By Meghan O’Keefe
June 21, 2015 // 9:00am
5 Reasons Why ‘Poldark’ Is Going To Be The New ‘Downton Abbey’
A few years ago, an absorbing soap opera about the drama going on in a massive Yorkshire estate in the 1910s and 1920s took the world by storm. Downton Abbey renewed mainstream America’s interest in British costume drama and introduced us all to the Crawley clan. But Downton Abbey is almost over. So, what British export can hope to take its place in our collective Yankee hearts? Based on what we’ve seen, Masterpiece‘s latest series, Poldark, might just be your new summer obsession.
The original Poldark crossed the pond in 1975 and became one of Masterpiece’s first massive American hits. The story — which is based on Winston Graham’s Cornwall novels — has been compared to everything from Gone With The Wind to Pride & Prejudice. It’s a sweeping saga about a lovable gentleman rogue named Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). Young Captain Poldark returns home from the Revolutionary War to discover that everything he loved is lost. How will he rebuild? Can he rebuild? Will he forever pine after his childhood love? Or will the earthy Demelza (Elinor Tomlinson) turn his head? Poldark tackles all this and more.
If that hasn’t sold you, here are five reasons why we suspect Poldark might be the next Downton Abbey.
It’s Already A Super Big Deal In England
Even though Downton Abbey still has at least one season to go, England has already moved on. “Poldark fever” is an actual thing that gripped Brits this spring. The season finale had nearly 6 million viewers. What does that mean? It means that 1 in 4 Brits who were watching TV were watching it. For bigger context, those are akin to stateside Game of Thrones numbers. Poldark is a ratings smash and it might just have the juice to make the leap stateside.
It’s The Anti-‘True Detective’
As American television keeps pushing the boundaries of storytelling, it also seems to be pushing the boundaries of taste. Everything has to be dark, gritty, shocking, bloody, and sometimes appalling. While you can expect grim nihilism from HBO shows, don’t look for it in Poldark. It’s old-fashioned, straight-forward storytelling with a hero whose biggest foe is his own pride. The cinematography is glorious, the acting superb, and the characters are all shockingly earnest. I mean, the bad guys are a family of miserly bankers called the Warleggans, for goodness sake. The show’s one fault might be how simple it is, but then, it’s so well-done and absorbing that watching it feels like you’re cozying up to an old familiar friend.
It’s Got This Really, Really, REALLY Hot Guy
The biggest British crossovers usually have wonderful writing, fantastic acting, one dashing heartthrob. Poldark’s hunk is its criminally good-looking lead, Aidan Turner. You might recognize Turner for his work on the cult hit Being Human or as Kili, the hot dwarf who flirted with Evangeline Lilly in The Hobbit movies. Playing Ross Poldark is Turner’s “Darcy moment.” In fact, there’s a moment in episode three that rivals Colin Firth’s legendary wet shirt scene in Pride & Prejudice. A shirtless Captain Poldark is seen reaping wheat in a field with a scythe and it was enough to almost melt British twitter. Will it be enough to melt your heart? (WELL, I HOPE SO. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?)
The Women Are The Real Heroes
Part of Downton Abbey’s success is its focus on its brilliant female characters. Lord Grantham might rule over Downton Abbey, but it’s Lady Mary, Anna, and the Dowager Countess we tune in for. Poldark doesn’t just take its name from its charismatic leading man, but from the entire Poldark clan. There’s Elizabeth Poldark (Heida Reed), Ross’s elegant childhood love torn between her love of Ross and her duties to her husband, his feckless cousin, Francis. Then there’s Verity Poldark (Ruby Bentall). She’s as true, courageous, and honest as her name would suggest. Finally, there’s the feisty street urchin-turned-kitchen wench, Demelza Carne (Elinor Tomlinson). She lends the show its passionate heart and is the program’s romantic heroine.
It’s Yet Another Romantic Masterpiece From ‘Masterpiece’
One of the things I love most about PBS’s Masterpiece is that I know it will never let me down. It’s constantly cherry-picking the best television that Britain has to offer and Poldark is no different. In fact, Poldark might be my favorite Masterpiece offering in quite some time. The show is about the tensions that boil between old and new, rich and poor, and the future and the past. It’s about how drama erupts when people succumb to fear, pride, and jealousy.
Most of all, it’s about how love has the power to light us through our darkest days. If you’ve ever fallen for a Mr. Darcy, a Heathcliff, a Horatio Hornblower, or a Jamie Fraser…then Ross Poldark will capture your heart. And if you have a soft spot for tempestuous upstarts like Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O’Hara, Jane Eyre, or Claire Randall… then you’re really going to like Demelza. And if you like streaming amazing quality entertainment for free, you’re going to love watching it on your PBS app after it premieres tonight. [Watch Poldark on PBS]