In the U.S., today is Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, depending on how you look at it. For me personally, it’s a long weekend I can spend eating leftovers of my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner (so.much.gravy) and sew on projects for Christmas and 12th Night. My family has exchanged homemade gifts for years, plus I’m making some historical costumes on commission for others that are due at the end of the year. That means I have no need and little interest in hitting the mall or big-box stores (unless I run out of thread; please gods, don’t let me run out of thread THIS weekend!).
So if you’re also staying at home for the holiday, by choice or necessity, why not kick back with some costume flicks? Here’s a list of five historical-costume TV shows to binge watch this weekend. Of course, this is Trystan and my “all things 16th century / hyper Anglophiliac” brain thinking, so the list is biased, but they’re all on Netflix and most are on Amazon’s streaming service, so at least they’re easy to get at. These costume dramas should make for fun eye-candy in the background, and every now and then you can either yell at the screen or be mesmerized. Preview each one with these YouTube clips before you add the shows to your queue.
Monarchy With David Starkey, 2004-2007 — Start off with this fantastically in-depth documentary series about the British monarchy, beginning when there hardly was a Britain to speak of and going to the present day (although Netflix only has 11 episodes, ending with Cromwell “the king killer”). It’s a mix of Starkey talking and reenactments, with lots of on-location features. Highly recommended.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 1970 — This BBC production hasn’t aged well in terms of costume (hello, gold lame and plastic pearls!), but the script and acting are generally top-notch. It’s squeezes each wife into one episode, setting a bad precedent, because obviously their stories are not equal in length or complexity. Still, Henry’s development from indulgent Renaissance prince to sad, slobbering despot is well-paced throughout the whole series.
Elizabeth R, 1971 — My one true queen! Glenda Jackson stars in this most brilliant BBC series, which built on the success of “Henry VII.” I already said a ton about “Elizabeth R” here, so if you haven’t watched it, take the time to do so now. And if you haven’t seen it in a while, what’s stopping you? Oh, if you don’t have Netflix, this isn’t on Amazon streaming, sorry, but large chunks of it are on YouTube. If nothing else, fast-forward to all the portrait gowns.
The Tudors, 2007-2010 — Huh? Yeah, why not! By this point in the long weekend, I’m going to be fried from sewing, so I’ll be kicking back with some Pink Drinks and needing a mindless distraction. Hard to get more stupid yet stay marginally in costume than this. While you’re at it, watch the first ep while listening to our Tudors podcast (just be forewarned about the designer bags of sh*t). While you could binge watch this entire series and take up the whole weekend, nobody expects you to bruise that many brain cells. An ep or two will do! In that vein, I give you a video of, not exactly the series, but a mad, bad showcase of the WTFrock costumes.
The Borgias, 2011 — Rounding out the holiday with a little penance paid to the pope. A really hawt pope played by Jeremy Irons. A few episodes of this will have you praying for another day off from work … Don’t miss our Borgias podcast where we get all feminist theory ‘n stuff.
These are just my suggestions for shows to binge watch this weekend from Black Friday till you return to work, from the serious to the silly. What about you? What’s on your screen if you have the time off?