48 thoughts on “Top Five 1970s British Miniseries I’d Love to Watch, But…

  1. First picture in Fall of Eagles is Empress Zizi in I believe Hungarian Court Dress. Dvd in library are very nice viewing.

    1. That is Diane Keen as Empress Elizabeth/Elisabeth. As I recall, she was pretty good, and looked fabulous in her court gowns (and her riding gear; E. was a passionate equestrian).

  2. I have seen all of these except Emma, as I hate the Emma storyline. Love Pallisers, Jennie Churchill is very good to watch, also Lillie is just as good. Those are my favs of above, but also watched Fall of Eagles and Edward the King, which are more serious but also good. I, Claudius probably least fav by default. The First Churchills was fun but missing a few episodes on Youtube.
    The Pallisers includes Can He Forgive Her, Phineas Finn series, The Duke’s Children, and The Eustace Diamonds, all of which are Trollope books and watched all of it on Youtube. Lillie and Jennie can be found via Amazon, as well as Youtube. Edward the King and Fall of Eagles are on Youtube and I, Claudius on Acorn TV.
    Some are cheesier than others re:costuming and production but all worthwhile. Susan Hampshire is among my favorite actors and she stars in Pallisers and The First Churchills, most of which is also on Youtube.
    Lillie may be the most polished watch of the bunch in my opinion and is very entertaining.

  3. Have seen many of these- watch! The storylines really hold up. Even the early Forsythe Saga. Much better than the remake in terms of story.

  4. I’ve seen Jennie as well as Edward the King which actually was shown on Channel 5 here in New York back in the day. I think the First Churchills was one of the first series shown on Masterpiece Theatre back in the day. And I, Claudius is brilliant. I actually read both books because I saw I, Claudius. I’ve been a huge fan of Derek Jacobi to this day because of this show. And Sian Phillips as Livia! Patrick Stewart as Sejanus!

    1. I too, read the Claudius books because of the series (and then floated into Mary Renaults books). That scene where Livia and the poisoner trade best practices while eating a meal is really primo TV. And, a fan of Jacobi ever since I saw the series.

  5. I have watched all except Pallisers. Yes, the video quality tends to be crummy, but gosh, the quality of the acting and the literacy of the scripts are outstanding. Yes, worth it!

    1. It’s a shame to avoid older, superb programs just because of the video quality. I have the same issue trying to turn younger folks on to excellent productions just because they’re in black-and-white. And I wish we could train viewers to appreciate the slower pace of older dramas; they give you more time to think.

  6. Actually, I have a DVD copy of “The Pallisers”. It’s not bad for the 1970s. And the miniseries is stupendous. I also have a DVD copy of “Jennie: The Lady Randolph Churchill”. Excellent miniseries.

  7. I guess The Barchester Chronicles is out of the picture here because it started in 1982, but that was the first time I laid eyes (and ears) on all our secret husband, Alan Rickman.

    1. It was very good. I hate Susan Hampshire’s voice — it sounds like fingernails on chalkboard — but was a huge John Neville fan. I still want a copy to rewatch. That and By the Sword Divided were my 17th century inspirations.

  8. I saw all of these, except Fall of Eagles, when they were originally broadcast in the US. All are well worth your attention regardless of video quality! Maybe the DVDs would be better? The acting is all great! And the production values are good despite the filming limitations. The Pallisers is so great, stuffed full of fine acting and costuming. Many of our favorite actors are in there!

    I wish viewers wouldn’t let video limitations keep them from experiencing these series.

