Your PBS Masterpiece Classic Fall 2017 Schedule is here!
You’ll find descriptions of the historical costume dramas in the PBS Masterpiece line-up, with premiere and return dates, as well as other shows from PBS that Willow and Thatch thinks you may like to watch.
At the end of the post there is news about what’s coming up after the fall, along with some additional information about period movies and television mini-series that are in development by our favorite network.
See the Wait! Where’s My Show? section and below for details about period dramas coming to PBS in 2018, cancelled series, and more.
If more historical / costume / period dramas are added to the 2017 Fall PBS Masterpiece lineup, or to PBS fall programming in general, they’ll be listed here, so you’ll want to bookmark this page. You can also sign up for our newsletter here. The PBS Masterpiece Spring 2018 Schedule is here.
New and Returning
Season 3 Sundays, October 1 – November 19, 9 PM ET
Aidan Turner stars as Ross Poldark, a redcoat who returns to Cornwall after battle to discover that his father is dead, his lands are ruined, and his true love is engaged to another. Can Poldark change his destiny, restore his lost fortune, and reclaim his love?
Season 3, based on Winston Graham’s 1973 novel The Black Moon, and the first half of 1976’s The Four Swans, finds Ross and Demelza attempting to repair their relationship, while George Warleggan builds his empire to crush the Poldarks. Elizabeth harbors a dangerous secret, and Dwight is captured during the war with France. Will Ross risk everything to save his friend?
The new season is set in 1794 and Ross will “traverse new family, new loves and new battles, as the French Revolution casts a shadow over life in Cornwall.”
Eleanor Tomlinson stars as Ross’ wife Demelza, Heida Reed as Elizabeth, Jack Farthing as George Warleggan, Ruby Bentall as Verity, Luke Norris as Dr. Dwight Enys, Caroline Blakiston as Aunt Agatha, Gabriella Wilde as Caroline Penvenen and John Nettles as Ray Penvenen.
The third season adds Drake (Harry Richardson) and Sam (Tom York) to the cast as Demelza’s brothers, and Josh Whitehouse as aristocrat Hugh Armitage. Ciara Charteris is Emma Tregirls, Sam’s love interest.
Series’ writer Debbie Horsfield said that “Ross is older but not necessary wiser, and his recklessness sometimes costs him, and his loved ones, dear. We’re in for a roller-coaster ride where the stakes have never been higher.”
We still love you Ross, even if you can be a stupid-head sometimes.
There will be nine episodes in the upcoming season.
Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream here.
You’ll also be happy to know that Season 4 is confirmed – filming begins in September!
Masterpiece: The Durrells in Corfu
Season 2 Sundays, October 15 – November 19, 8 PM ET
Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs) stars as an intrepid widow who decamps from dreary England to a sun-dappled Greek island with her four recalcitrant children, ages 11 to 21, on this adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and its two sequels.
Alongside Hawes’ matriarch Louisa Durrell are eldest son, Larry (Josh O’Connor), a budding writer on his way to becoming the famous novelist Lawrence Durrell; son number two, Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), an impulsive firearms enthusiast; daughter Margo (Daisy Waterstone), sixteen and man-crazy; and eleven-year-old Gerry (Milo Parker), who only has eyes for wildlife and grew up to be a world-renowned naturalist.
The second season continues to chronicle the family’s adventures with the island’s townspeople, customs and wildlife.
Season 1 is available to stream here.
If you’ve never had the privilege of watching the original BBC / PBS Masterpiece Theatre production of My Family and Other Animals, do yourself the favor! It’s exceptional.
Season 3 is confirmed.
PBS: Anne of Green Gables – The Good Stars
Thursday, November 23, 8 PM ET
When Anne Shirley turns thirteen, she faces complex issues with her friends, inspirational adults and Marilla and Matthew. At the same time, she begins a friendship with Gilbert Blythe that emotionally escalates to disrupt the status quo of her peaceful world. Her free-spirited nature is challenged by her perceived need to become sensible, and her journey toward this goal is fraught with confusion and more than a few unfortunate – albeit, amusing – mishaps.
