As someone who is into combining well-produced series and a good dose of history, I wrote the first part of this list a while back - and was gladly surprised to see I wasn't alone in this cult. History-based TV shows have been getting not simply more primetime slots, but also much higher production value.
So, after the first list - and after you all helpfully reminded me of some great shows I'd forgotten - here are seven other TV shows in which history meets fiction that you should have on your to-watch list.
The Last Kingdom (on Hiatus)
Based on The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom follows the life of the Saxon Uhtred. After being kidnapped by the Vikings, Uhtred is raised by a Norse family who educate him on their way of life and teach him their beliefs, which he eventually accepts and settles into.
It's only when his Viking parents are brutally murdered, and Uhtred gets the blame for it, that he decides to go back to his Saxon ways. He joins forces with the king of Wessex - the only one of the Saxon kingdoms that hasn't been conquered by the Vikings. It is Uhtred's job to help Wessex and make it The Last Kingdom of Saxon Britain.
The Last Kingdom had its first season produced by BBC as an 8-episode series, and has been picked up by Netflix for a second season.
Black Sails (on Hiatus)
Black Sails is the prequel to Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island', and follows Captain Flint and his shipmates as they pirate around Nassau. Now on its final season, Black Sails depicts everything which makes pirates so fascinating to watch. There's treachery, violence, passion and a ton of powerful and sly characters that will keep you glued to the screen.
Flint is the perfect anti-hero, as he struggles with his own internal demons while dragging his shipmates into the treasure hunt of a lifetime. Black Sails does a pretty good job of showing the Piracy Golden Age in Nassau and the British failure to rid the seas of the black. Three seasons in, the pirates have taken the treasure, the slaves and plan to take over the whole of Nassau - so you best catch up soon!
The Borgias (Concluded)
In 2011, Showtime premiered The Borgias with an original plan for four seasons. Centered on the Borgia family and their rise to power in the Roman church, it starts off with Cesare Borgia becoming Pope Alexander VI. The series explores the plot of the family's enemies to depose them of power and the Borgia siblings' lives - with Lucrecia, Juan and Cesare taking center stage most of the time. The rivalry between Juan and Cesare, Juan's fall from grace and Lucrecia's marriages and offspring serve as main stories for the first two seasons.
Season 3 takes a more up-close and personal look at Lucrecia and Cesare's relationship, and their incest - derived from allegations about the real-life Borgia siblings - is the high point of the final season. Church politics, prominent Italian families and murderous plots make The Borgias incredibly addictive. The final season didn't actually end - which can make it a bit frustrating for some - but the two-hour-finale script did get released as an e-book later on.
Da Vinci's Demons (Concluded)
Leonardo Da Vinci is probably one of the most famous historical figures to feature in books, movies and shows, so it's no surprise that Da Vinci's Demons ran for three great seasons. The show is mostly set in Florence, and depicts the Medici family's struggle to keep their power, with Leonardo's crazy inventions helping them on the way. The Da Vinci we get in the TV series is a much younger version of the Leonardo we're used to, but Tom Riley does an astounding job as the mysterious Renaissance icon.
Conflicted by both his past and his desire to foresee the future, Leonardo begins to search for the Book of Leaves, which supposedly contains the answers to all his questions. The search leads him and his few friends to face some wild adventures and help shape historical events on the way. Da Vinci's Demons offers some magic moments in which we can see Leonardo as he produces some of his most famous works and inventions.
Although Starz cancelled the series after its third season, the ending to Da Vinci's Demons offers some creative room in terms of a future sequel - which, at this point, we can only hope for.
Robin Hood (Concluded)
This 2006 reboot of the classic English folk tale brings the thief-turned-hero Robin Hood back into popular culture. If you know the tale, the series's plot may not be that surprising, but it still makes for some nice entertainment. Robin Hood returns to his village after fighting in a crusade to find the tyrant Sheriff of Nottingham running things, and so Robin takes it upon himself to help those in need. The outlaw Robin Hood and his group proceed to take from the rich to give to the poor, antagonizing both the sheriff and his second-in-command in the process.
Robin finds a love interest in Lady Marian, becomes the leader of his Merry Men and tries to rid all England of tyranny and oppression in the two first seasons. The third season brings a final challenge and a couple of disguised enemies for Robin, which he valiantly tackles. Robin Hood doesn't offer a very happy ending as far as series finales go, but we do get to see Robin pass on his vigilante mantle to the Archer, before entering the Sherwood Forest for the last time.
Downton Abbey (Concluded)
This upstairs-downstairs British drama gives the viewers the best of the both worlds, as it shifts between the lives of the English Crawley family and their servants. Downton Abbey is actually the name of the Crawley family home and, although the show centers on the family, you get a vivid picture of what life was like in England in the early 20th century. The series spans from 1912 ( a day after the Titanic sank) to 1925, offering a first-row seat to the first World War and the uprising of the working class.
Lord Crawley is the patriarch of the family and carries the title of Earl of Grantham, which entitles him and his family to lands, prestige and - of course - servants. The servants provide a wonderful contrast to the truly aristocratic lifestyle led by the Crawleys, showing their hopes, dreams and ambitions for a different life. Downton Abbey ran for six glorious seasons - which are extremely easy to binge-watch in one go - and it certainly left a hole in the genre when it concluded with its staple Christmas special last year.
- Black Sails Season 4 Will Be Its Finale
- After Vikings, History Channel Brings the Knights Templar to TV
- Vikings Season 4: New Rivalries and Lagertha's New Love Interest
The history drama genre seems to be going strong and some great new series are about to premiere soon. There's History's Knightfall, Starz' The White Princess and HBO's own Westworld to pump up the history nerds a bit more, so you'll get plenty to get your fix after you're through binge-watching this list's masterpieces.