    1. I have the DVD box set of Elizabeth R (which I recently rewatched for the Patreon post I wrote), & it’s not a lot better than the quality of the version currently available on BritBox. Not like the DVDs are ‘remastered’ or anything :(

  9. I’d put these adaptations into a Before and After Firth and Ehrle. That was when the TV companies started to outsource stuff instead of doing it all in house.
    I’ve seen them all. The Golden Age in many ways. Yes, they’re stagey, yes, the film quality is shitty (but somebody could digitise them, couldn’t they?) but they’re well acted and pretty accurate. The First Churchills is staid compared to The Favourite, and Queen Anne wasn’t nearly big enough, but I prefer it anyway.
    How about the original version of All Creatures Great And Small? It was set in the 1930s, so doesn’t that count? Casanova with Frank Finlay. Dickens of London was another good one.
    Edward and Mrs Simpson (Anthony Andrews again!). I Claudius, still so good, was a 1970s goodie. The Prince Regent was pretty good, with Peter Egan. And the costumes for that one are mouthwatering.
    They used to tour the costumes, too. They used a lot of curtain velvet because it was heavier than the dress variety, and similar for the brocades and damasks.

    1. It’s also simply recording on video vs. film or HD video. Compare the 2015-2019 Poldark filmed in 16:9 HD for the entire run, while the 1975-1978 Poldark was recorded in 4:3 video with occasional film shots outdoors. It’s just harder to see costume quality in the older productions bec. of how they were filmed at the time. Conversely, now we can see some fairly crappy & boring costumes in super high-def, ugh :(

  10. I saw and loved First Churchills and Pallisers when they were first broadcast – so it’s been a while. The video quality can be iffy and some of the sets shaky, but the performances are almost always really worth the bother. (And if you haven’t seen “I Clavdivs” yet, you really should It’s magnificent.) I was away at University 1973-7, with very little access to a TV, so I missed most of the others, but they were very well-reviewed at the time.

  11. I remember watching Edward the Seventh on Netflix a few years back — I think it was in their streaming library and DVD. A young Charles Dance plays the Duke of Clarance for a few episodes.
    Fall of Eagles is/was on Youtube, but I think I only made it through episode 3. The fourth picture — “Maybe this is Vicky (daughter of Queen Victoria)? I love the ridiculous feathers” — is of a young Franz Josef and his mother Archduchess Sophie in episode about his engagement and early days of marriage to Empress Elisabeth.

  12. So much stuff I haven’t seen. I am so impressed that somehow in the same era that gave us flower child saloon girl western nonsense, BBC was putting together legitimately great costume dramas just for TV. I think of these I’d love to see Fall of Eagles.

  13. Edward The Seventh and Fall of Eagles have been available on Youtube; I would love to see the Churchills series for William/Mary and Queen Anne content. Fall of Eagles is a bit zzz. Edward the Seventh is actually good, not just the costumes but also the writing! I came away from it feeling affection for E7, Alexandra, etc…it definitely paints them in a good light while educating the viewer on what he did and didn’t accomplish.

    1. I totally agree also I loved Anette Crosbie as Queen Victoria even if she wasn’t that sympathetic
      About Fall of Eagles fact is you can’t attach to any of the characters they always disappear soon like Sissi she was in only two eps set 30 years apart that’s to much of a change Vicky was nice but also dissapeared soon and Alexandra was initially nice but soon disintegrated into a neurotic religious fanatic

      1. About Fall of Eagles it’s something like a dramatic documentary about the end of the Austrian-Hungarian, German and Russian empires it’s somewhat slow and difficult to follow for they don’t have a very linear chronology and focuses on different characters and problems over the episodes it does give a clearer light over events and includes characters most deceptions don’t like Empress Alexandra’s sister but it’s not entirely recommendable
        About the pictures the first was young Empress Elisabeth with a Hungarian Tiara with the second and third being her older self when Rudolph died the Third isn’t Vicky she was played by Gemma Jones (Duchess of Duke Street) brilliantly actually, but the picture is of Pama Brown as a Bitchy Archiduchess Sophie Sissi’s Mother in law and Aunt.
        And you’re right the other pictures are of Alexandra (Gayle Hunnicutt from The Golden Bowl and A Scandal in Bohemia).