Through school events and playtime after class, Anne continues to deepen her bosom friendship with Diana Barry. It almost sours when she frightens the living daylights out of Diana’s elderly Aunt Josephine. Just when all is forgiven, their friendship faces an even more profound test when Anne begins to spend more time with Gilbert.
Meanwhile, at Green Gables, Matthew’s health begins to slide. Anne struggles with a promise to Matthew but she’s not one to harbor secrets. The rising tension between Anne, her girlfriends and Gilbert culminates with a daring river rescue. Anne must make a decision that could break Gilbert’s heart.
The Anne of Green Gables Print is available through Peter Pan Prints on Etsy.
A 2017 Canadian television film produced by Breakthrough Entertainment directed and written by John Kent Harrison and starring Ella Ballentine, Martin Sheen and Sara Botsford. PBS aired the first of the Anne of Green Gables movies in the series in November 2016.
The first TV movie in the series, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, is available to stream here.
Masterpiece: The Collection
Season 1 premieres Sunday October 8, 10 PM ET
This gripping entrepreneurial fable is set in France just after the Second World War. An ambitious designer is tasked to restore Paris’ supremacy as the haute couture capital. His fresh vision will usher in a new romantic era lifting the post-war gloom and paving the way for optimism and romance. But can this business, spearheaded by two clashing brothers survive meteoric success?
Dark secrets threaten to topple this empire at any moment; internal rivalries and betrayals, hateful bargains made to survive the Nazi occupation, and the twisted secret behind the master’s success.
The staff of the atelier survived one devastating war, but another looms, where personal battles and passionate love stories set family against family and the past against the future. Starring Richard Coyle, Tom Riley, Michael Kitchen, Sarah Parish, Mamie Gummer, Frances de la Tour.
Can’t wait to watch the series? The Collection is streaming on Amazon Prime.
PBS: Call the Midwife Holiday Special
Monday, December 25, 9 PM ET
Written by Heidi Thomas, the Christmas special opens with Poplar under a thick blanket of snow, as the midwives face the challenge of the coldest winter for 300 years. The winter of 1963 saw temperatures plunge to a record low and the whole country brought to a standstill due to the severe weather. Battling snow, ice, power cuts and frozen pipes, the midwives strive to provide the best possible care for their patients. Valerie helps a young couple, newly arrived in London, who experience a traumatic birth, and Sister Julienne strives to reunite a family torn apart by a tormenting father. Anita Dobson guest stars as Mabel.
Joining as a new cast member is Leonie Elliott, who plays Nurse Lucille Anderson, the first West Indian midwife to feature as a regular character in the series. Elegant, funny and clever, Lucille is swift to settle in and brings a fresh new energy to life at Nonnatus House. Through her eyes we explore the experiences of Caribbean nurses who came over in the 1960s to support the growing NHS.
In series seven the nuns and nurses find themselves tested both personally and professionally as never before. All around them they see the old East End vanishing, as slum clearances make way for bold new tower blocks to accommodate expanding communities. Their work brings them into contact with a wide range of challenging issues, from Leprosy, Tokophobia and Stroke, to Huntingdon’s Chorea, Cataracts, and unmarried mothers.
Trixie’s romance with Christopher continues to develop, whilst Tom and Barbara enjoy life as a married couple. Nurse Crane finds her authority questioned from an unexpected quarter, and Sister Monica Joan is forced to accept her failing faculties. And life for the Turners is turned upside down when Shelagh decides to employ an au pair!
Additional series seven cast include: Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne), Linda Bassett (Nurse Crane), Judy Parfitt (Sister Monica Joan), Helen George (Trixie), Laura Main (Shelagh Turner), Charlotte Ritchie (Barbara), Victoria Yeates (Sister Winifred), Jennifer Kirby (Valerie), Stephen McGann (Dr Turner), Jack Ashton (Tom), Cliff Parisi (Fred), Annabelle Apsion (Violet), Max Macmillan (Timothy) and Jack Hawkins (Christopher).
