen on hard times. But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the Queen didn’t have to fill in an expense form to claim her mileage back.

In Mrs Brown, Queen Victoria is all powerful, no one talks down to her, except for Scottish servant Mr Brown (Billy Connolly). The modern day equivalent would be Frankie Boyle and the Queen spending a long weekend at her hideaway at Balmoral. He could also check out if her “entrance hallâ€? was haunted.

Oik rating: 0/10 – For all Billy Connolly’s effort and dedication he never gets to a promotion.

Unresolved sexual tension: How dare you imply an improper relationship between the Queen and a Scottish serf!

9. Lady Chatterley’s lover

Look what happens when the classes mix, a wave of sexual liberation the Greeks would have been proud of. This is the quaint story of Lady Chatterley (Joely Richardson), whose upper-class husband, Clifford Chatterley, has been paralysed and rendered impotent. Lady Chatterley recognises that she cannot live with the mind alone; she must also be alive physically. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors (SEAN BEANNNNN). The moral of the story is: if your husband has an accident in the home or at work don’t ring Claims Direct, instead wheel your partner into the spare room, ring your gardener and get down to business.

Oik rating: 5/10 – Not as high as you would think, Mellors was in fact finely educated in his childhood, has good table manners, is an extensive reader, and can speak English ‘like a gentleman’, but chooses to behave like a commoner and speak in a broad Derbyshire dialect. He was the “mockneyâ€? of his day, imagine Jamie Oliver but with sexual organs.

Unresolved sexual tension: 0/10 – DH Lawrence might well have been radically right-wing, hostile to democracy and liberalism, but he couldn’t half write a good sex scene.

8. Remains of the Day

In 1950s England, Mr Stevens (the butler of Darlington Hall) receives a letter from Miss Kenton who worked with him before the war as housekeeper; there was a mutual attraction although nothing happened. Miss Kenton had quit the job after two servants were sacked for being Jewish.

After reading the letter Mr Stevens decides to visit her at her new workplace. For the rest of the film Miss Kenton tries to coax out his true feelings. However, his sense of duty and social standing as a butler means he can’t yield to her.

Oik rating: 7/10 – Stevens was a highly respected butler – King of the Oiks

Unresolved sexual tension: 1,111/10 – Stevens was dedicated to a higher power, was celibate and resisted temptation. If only the Pope could get his priests to be like that.

7. Wuthering Heights

Not really enough space to fully explain the plot here but it spawned endless sexual fantasies about Kate Bush and the need for social workers.

In a nutshell Heathcliff is an orphan adopted by a rich family who mentally and physically abuse him. He falls for his half sister Cathy, she marries the toff from the next farm, Heathcliff isn’t happy, he runs away, comes back rich, loads of people die, Cathy dies, he does a Fritzl and locks up Cathy’s daughter, he suffers a mental breakdown and starts to see Cathy. He dies.

Oik rating: 5/10 – Heathcilff is found abandoned on the streets of Liverpool but ends up owning Wuthering Heights and Thurcross Hall. Although Heathcliff is Nouveau Riché, you can’t polish a turd.

Unresolved sexual tension from beyond the grave: 10/10 – Heathcliff suffers a mental breakdown and begins to see Cathy’s ghost, he abandons his life-long vendetta and dies so he can be with her. Some people will do anything to get their leg over.

6. Blackadder

Blackadder is the generic name that encompassed four series of a historical sitcom. Spanning the medieval era up to the First World War. All episodes starred Rowan Atkinson as antihero Edmund Blackadder and Tony Robinson as Blackadder’s dogsbody, Baldrick, Hugh Laurie (who would have thought he would turn out to be that fit?) and Stephen Fry.

Crafty Edmund Blackadder and Baldrick conjure up “cunning plansâ€? that are doomed to fail and usually end with the Queen calling for Blackadder’s head. Inspired comedy from writers Ben Elton and Richard Curtis (Four Weddings, Notting Hill etc)

Oik Rating: 5/10 – For every rat eating Baldrick, there was an aristocratic Stephen Fry

Unresolved sexual tension: 9/10 – When the Queen demanded Blackadder’s head she meant it literally. 0/10 if you were Captain Flashheart (Rik Mayall) who humped anything that wasn’t nailed down.

