Hayley Atwell's 'Howards End' Will Air on Masterpiece

Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen in "Howard's End" (Photo: Courtesy of 2017 Starz Entertainment, LLC)
Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen in "Howard's End" (Photo: Courtesy of 2017 Starz Entertainment, LLC) 

Period drama fans have a lot to celebrate in the new year - the lavish new Howards End is coming to PBS Masterpiece! 

Based on E.M. Forster’s classic novel of the same name, Howards End follows two unconventional and independent sisters – Margaret and Helen Schlegel – as they seek love and meaning in an ever-changing world. That’s the vaguest description of this story possible, which also includes love, loss, matchmaking, poor decisions, class issues, financial ruin and more.

If this particular period drama feels a bit familiar, well it should. This adaptation of Howards End originally aired on premium cable network Starz in the Spring of 2018. Now, it's coming to Masterpiece. The four-episode series will air beginning Sunday, January 12, 2020 and serve as a lead-in and companion to upcoming Jane Austen drama Sanditon

The prospect of formerly premium drama content eventually becoming available on public television is pretty exciting in general, but especially for this particular project, which feels absolutely tailor-made for a Masterpiece audience. 

Watch the trailer below and see for yourself. 

The drama stars Hayley Atwell and Philippa Coulthard as the intelligent and idealistic Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen. Since the death of their parents, they live with their hypochondriac brother Tibby in Edwardian London, leading independent and slightly unorthodox lives. (As their interfering Aunt Juley (Tracy Ullman) is very found of reminding them.) While on holiday, Margaret strikes up a relationship with the older and more traditional Ruth Wilcox (Julia Ormand). 

When Ruth unexpectedly dies, Margaret finds herself increasingly drawn to the newly widowed Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen), a self-made businessman who inherits his late wife’s beloved country home, Howards End. Meanwhile, the passionate and capricious Helen takes up the cause of Leonard Bast (Joseph Quinn), a young bank clerk who is struggling to make ends meet, trapped by his promise to marry his alluring but vulnerable lover Jacky (Rosalind Eleazar). 

The upshot of all this is that the ownership of Howards End comes into question, and it all sort of stands in for a larger referendum on issues of class and belonging in England, as each of our major characters comes from a different social group, with different experiences of wealth, poverty and everything in between. 

The original 1992 Merchant & Ivory version of Howards End stars Emma ThompsonHelena Bonham Carter, Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave. It is basically a perfect film, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. But this television adaptation is intriguing precisely because it's so much longer, giving the story several additional hours to breathe and to really dig into the complicated societal issues at play. 

Does this new Howards End sound like something you'll tune in for? If you've already seen it on Starz - what did you think.