The seventh season of the period series will air in the spring of 2018.
BBC has confirmed that the long running British period drama will air with new series at least until 2020, so if you haven’t been hooked yet, there’s still time to start. You may also want to read the acclaimed Midwife Trilogy by Jennifer Worth on which the series is based.
Earlier seasons of Call the Midwife are streaming here.
Also Period and on PBS This Fall
Great Performances: She Loves Me
Friday, October 20, 9 PM ET
Two feuding clerks in a 1930s Budapest parfumerie unwittingly find solace in each other as anonymous romantic pen pals—not realizing their respective correspondents are in fact each other. Laura Benanti, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel star.
Great Performances: Holiday Inn
Friday, November 24, 9 PM ET
The Roundabout Theatre Company presents a Broadway adaptation of the 1942 movie musical that starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This heartwarming classic with a contemporary sparkle features thrilling dance numbers, laugh-out-loud comedy and a parade of Irving Berlin hit songs.
Great Performances: Hamilton’s America (Encore)
Friday, December 1, 9 PM ET
Great Performances follows the creation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pop culture Broadway phenomenon, Hamilton, and the history behind it. Interviews with Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Nas, Questlove, Stephen Sondheim and more.
Wait! Where’s My Show?
Masterpiece: Endeavour Season 4
Sundays, August 20 – September 10, 2017, 9 PM ET
Shaun Evans and Roger Allam return as the iconic mystery-solving duo when Endeavour continues. In Season 4, it’s the summer of 1967, and the effects of the Cold War and sixties counterculture are being felt in Oxford. How will this changing landscape affect our favorite detectives? We’ll find out in 4 new episodes which promise to stump, thrill, and delight. New guest stars include Chris Fulton, Adam James, Tristan Sturrock and Gillian Saker. Returning cast members include Anton Lesser, Sean Rigby, Dakota Blue Richards, Caroline O’Neil, James Bradshaw and Abigail Thaw.
Seasons 1 – 3 are available to stream here.
As of August 2017, there has been no official word if there will be a Season 4 of Grantchester. In previous years, the renewal announcement was made at the end of May, which allowed time to air the UK Christmas special. If the much-loved series returns, (and we can keep safely keep our expectations high for now), expect it to air on PBS Masterpiece during the summer.
Seasons 1 – 3 are available to stream here.
Masterpiece: My Mother and Other Strangers
As of August, 2017, the future of My Mother and Other Strangers, the WWII-era drama based on real wartime history and set in Northern Ireland is unclear. The good news is that Aaron Staton (who plays the American soldier in the love triangle) told The Huffington Post that the experience was “beyond stunning, and if there’s any way Captain Dreyfuss has more story to tell in Series 2, I’ll be there.” The bad news is that if the period series, which originally aired on BBC in 2016, does return, it may take some time for it to air.
The leading role of Rose in the five-part television drama was specifically written for Hattie Morahan (The Bletchley Circle), who was pregnant during the filming of Season 1 with her first daughter. She told the Independent in November of 2016 that she was taking some time off. Season one premiered mid-June with 5 episodes, so hypothetically Season two would air in the summertime.
Season one is available to stream here.
January 14, 2018
Created by Daisy Goodwin, this ambitious drama presents the early years of one of history’s greatest monarchs. Season 2 will take place in 1840. 21-year- old Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and her husband, Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), confront their newfound parenthood, a war abroad and the Irish potato famine closer to home.
Joining the cast in the new season is legendary actress Dame Diana Rigg, who plays the Duchess of Buccleuch, the court’s new Mistress of the Robes—a fount of old-fashioned good sense for the queen, who is now in the throes of motherhood.
Tom Hughes stars as the queen’s smoldering consort, Prince Albert. Also returning from last season are Nell Hudson (Outlander) as Nancy Skerrett, newly promoted to the queen’s chief dresser, whose secrets are yet to be revealed, and Ferdinand Kingsley (Borgia) as Charles Francatelli, the royal chef whose love for Nancy was spurned at the end of Season 1.