  14. The Pallisers is Fantastic and Beautifully Done as well as Jennie Lady Randolph Churchill is marvelous no wonder Lee Remick won Awards pity not the Emmy
    Edward the Seventh is Great I love almost everything in it also I liked they had two actors for most of the Characters it makes more sense than having older people playing teenagers

    1. Just an observation I might hate the duke in The Pallisers sometimes but don’t let it discourage you
      On Jennie you mentioned Sian Phillips I think she was in one episode and I only remember her in one scene to steal Jennie’s younger neglected husband funny thing she later play Sir Winston Churchill’s wife in another miniseries

  15. I wanted to recommend the 1972 War and Peace it certainly made a much bigger effort than the new version but gosh the fabrics are very questionable I remember Natasha’s ball gown being well fitted but the color and the fabric looked terrible (my opinion) anyway it had some better examples like Helene’s 18/19th century hot costumes much better than pretty anything Tuppence Middleton had to wear

    1. I just loved that War and Peace. I’ve see all of these, and own a few (Pallisers and I, Claudius). Yes, these early productions are stagey, but honestly, you can get lost in the performances.

  16. I love the First Churchills, I watch it as one of my comfort shows. James Villiers is easily my favourite portrayal of Charles II. But as to the fashion, in a later episode (c.1700) there is a conversation between the Duchess and her daughter about the fashionable length of dress sleeves. The daughter is annoyed that the sleeves of her new gown are too short by at least four inches – you can see her elbows! And nobody at Versailles is showing their elbows. To which her mother replies that even the the French king’s wife has elbows. Sure enough in the next episodes the women’s dresses have no elbows to be seen!

  17. I’ve watched Fall of Eagles and Edward VII multiple times and I think they’re great.

    I could only get so-so copies of Fall of Eagles but the quality is good enough to see some genuinely good costumes (and some meh ones in there as well). Although the woman with the huge headdress is Sisi daringly wearing Hungarian costume and the older woman with the feathers in her hair is Sisi’s horrible, manipulative mother-in-law Archduchess Sophie. The Austrian story gets the least attention of the three and the Russian story the most, which I think is a pretty good read on behalf of the filmmakers as to what the audience would find most interesting, although the entirely Russian episode nine ‘The Appointment’ in particular I think drags on a fair bit. But my opinion might be slightly biased because that episode has very little in the way of costume porn to look at. I think the quality of costumes is overall a little better once they get into the 1880s onward, which happens pretty quickly. We get to Mayerling in just episode four, a particularly good episode I think.

    Edward VII is I think better in the costume department and they nailed the principle cast in my opinion. We get a pretty accurate picture of Victoria as a selfish womanchild who was never forced to put anyone’s needs before her own, unless that person was Albert and who after his death spent forty years bitterly moping, resenting everyone else’s happiness and expecting everyone to cater exclusively to her emotional needs. (I really like ITV’s Victoria but it does bug me that she’s being depicted as a good deal more well-adjusted and compassionate than she actually was. I’m pretty much thinking of it as a pseudo-alternate history at this point.)

    Poor Bertie forced through a borderline abusive and stridently moralistic educational regime as a child, which happens to be pretty much the exact opposite of the kind of educational environment that would have actually helped him learn, with the expectation that he would have many important duties and had to be prepared for them but then after Albert dies Victoria spitefully gives him absolutely nothing to do and then endlessly berates him for being a useless layabout who does nothing but frivolous things like attend parties, gamble and have affairs.

    And poor Alexandra who gets treated like a second-class citizen by her mother-in-law when she dares to be upset that Prussia invaded Denmark and seized half their territory, when she wants to travel to India with Bertie but is told to by Victoria to stay home with the children just because Victoria says she has to and when her brother the King of Greece is danger of being murdered by an uprising Victoria doesn’t want to hear about. And of course she has to endure Bertie’s affairs and their increasing emotional distance the whole time.

    Then of course in later episodes there’s the insufferable Willy, both tragic and deeply unlikable, making everyone who interacts with him supremely uncomfortable.

    I was lucky enough to find it on DVD for free so I’ve got as a good a quality as possible, unless they decide to remaster it someday. My friend’s very elderly neighbour was moved into a retirement home in another state by his family (they brought him to where they live, they didn’t send him away) and my friend was given three big boxes of DVDs he’d had lying around, most of them still in plastic and some doubled up as well because the poor guy was pretty confused. But he was also a big fan of 60s and 70s British television and I got to snap up a nice little bundle of stuff, which my British mum was pretty happy about too!