5. Water Babies

Let’s be honest, most period dramas start with a chimney sweep and end with a happy or sad chimney sweep. So why not just cut out the middle bit and put a cartoon in?

When a 12-year-old chimney sweep is wrongfully accused of being a thief, he makes a run for it and jumps into a turbulent river. There he encounters a wondrous civilization of anthropomorphic underwater creatures.

In the book version there are insulting references to Americans, Jews, Catholics and particularly the Irish. Luckily the film ignores this and focuses on talking sea animals, which is a relief and slightly surreal.

Oik rating: 10/10 – The cheeky upstart makes under water friends, comes back and gets a date with the lady of the manor

Unresolved sexual tension: Come on now, it’s a cartoon, is nothing sacred anymore?

4. Gosford Park

The story follows a party of wealthy Britons, Americans and their servants, who gather for a shooting weekend at Gosford Park. The host Sir William dies and a murder mystery begins involving the guests and servants. Gosford Park is like a game of Cluedo on film (you could always watch Clue) or an Agatha Christie without the moustachioed Belgian detective.

It is discovered that the recently deceased Sir William was known for seducing the women working in his factories. If a woman became pregnant, Sir William offered two choices: keep the baby and lose your job, or give the baby up and keep your job. Had he never heard of the rhythm method?

Oik rating: 8/10 – The servants tell the story and don’t get murdered

Unresolved sexual tension: 7/10 – There are whispers of a gay relationship

3. Lark Rise to Candleford

This series is set in the small Oxfordshire hamlet of Lark Rise and the wealthier neighbouring market town of Candleford towards the end of the 19th century. Teenage girl, Laura leaves Lark Rise to start a new life under the wing of her cousin Dorcas Lane, who is Post Mistress in Candleford.

The show identifies a pivotal point in rural history: the time when the quiet, close-knit and peaceful rural culture began a transformation, through mechanisation, better communications and urban expansion. And worst of all the emergence of the most hated people in the UK (hated even by themselves)…the middle class.

Oik rating: 2/10 – Dorcas Lane always comes out on top, an early win for the emerging middle class. You also need to suspend disbelief in Dawn French as a starving mother.

Unresolved sexual tension: 6/10 – What really happened between Dorcas and the lord of the manor Sir Timothy all those years ago?

2. Pride and Prejudice

The story takes place at the turn of the 19th century in rural England. The Bennet family, and their five daughters live as gentry. Mrs. Bennet is anxious to marry them off to ensure they receive their inheritance. However, Elizabeth, the heroine, is convinced that she should never marry unless she feels compelled to do so by true love.

By a stroke of luck Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor has recently arrived with his reserved friend, Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth takes an instant dislike to Darcy after he coldly rebuffs her attempts at conversation, but falls for him in the end.

Oik rating: 0/10 – The premise of the film is to make sure one of the five daughters marries so they can get the inheritance and won’t have to mix with the ghastly poor. Darcy does claim that he loves Elizabeth despite her “lower rank.” But that is a bit like Roman Abramovich calling Simon Cowell skint.

Unresolved sexual tension: 1/10 – Darcy’s aloof decorum and moral rectitude are seen by many as an excessive pride and concern for social status. Once Elizabeth gets over this, it’s game on.

1. Muppets Christmas Carol

The only period drama Dame Judi Dench couldn’t get a part in. The only human actor is Michael Caine as Scrooge. The Cratchit clan are played by the Kermits and Gonzo plays Charles Dickens as narrator. The Muppets film actually sticks closely to the original Dickens storyline – apart from the addition of songs and puppets. Scrooge is a great story and replacing actors with felt toys makes it even more heart warming.

Oik rating: 8/10 – Scrooge comes good and Tiny Tim and the rest of the Cratchit clan are treated to a feast.

Unresolved sexual tension: 9/10 – Miss Piggy has been after Kermit for years. She is a whip and chain type of girl he is more of a pipe and slippers kind of guy. Never going to work.

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