Victoria’s first season, focusing on the teenage queen’s audacious upstaging of her handlers to chart her own path, delighted TV critics. The Hollywood Reporter called Victoria “thoroughly enjoyable and addictive.” “Royally entertaining,” proclaimed The San Francisco Chronicle, and “a sparkling gem,” said The New York Post. “Victoria is a victory,” declared The Tampa Bay Times.
And, of course, the costumes and settings enchanted all: “A lavish production with impeccable period details,” penned Newsday.
Victoria’s new season sees the return of Nigel Lindsay (Rome) as Sir Robert Peel, the reforming British prime minister, at odds with his sovereign over policy; Catherine Flemming as the Duchess of Kent, Victoria’s manipulative mother, still battling her headstrong daughter; and Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) as the Duke of Wellington, the hero of the Battle of Waterloo, now a retired prime minister and sage mentor to the queen.
Also back are Adrian Schiller (Beauty and the Beast) as Penge, the irascible head steward at the palace; Daniela Holtz as Baroness Lehzen, Victoria’s devoted governess since birth; and David Oakes (The White Queen) as Prince Ernest, Albert’s debauched older brother, who becomes Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on the death of their equally promiscuous father, played by Andrew Bicknell (The Royals).
Season 2 finds Victoria adapting to motherhood after the birth of her first child, a daughter (to the disappointment of many). Meanwhile, the disaster of the Anglo-Afghan War unfolds abroad, and the catastrophic Irish potato famine begins to wreak havoc. In other foreign affairs, a royal state visit to France is in the offing.
Most intriguing to Prince Albert is the budding Industrial Revolution, which is now sweeping England. There is Charles Babbage’s mechanical calculator, a collaborative project with the bewitching Ada Lovelace, daughter of the scandalous Lord Byron. Then there is William Fothergill Cooke’s miraculous electrical telegraph, not to mention Marc Isambard Brunel’s daring—and dangerous—Thames Tunnel.
What an extraordinary time to be Queen!
Seven episodes are planned.
Season one is available to stream here.
Upcoming / In Development
Masterpiece: The Chaperone (2018)
PBS’ first theatrical film, The Chaperone, is based on Laura Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same name. Adapted by Julian Fellowes, the new period drama will be set in the 1920s. It will air on PBS stations nationwide after its initial theatrical run.
You can read more about the new period drama which stars Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern, here.
Masterpiece: Little Women (2018)
Loved by generations of women worldwide, Little Women is a truly universal coming of age story. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the story follows sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March on their journey from childhood to adulthood. With the help of their mother, Marmee, and while their father is away at war, the girls navigate what it means to be a young woman: from sibling rivalry and first love, to loss and marriage.
Angela Lansbury and Michael Gambon star with BAFTA Award-winner Emily Watson as beloved Marmee; Maya Hawke, Willa Fitzgerald, Annes Elwy and Kathryn Newton to play iconic March sisters alongside Jonah Hauer-King as Laurie Laurence.
You can read more about the new three-part television adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age classic from PBS Masterpiece and BBC, here. Filming has begun!
Masterpiece: Man in an Orange Shirt (2018)
Set in 1945 and 2018, the new period drama will star Vanessa Redgrave (Julia, The Gathering Storm) as a grandmother who is trying to cope with the fact that her grandson is homosexual. In his first screen drama, best-selling British novelist Patrick Gale tells two gay love stories, 60 years apart – stories linked by family, and by a painting that holds a secret that echoes down the generations. Charting the challenges and huge changes to gay lives from the Second World War to the present, the two-hour film explores a forbidden relationship made impossible by illegality and societal pressure and contrasts it with present day romance which, while the external constraints have fallen away, is a minefield of internalized issues and temptations.
