“I do know the evil that you do, because I was once part of it”
This quote sums up why so many people have fallen in love #TomHardy’s show Taboo. It’s a challenging, bold and unabashedly unique series that follows a decidedly dissolute character through the darkness, dirt and debauchery of Regency Britain.
Following his father’s death, James Keziah Delaney (Hardy) — who is presumed dead himself — returns to London after a decade-long absence to claim his inheritance and forge his own path, regardless of the enemies he’s making.
With a darkly supernatural feel, meditative tone and a riveting central performance, Taboo stands slightly apart from its period drama brethren. Not many series can boast cool hats, diamond dealings and voodoo sex, after all!
However, if Taboo has got you in the mood for more shows involving pithy put-downs, shady schemes, and the occasional frock coat, then look no further than the nine suggestions below!
9. Life on Mars (2006-2007)
Length: 2 Seasons
Starring: John Simm & Phillip Glennister
It may be the oldest show on the list, but time has not dimmed the excellence of Life on Mars. The story sees Manchester policeman Sam Tyler (Simm) repeatedly ask “Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?” after he abruptly wakes up in 1973, after being hit by a car.
Leaning more towards a police procedural than a costume drama, it may not have the same visual pizzazz or the violence of Taboo, but Life on Mars more than makes up for this with its similarly rough-and-ready treatment of the past. Indeed, Sam has to frequently contend with the bigoted, knee-jerk responses of his boss, the beloved Gene Hunt (Glennister). Their bickering provides most of the show’s humor.
But like Taboo, Life on Mars is granted even more depth through the increasing use of its supernatural elements, following its acclaimed opening (above). Heart-stopping, swashbuckling and thought-provoking, the central premise will keep you guessing throughout the show, and through its sequel Ashes to Ashes.
8. Wolf Hall (2015)
Length: 1 Season
Starring: Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis & Claire Foy
Wolf Hall is probably the most traditional British costume drama on this list, although dismissing it as such would do it a great disservice. Charting the rise of the powerful Thomas Cromwell (Rylance), who was an adviser to King Henry VIII (Lewis), the show follows his political manoeuvrings in a trying time for Britain. Like Taboo, it’s brilliantly realized, and Hardy’s Delaney is comparable to Rylance’s Cromwell in that both characters scheme to get what they want, regardless of the consequences.
7. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
Length: 3 Seasons
Starring: Eva Green, Timothy Dalton & Reeve Carney
If Taboo dips its toe into the pool of gothic fantasy, then Penny Dreadful dives straight into it with cackling abandon.
Created by Skyfall writer John Logan, as well as respected director Sam Mendes, the series is set in the Victorian era. It features famous literary creations such as Frankenstein’s monster (Rory Kinnear) and Dorian Gray (Carney) interweaving in the most unexpected ways. Think of it as a sort of #MarvelCinematicUniverse for Gothic monsters, but with more melodrama, more gore and not as much team-assembling. Nevertheless, these icons are brought together in a skilful fashion, and the fact that they inhabit the same world is never forced or contrived.
The show may take a little bit of time to find its footing in its first series, but by Season 2, you’ll be sorry you ever doubted it. The effects are outstanding, and the enchanting #EvaGreen is on fine form as she battles dark forces to help Sir Malcom Murray (Dalton) find his missing daughter...you’ll soon be as addicted to it as Dracula is to blood!
6. The Knick (2014-Present)
Length: 2 Seasons (Currently)
Starring: Clive Owen, Andre Holland & Jeremy Bobb
The events in The Knick may unfurl nearly a century after the setting of Taboo, but there are a lot of parallels between the two shows. Stephen Soderbergh introduces us to a fictional version of the Knickerbocker Hospital of New York, at a point where society was undergoing a huge change thanks to increasing diversity and technological innovation...sound familiar?
We also witness the struggles of a highly strung and ambitious lead character; here, it is Clive Owen’s Dr. Thackery, whose struggle for success is at odds with his own demons, which mainly revolve around his opium addiction. Andre Holland is another member of the highly capable and compelling cast, and he is as equally fantastic in The Knick as he is in the Oscar-courting movie #Moonlight.
Authentic and visceral, this is definitely one for Taboo fans — but don’t watch on a full stomach like I did. It’s pretty explicit in the operating theater scenes, and I can never look at spaghetti bolognese in the same way that I once did.
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5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2015)
Length: 1 Season
Starring: Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan & Marc Warren
Here’s another spellbinding entry for the magically inclined! An adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was advertized as the works of Jane Austen meeting #HarryPotter, which is an accurate (although slightly simplistic) summary of this wildly imaginative show.