  18. Bite the bullet Kendra! All of these have gorgeous costumes, although I’ve only watched the first few episodes of The Pallisers. Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill was the only one that I found boring, but IIRC it’s relatively short. All the others have excellent writing and performances.

    1. Absolutely! It’s excellent. And Charles I is played by Jeremy Clyde of Chad & Jeremy, is anybody’s old enough to remember them.

  19. I loved the Pallisers when it came out – I was a child and remember watching it with my parents. Equally Jennie, and I Claudius but I haven’t seen them since. My mother did get a DVD of the old War & Peace and said it held up very well. I recommend the old Love in a Cold Climate series – much better than the later one and also endorse the suggestion of the Barchester Chronicles (in which Susan Hampshire appears again) – what a fabulous show.

  20. The first three– Pallisers, Jennie, and The First Churchills have held up well (they’re highly political, and and I love how constrained women still are able to navigate thru politics successfully). (I’ve even got a hard-cover set of the Trollope series, for soothing during stress– inspired by the series).

    The last two, not so much. Duchess of Duke Street and Lillie are more interesting about Edward. Anything about the Romanovs is better than Fall of Eagles.

    All of the costumes are fascinating. One way or the other.

  21. I have a definite cruel streak as one of my favorite parts of The Pallisers was in the Duke’s Children, when Anthony Edwards playing Lord Silverbridge dumped Lady Mabel Grech, who as so sure that the Duke would not allow Silverbridge to marry the American girl Isabel.

    Also you can enjoy a young Jeremy Irons playing the suitor of the Duke’s daughter Mary. It really is an enthralling series encompassing the Phineas Finn storyline as well as the Eustace Diamonds and the weakest link, imo, Can You Forgive Her? I can’t because the man she was so enamored of was a complete jerk and loser lol. He even physically attacked her at one point, over his desperation for money. That was quite shocking.

  22. I loved to see The first Churchills on Youtube. I didn’t cared about some problems with the costumes because the actors were great.

    The representation of the duke of Marlborough was so much better then in “The Favourite” even if we wonder About the strange way to reflect Marlborough’s Military career.

  23. I loved the “First Churchills” because 17th cent. And, also the Pallisers, despite my reaction that Susan Hampshire is always entirely 20th cent, completely unconvincing in a period role.

  24. The podcast, Emperors of Rome (from LA Trobe University), just interviewed Sian Phillips about I, Claudius from this era of BBC. Ms. Phillips said the BBC during this time had a costuming department that did all of the historical miniseries and she left the impression that they were absolutely fastidious about historical accuracy! And based on all of their miniseries that first gave me my love of historical fashion, they did a pretty good job!

  25. At the risk of noting what’s already been noted, Francesca Annis apparently was so popular as Lillie in “Edward VII” that she starred again as Mrs. Langtry in the eponymous miniseries “Lillie” (I happen to have both on DVD). Also, in one of the scenes from “The First Churchills” (the one where you remarked that you liked the satin on her gown), she’s not actually wearing a gown – she’s wearing satin breeches to show off her legs. I think this was based on a real incident which caused quite the furor at the time.

  26. The pallisers and I Claudius are fantastic. Also one of the dresses from Pallisers ended up on Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige.

  27. “Empress Alexandra, I believe. Anyone know if that ginormous tiara is accurate?”
    Nope. This picture shows be Empress Elisabeth of Austria who back in the day took a political stand by sporting a Hungarian style of dress including tiara.

  28. I’ve seen all of these except The Pallisers (I TRIED, but Susan Hampshire’s voice!). I couldn’t get into The Pallisers — either version. Fall of Eagles was fascinating, especially if one is interested in the WWI era and how things happened. The series was inhabited by so many excellent, classically trained actors. Masterpiece Theatre just cranked out one hit after another those days. And even before I was really into costumes, I could tell that they tried very hard to get them right. I met Janet Arnold while she was in the US doing a lecture tour and she had wonderful stories to tell about the shortcuts and “cheats’ they used on Six Wives.

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