Oscar-winner Redgrave is joined by a cast that includes Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Mr. Selfridge, Lark Rise to Candleford), James McArdle, Joanna Vanderham (The Paradise), Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey), Julian Morris, Julian Sands and David Gyasi.
The upcoming period drama will air in June of 2018, as part of Gay Pride Month.
Masterpiece: The Miniaturist (2017 or 2018)
BBC and PBS MASTERPIECE are co-producing The Miniaturist, based on the novel by Jessie Burton. The three-part period thriller for the BBC is adapted by John Brownlow and will star Anya Taylor-Joy, Romola Garai (Churchill’s Secret) and Alex Hassell (Anonymous), alongside Paapa Essiedu (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Hayley Squires (Call the Midwife) and Emily Berrington. Filming in the Netherlands has begun.
A woman moves to live with her new husband in 17th century Amsterdam, but soon discovers that not everything is what it seems.
In 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman (Taylor-Joy) knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. Full of hopes and dreams, she has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt (Hassell). But instead of Johannes, she’s met by his cold sister Marin (Garai) and their servants (Squires, Essiedu) and quickly realizes that nothing is as it seems in the Brandt household. When Johannes finally appears he presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet that is a miniature replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive Miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror what is happening within the house in unexpected ways and seem to be predicting and unravelling the future with unsettling precision.
As Nella begins to uncover its secrets and those of the Brandt household she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the Miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Masterpiece: Home Fires
There are no future seasons planned of Home Fires. Willow and Thatch thinks it may very well be one of the worst decisions ITV has made, and a RadioTimes poll shows that 98% of viewers 98% were against ITV’s decision to cancel the drama.
That cliffhanger, however, at the finale of Season 2 is resolved: with the plot lines already planned and half of the third season written at the time of cancellation, Simon Block has decided to move the story ahead through a series of three novels.
The first novel, Keep the Home Fires Burning covers what would be Season 3. About the development of characters Frances and Joyce, Block told Paste magazine “Their challenges change. They’re very bright women and strong, so you have to test them, you have to give them significant obstacles to really bring out their character. As someone who’s not been able to have children, Frances is suddenly left with this orphaned boy, to decide what to do with. The same with Joyce—her development coming back in the village without her husband. How does she establish herself as a single woman and regain her status?” And of course the Pat-Bob situation takes center stage: it’s “one of the main storylines in the book. I wrote quite a lot of it like the TV show, pushing nine lead stories.”
Part one the four-part ebook serial is now available here. You can read one ebook episode a month starting in July 2017 or own the complete novel in ebook or paperback in October 2017 by ordering it here.
As to shopping the show to other outlets, the producers did try, but Simon Block said that “networks like Netflix and Amazon are more about commissioning their own shows.” The WWII period series with a strong female cast had two wonderful seasons, which are available to stream here. The series was cancelled in 2016.
You can read an interview with author Julie Summers, whose book Jambusters / Home Fires inspired the series, here.
You can stream Home Fires here.
PBS: Mercy Street
Based on real events, Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of a distinctive cast of characters – doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists – realizing the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War. Mercy Street, starring Josh Radnor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, was cancelled after two seasons for funding and production timeline issues. The existing 12 hours of the period drama are well worth watching.
You can stream both seasons here.
Masterpiece: Indian Summers
Julie Walters stars as the glamorous doyenne of an English social club in the twilight era of British rule in India. The television series has been cancelled in 2016 and will not be commissioned for a third series.
You can stream its two seasons here.
Masterpiece: The Paradise
Made homeless by the death of her father and with nothing to live on but her wits, Denise comes from the country to work in the spectacularly glamorous Ladies Paradise, England’s first department store. So begins our rags-to-riches story of a young girl who falls in love with the intoxicating and dangerous charms of the modern world. The Paradise was cancelled in 2014 after two seasons, despite the many organized uproars from its fans.
It’s available to stream here.
PBS: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
A fourth season of this period series seems “impossible” because seat Essie Davis has moved to London. However, in November 2016, the series’ executive producer Fiona Eagger told Australia’s Herald Sun that they are working to raise funds for a trilogy of Miss Fisher movies as well as a prequel TV spin-off.