Based in the same time frame as Taboo, we enter an alternate version of the Napoleonic wars where magic is real, though shunned and unpracticed- except by the titular characters, that is. But when their education and rivalry in the mystic arts deepens, there are huge implications for the world at large. It also tackles the grim subject of slavery, which few historical dramas, except for the likes of Garrow’s Law, tend to do.
This is another unique and thrilling show, where the eerie magic and exotic dimensions recall the dark visions and incantations spoken and seen by Tom Hardy’s Delaney. Featuring sinister fairies and dark spells, this is another BBC drama that shouldn’t be missed.
4. Black Sails (2014-2017)
Length: 4 Seasons
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New & Luke Arnold
Shiver me timbers! Grab your grog, get your parrot to pipe down and feast your eyes on Black Sails, the show that serves as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island. Captain Flint (Stephens) recruits John Silver (Arnold) as a cook, before becoming embroiled in a quest to acquire the treasure from the Spanish ship Urca de Lima.
There is a lot of pleasure to be had with this series, with its great visuals and its successful integration of the Treasure Island tale with fictionalized versions of real life pirates such as Blackbeard (Ray Stephenson) — but don’t go into this show expecting #PiratesoftheCaribbean levels of daring heroism. Black Sails is a more thoughtful affair, concerning itself with the power plays between pirates instead of reveling in swashbuckling action; however, gory murders and heaving bosoms are never too far away.
Like the fuses to a gunpowder keg, Black Sails may be a slow and steady burn, but the payoff is explosive.
3. Whitechapel (2009-2013)
Length: 4 Seasons
Starring: Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis & Steve Pemberton
London has a long history of violence and murder, and Whitechapel does a great job of reminding us of that fact. The inexperienced DI Chandler (Penry-Jones) and embittered D.S. Miles (Davis) are forced to work together when the city experiences a wave of copycat killings, which mimic the styles and scenarios of Jack the Ripper and the Kray Twins.
Whitechapel may not be the flashiest or sleekest of series on this list, but there is still a lot of good stuff to sink your teeth into. The updated takes on London’s most notorious killers are as thrilling for fans of crime drama as they are for “Ripperologists” and other historians (who in turn receive a nod in the form of Steve Pemberton’s marvelous, multi-faceted performance).
As the cases unfold, the darkened scenery drips with menace and unpredictability, and the audience is forever made uneasy as they peer to see what our hardened heroes will find, or do, next.
2. Ripper Street (2012-2016)
Length: 5 Seasons
Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg & Myanna Buring
Ripper Street follows Inspector Reid (Macfayden) and his fellow police officers who labor to keep law and order in the upswing in violent crime in the wake of Jack the Ripper. Indeed, the shadowy streets are bristling with conmen and killers, who even corrupt the corridors of state and law enforcement in later series.
With an eye on Guy Ritchie’s #SherlockHolmes movies, Ripper Street is a far bloodier and — dare I say it — better offering than its progenitor; yet, even after it’s resurrection, by Amazon it remains criminally overlooked and underrated. Rather than causing the show to stumble, the BBC’s cancellation of it in 2013 only proved to catapult the show to even higher levels of sophistication.
Powerful performed (Myanna Buring and #GameofThrone’s Jerome Flynn are particular standouts) as well as deftly scripted and strikingly shot, Ripper Street is definitely a show that you should consider watching if you enjoy Tom Hardy’s Taboo.
1. Peaky Blinders (2013-Present)
Length: 3 Seasons (Currently)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory & Tom Hardy
If you're a fan of Taboo, Peaky Blinders MUST absolutely be a priority for you. Actually, even if you weren't a Taboo fan, this show should still top your 'To Watch' list. Following the First World War, the British Empire teeters on the beginnings of its collapse, whilst a criminal empire in Birmingham rises, lead by the wily Tommy Shelby (Murphy).
When you can count Snoop Dog and the late #DavidBowie among your fans, you know you’re doing something right. As it is the case in Breaking Bad, you’ll soon find yourself cheering on the cold-hearted criminals, despite the horrors they inflict upon each other. This crackling, stylish show is filled to the brim with fine thesps, and twists and turns aplenty. What else would you expect from the same people behind Taboo?
It’s also very refreshing for British viewers to have a series that doesn’t revolve around the default drama setting of central London. Seriously guys, check this one out.
With Taboo potentially running for two more seasons, it's going to be thrilling to see where the ever-stomping, perpetually moody-Delaney will go next in his quest for vengeance against the East India Trading Company. In the meantime, we can whisk ourselves away into these sensational shows, as we wait for even more greatness that will be coming our way!