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5 Shows like Cranford: Children of the (Industrial) Revolution

Nicola Griffiths itcherIf you’re looking for more period TV shows like ‘Cranford’, starring women that are unafraid to go against the grain, then look no further than ‘Land Girls’, ‘Call the Midwife’, ‘The House of Eliott’ and ‘The Bletchley Circle’. ~ Nicola Griffiths

A Dench in the Works

Centred around the small Cheshire town of the show’s title, ‘Cranford’ follows the stories of a number of widows and single women who’d prefer to build their own lives in a time where they weren’t expected to do so.

Adapted from three novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell  and with a stellar cast including Judy Dench, Imelda Staunton and Tom Hiddleston, this warm depiction of the highs and lows (and salacious gossip) surrounding the residents of this town, is a fine example of BBC period drama. There more than a little wit and gentle satire thrown in for good measure.

These TV series like ‘Cranford’ feature women throughout the ages who’ve taken up a calling and have not shied away from making their own rules.


Shows Similar to ‘Cranford’…

‘Land Girls’ (BBC, 2009-2011)

Commissioned to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, ‘Land Girls’ is a series similar to ‘Cranford’ in that the central female characters all have to take on traditionally ‘male’ roles in order to help the war effort by joining the Women’s Land Army.

As the series progresses, we learn more about each of the characters, why they came to work at Pasture Farm, and also about the ensuing power struggles that emerged amongst those of different social classes.

Initially raising a few eyebrows for not being entirely historically accurate, ‘Land Girls’ did go on to win ‘Best Daytime Programme’ at the 2009 Broadcast Awards.

Similarity Match: 85%
Though the circumstances surrounding ‘Land Girls’ are thoroughly different to those in ‘Cranford’, we get to learn an awful lot about a time when women’s abilities may have been doubted, only for any detractors to be proven very wrong.

‘Call the Midwife’ (BBC, 2012-Present)

‘Call the Midwife’ has become one of the best-loved BBC dramas of recent years, with the recent season 5 finale pulling in an impressive 9 million viewers.

We follow a group of working women through times of incredible social change, focusing (unsurprisingly) on a group of midwives within the poverty-stricken East London of the 1950’s.

Praised also for having tackled many sensitive topics surrounding the era, the next series certainly promises to have a lot more in store for these ladies as the swinging 60’s loom heavily on the horizon.

Similarity Match: 80%
Fans of ‘Cranford’ will appreciate the strong bonds and relationships on display in ‘Call the Midwife’, although, despite it being a Sunday evening drama, it might not prove the light-hearted escapism that some may have been expecting.

‘The House of Eliott’ (BBC, 1991-1994)

Set in London in the thick of the roaring twenties, ‘The House of Eliott’ follows the Eliott sisters as they strive to become high fashion designers, despite the odds being stacked against them. With only three short series under its (perfectly styled) belt, the show has gone on to become a cult favourite, and in doing so, attracted fans in the unlikeliest of places.

Our two protagonists, Beatrice (known as Bea) and Evangeline (known as Evie), have to become the masters of their own fortune after they’re left orphaned and almost destitute after the sudden death of their father.

With rumours of a revival on the horizon, our Sunday night schedule is going to get a lot more glamorous!

Similarity Match: 75%
Though there are links with ‘Cranford’ as the intrepid Eliott sisters reflect the progressive attitudes of the Cheshire town, there is certainly much more bawdy fun to be had with the ‘The House of Eliott’.

‘The Bletchley Circle’ (ITV, 2012-2014)

Another short-lived period drama with an intriguing premise comes in the form of ‘The Bletchley Circle’.

Following the formidable code-breakers of Bletchley Park after the Second World War, they once more come together to use their powers of deduction to solve crime and weed out the corruption that has taken root within Scotland Yard.

Its unexpected cancellation aside, ‘The Bletchley Circle’ is a TV show like ‘Cranford’ where rather than wait for corrupt authorities to deal with a crimewave, these strong and talented women don’t think twice about using their skills for the good of society.

Similarity Match: 70%
With much more sinister goings on than those in the town of ‘Cranford’, ‘The Bletchley Circle’ manages to combine suspense with an air of mystery worthy of any period drama.


If You Like ‘Cranford’, You Will Like…

If you like the gossip and hustle and bustle of ‘Cranford’ but are looking for something based in the present, then how about a glimpse into the workings of the US Government (albeit in the small, fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana).

‘Parks and Recreation’ (NBC, 2009-2015)

‘Parks and Recreation’ follows mid-level bureaucrat, Leslie Knope, as she tries her damnedest amidst constant opposition, incompetence, and blunders, to make her beloved hometown of ‘Pawnee’ a better place, one public space at a time.

This fly-on-the-wall style sitcom never has a dull moment, with Leslie and the rest of her department trying to remain positive (mostly) in the face of how insignificant others may tell them their roles or their contributions are.

It’s a TV show like ‘Cranford’ in that the female characters do not hide their support and admiration for one another, and are always on hand to help each other achieve their goals.

There are plenty of (often hilarious) events to become flustered about, but none of which would be likely to faze Leslie Knope.


The Hills Are Alive, with the Sound of… Gossip

If you’re looking for more TV shows like ‘Cranford’ then perhaps ‘North & South’, another BBC adaptation of an Elizabeth Gaskell’s work, may be what you need? ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ may also be to your liking, as well as the recent revival of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’.

Have we missed any TV shows like ‘Cranford’?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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