“A feature film can fit into her schedule easier than a five-month ongoing TV series so the aim is in the second half of next year to be able to begin filming… We want it to be like the Indiana Jones movies.” with amateur detective Phryne Fisher solving cases all over the world. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’ executive producer Deborah Cox is putting the final touches on the script of the first feature film.
The existing 3 seasons are available to stream here.
Downton Abbey the Movie
You’ll also want to know that Downton Abbey, the feature-length film, should start filming in 2018 if all goes as planned.
Until then, see this post about Downton’s Cast in Other Period Dramas and the Post-Downton Survival Guide.
Recent Masterpiece Period Dramas
Arthur & George, Churchill’s Secret, Dark Angel, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Lady Vanishes and To Walk Invisible were always planned to be one-offs. They may be broadcast again, but as far as Willow and Thatch knows, there are currently no plans to extend the stories.
PBS: The Great American Read
Because you love to read classic literature, Willow and Thatch thought you’d also like to know about The Great American Read (working title), a new eight-part television series and nationwide campaign that explores the joy of books and the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved books, chosen by the public. Designed to spark a national conversation about reading and the books that have inspired, moved and shaped us, the initiative encompasses the eight-part PBS series, community reading programs and special events, and a wide range of digital and social media initiatives. Featuring testimonials from notable figures from the entertainment, sports, news and literary worlds, the series culminates in the first-ever national vote to choose “America’s Best-Loved Book.”
The Great American Read will launch in spring 2018 with a multi-platform digital and social campaign leading up to the reveal of the 100 books selected by the American public and an advisory panel of literary professionals. Beginning with a two-hour kick-off event in May, the high-energy, hosted documentary special will feature appearances by celebrities and everyday Americans passionately advocating for and explaining their personal connections to their favorite books. Voting and social media engagement will continue throughout summer 2018, with six episodes of the series exploring the nominated books through themes such as “Being American,” “Heroes,” “Growing Up,” “What We Do for Love” and more. Throughout the summer, PBS stations will partner with local organizations and booksellers in the community to activate and inspire the next generation of readers through library, education and community initiatives. As summer turns to fall, voting will close and America’s top 10 books will be revealed counting down to America’s Best-Loved in the final episode of the series in September 2018.
Masterpiece: The Child in Time
Not strictly period but you may want to know about The Child in Time. You’ll have to wait until 2018 for PBS to air The Child in Time, which will star Benedict Cumberbatch (Parade’s End) as Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children’s books, who is confronted with the unthinkable: the loss of a child. Adapted by Stephen Butchard (The Last Kingdom) from Ian McEwan’s Whitbread Prize winning novel, and directed by Julian Farino, The Child In Time is a lyrical and heart-breaking exploration of love, loss and the power of things unseen. With Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Campbell Moore (The Go-Between) and Saskia Reeves (Wolf Hall). The book is set in a dystopian near future, so depending on the choices made in adapting it, it could be period in the sense that it takes place in an era different from the present one. The Child In Time is in post-production at the time of this writing.
About PBS MASTERPIECE: Produced by PBS’s flagship station — WGBH/Boston — MASTERPIECE has remained steadfast in our commitment to bringing the best in drama to American public television audiences.
Throughout the year, MASTERPIECE presents beloved programming from classics such as Bleak House, popular favorites Downton Abbey and Sherlock, as well as mysteries including Endeavour, Inspector Lewis, Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh, and more. MASTERPIECE occasionally presents the best in contemporary drama, recently featuring award-winning writer/director David Hare’s Worricker trilogy.
The series has been produced for PBS by WGBH/Boston since 1971. You van visit their website, and support their programming here.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to visit The Period Films List. You’ll especially like the BBC Classic Drama Collection list. Also see Masterpiece Classics on Amazon Prime, Little Women Film Adaptations, and The Chaperone: a PBS Theatrical Release.