‘The Gilded Age’: 7 Shows to Watch If You Love the HBO Series
HBO’s new series The Gilded Age transports viewers back to New York in the late 19th century, when an influx of newcomers flush with Industrial Age cash transformed the city’s social landscape. It’s a period of U.S. history that’s rarely been explored on TV. But there are still some similar shows to check out if you can’t get enough of the lavish period drama.
The Gilded Age comes from the mind of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. While fans can always revisit that popular series, there’s a lesser-known show from the writer that’s worth checking out. The 2020 series Belgravia is based on Fellowes’ 2016 book of the same name. It stars Harriet Walter and Tamsin Greig as two women in Victorian London whose lives are linked by a shared secret from their past. One season streaming on Epix.
Those who want to dive deeper into the Gilded Age can turn to Edith Wharton, whose novels depicted the insular and often cruel world of America’s elite at the turn of the 20th century. Martin Scorsese adapted The Age of Innocence into an acclaimed 1993 film; Terence Davies tackled The House of Mirth in 2000. There’s also the 1995 miniseries The Buccaneers, which adapts Wharton’s tale of wealthy young American women who are husband-hunting in London. Five episodes streaming on BritBox.
‘Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker’
Through the character of Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) and her family, The Gilded Age offers a glimpse into the world of the Black middle class in the 19th century. It’s a little-known period of history, as The New York Times noted in a recent article. Those interested in Peggy’s story might want to stream Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, which stars Octavia Spencer of America’s first female self-made millionaire. Walker, who was born in 1867 to formerly enslaved parents, built her impressive fortune in the early 20th century after she launched a successful line of hair care products. Four episodes streaming on Netflix.
‘Hell on Wheels’
The Gilded Age star Morgan Spector has said (via Instagram) that his character, the ruthless businessman George Russell “is based a little bit on Jay Gould” a real-life robber baron who made his fortune investing in railroads. So far in The Gilded Age, the railroad-building is happening off-screen. But AMC’s Hell on Wheels offers a fictionalized take on the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the late 1860s. In real life, Gould eventually gained control of the Union Pacific railroad after Thomas Durant (played by Colm Meaney in the show) was embroiled in the Crédit Mobilier scandal. Five seasons streaming on AMC+.
Set in 1896, TNT’s murder mystery drama The Alienist takes place in a very different New York than the one seen in The Gilded Age, lingering in the seediest quarters of lower Manhattan rather than the city’s glittering ballrooms. Based on a book by Caleb Carr, it follows an alienist (aka a psychiatrist) named Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) who teams up with newspaper reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) and a police secretary named Sarah Howard (Dakota Fanning) to investigate a series of brutal murders of child prostitutes. Two seasons streaming on HBO Max.
Another series written by Fellowes, Doctor Thorne is a four-part adaptation of an 1858 novel by Anthony Trollope. It follows Mary Thorne, a young woman of mysterious parentage who is in love with her neighbor, Frank. He’s the son of aristocratic parents who have fallen on hard times. They want their son to marry a wealthy American heiress to save the family estate. Harry Richardson, who plays the Russells’ son Larry in The Gilded Age (he also appeared in Poldark) stars as Frank. Four episodes available for purchase on iTunes.
‘Miss Scarlet and The Duke’
Like The Gilded Age, the PBS mystery drama Miss Scarlet and The Duke takes place in 1882, though the action is set in London, not New York. Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) is a middle-class woman who takes over her father’s detective agency after his sudden death. As she challenges Victorian society’s limited expectations for women, she teams up with her old friend William “The Duke” Wellington (Stuart Martin), a police detective, to solve a series of crimes. One season streaming on PBS Passport or the PBS Masterpiece channel on Prime Video.
Check out Showbiz Cheat Sheet on Facebook!