Period drama Victoria finally comes to America this January, telling the story of the early years in the reign of one of England’s greatest queens. The eight-hour drama will follow Victoria from her ascension at just 18 years of age through her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. She went on to have nine children and 42 grandchildren, as well as to rule over a rather large portion of the world. But she wasn’t always the stodgy older woman dressed all in black that we all know from history. She was once a flirtatious, impetuous young woman at the head of a court filled with scandal and drama.
In short: This is the kind of history that makes for pretty great TV. Here are some reasons that you should give Victoria a try.
It’s Actually Really Good. It’s been a long twelve months for those of us looking to replace the Downton Abbey-sized hole in our hearts. Poldark helped a bit, for many people. But, Poldark is a very different kind of show, with a very different kind of lead character. (Let’s be real: Ross Poldark is kind of a jerk a lot of the time.) But Victoria feels a lot closer to a period drama in the Downton style.
More importantly: Victoria is also quite good as a costume drama in its own right. Sure, some of it is wildly historically inaccurate, but at the end of the day it remembers the most important rule for shows like this: Be entertaining. And there’s plenty to like here. From family drama to doomed relationships, from scandal to romance to pointless plots with the servants downstairs, Victoria has a little bit of everything. And it’s all done up in an incredibly gorgeous package complete with incredibly beautiful costumes and lavish settings. It's definitely worth your time.
Jenna Coleman is Very Charming. Actress Jenna Coleman’s first major role was playing Doctor Who companion Clara Oswald opposite both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi. Her seasons of Who were occasionally marred by some unfortunate writing, and she was not often given a lot of really great material to work with. (I mean if we're honest, they only really started writing for Clara and centering her story during Coleman’s last season.)
Victoria is her first leading role – in the sense of “leading” as “being the person carrying the show” or "person whose name comes first in the credits". But it seems unlikely that it will be Coleman’s last. She’s tremendously charming in this, and her terrific performance runs the gamut from youthful girl to imperious monarch to everything in between. It’s a rather terrific performance, and is likely to only get better as the show continues into its second season. She makes you care about Victoria as a person and root for her happiness, beyond the fact that she is queen.
There Are Some Interesting Historically Inaccurate Bits. As you may have already heard, there are several things about Victoria that aren’t exactly what you’d call historically accurate. It also doesn’t matter at all. Sure, certain members of Victoria’s family didn’t really scheme to try and steal her throne. Her relationship with her Prime Minister may have had much less of a romantic bent in actuality than it is presented as here. But it all makes for a terribly entertaining show – and everyone would do well to remember going in that Victoria is a piece of historical fiction, not a documentary.
Naturally, it’s going to get things wrong. Some things? Stunningly wrong. However, some of those “wrong” things turn out to be pretty entertaining to watch. (For example: The reimagined relationship between Victoria and her Prime Minister probably isn’t true. But it is fantastic period drama fare, in the best sort of angsty, heartbreakign way. ) And, if you like this show, perhaps it will propel you to learn more about Queen Victoria’s real (and quite dramatic in its own right) life. But don’t expect Victoria to be a real history lesson – you’ll have much more fun that way.
Rufus Sewell = Swoon. Speaking of Victoria’s first Prime Minister, Rufus Sewell is really so great as Lord Melbourne. U.S. fans may remember him from his leading role in the mystery series Zen a few years back, but between Victoria and his current role on Amazon’s original series The Man in the High Castle, it appears that now may finally be his moment.
If you knew and loved this actor prior to seeing Victoria, you will feel validated in your choice. If you don’t know Sewell very well, this role will probably make you obsessed. He’s wonderful in it – basically a period drama dream man who is kind and loyal and self-sacrificing and dedicated to the idea of duty. To be fair, this isn’t necessarily the most historically accurate depiction of Melbourne. Apparently Sewell is much better looking than the former Prime Minister, and is a bit younger and on the thinner side as well. With all due apologies to historians, I think we’re probably okay with this switch. (See above point about general dreaminess. To be fair, the part of me that was a medievalist in school knows full well that this ignoring of history can be irritating, but at the end of the day, sometimes we just have to let it go. This is what I tell myself every time I watch, say, Vikings, anyway.)
We Can All Use Some Escapism Right Now. January always feels like the darkest part of the year. The holidays are over and the twinkling lights are down. It’s cold and it gets dark early and winter weather advisories are everywhere. (Blech.) There is basically no part of the year where we need some fluffy, fun escapist television more than right now. There is no better time to bury ourselves in sumptuous costumes and romance and overly stoic British emotions. (I always thought this also explained why Downton Abbey got aired in January in America too. And there’s something to be said for this strategy, even though waiting through the gap between U.S. and U.K broadcast was dreadful.) Victoria fits this need perfectly. There's lots of romance, a little heartbreak, some political intrigue, and a few storylines about the servants who work downstairs. (Blame Downton for that last bit.) This show is like the best kind of comfort food, and we get to indulge in it for seven whole weeks. Yes, please.
Victoria begins on January 15 with a special two-hour episode. Will you be giving it a go? Tell us why or why not in the comments.