Travel through time and around the world with PBS historical dramas! In Part II, trace the course of history during the 20th century from the 1920s to 1960s. Stream our best recommendations with PBS KVIE Passport, a member benefit that unlocks even more shows to watch on the PBS App.
Check out Part I for dramas spanning the 1600s to the early 1900s.
Downton Abbey on Masterpiece
Spanning the 1910s to mid-1920s, this lavish drama follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawleys and their servants on a great English estate – Downton Abbey – which is on the cusp of a vanishing way of life. Follow the entourage of characters as they navigate scandals, love, heartbreak, and hope, set against changing cultural and political landscape of pre and post-war Great Britain. Beginning with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, which sets off the series’ major conflict, historical events are woven into the fabric of the series, from the Great War to the influenza pandemic.
Frankie Drake Mysteries
Set in 1920s Toronto, follow the riveting adventures of Frankie Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) and her partner Trudy Clarke (Chantel Riley) at Drake Private Detectives, the city’s only all-female detective agency. The team finds themselves fighting crime in the age of flyboys, gangsters, rumrunners, and speakeasies, as they investigate murders, kidnappings, heists, poisonings, and more.
Escape to the breathtakingly beautiful resort town of Portofino in this ensemble drama. Set in the 1920s on the Italian Riviera, Hotel Portofino tells the story of Bella Ainsworth (Natascha McElhone), the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, who sets up a quintessentially British Hotel in the picturesque town of Portofino. Yet amongst the sumptuous and romantic backdrop is a dark undercurrent: the traumatic aftermath of World War I, the financial crisis right around the corner, and growing global upheaval, including the rise of Mussolini’s fascism.
All Creatures Great and Small on Masterpiece
Transport yourself to 1930s Yorkshire, England, and a lovable cast of characters in this reimagined Masterpiece drama. Based on the beloved book series, follow recently qualified veterinarian James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) as he makes a new life for himself at a rural practice after being reluctantly hired by the eccentric Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Encountering various obstacles and unexpectedly finding love and friendship, Herriot soon becomes the iconic veterinarian renowned for his inspiring humor, compassion, and love of life.
From the late ‘20s and into the ‘30s, it seems the world is heading for disaster. But at the charming Andersen’s Seaside Hotel by the North Sea, it’s business as usual for the wealthy guests. In this richly detailed Danish drama, follow the lives of the hotel’s regulars and the local staff as the mood swings from optimism to crisis. Meet the chambermaid Fie, the merchant’s daughter Amanda, and the local fisherman Morten, and more as they seek to carve out a life for themselves. In Danish with English subtitles.
Atlantic Crossing on Masterpiece
Delve into a lesser-known part of World War II history – the connection between Franklin Roosevelt and Norwegian Crown Princess Martha on Atlantic Crossing on Masterpiece. Kyle MacLachlan stars as Roosevelt opposite Swedish actress Sofia Helin as Martha, who flees the Nazis with her three young children and lives under Roosevelt’s protection. The unique series explores the Norwegian Crown Princess’s influence in world politics during the war, including the U.S.’s decision to enter the war. In English and Norwegian with English subtitles.
Follow the lives, loves, highs, and lows of four women who become members of the Women’s Land Army during World War II, working the farms that fed the nation while men fought on the battlefields. Over three seasons, the women adapt to their new surroundings and try to live out their lives in very challenging circumstances, with lots of laughter and tears along the way.
The Windermere Children
Follow child survivors of the Holocaust who are brought to an estate near England’s Lake Windermere to recuperate in the powerful drama The Windermere Children. Without their families, they must find kinship with each other and recover with the help of volunteer therapists. Based on the remarkable true story, this is the stark, moving, and ultimately redemptive narrative of the bonds they make with one another – and of how the friendships forged at Windermere become a lifeline to a fruitful future.
World on Fire on Masterpiece
Spanning the first year of World War II, this emotionally gripping series follows the fates of ordinary people across Manchester, Warsaw, Berlin, and Paris. An English translator in Warsaw attempts to save his Polish lover, without the knowledge of his sweetheart back in Manchester. An American war correspondent makes a discovery at the Polish-German border and runs up against censorship in Germany. Despite each character’s differences of background, country, and their role in the war, they all must grapple with the unthinkable: a world in flames.
Grantchester on Masterpiece
Set in an idyllic country village, Grantchester on Masterpiece follows an unlikely clergyman-cop duo as they solve a series of cases in 1950s England. For the first three seasons, James Norton stars as Sidney Chambers, the young vicar who combines his spiritual duties with a love of jazz, complicated relationships with women, and an enthusiasm for amateur sleuthing. Joining the series in season four, Tom Brittney shines as Will Davenport, the new vicar who is soon drawn into solving crimes with Inspector Geordie Keating, the gruff, no-nonsense police inspector portrayed by Robson Green.
Dive into the glamorous and electrifying world of television journalism in 1950s London. Set in a BBC newsroom, renegade journalist Freddie, ambitious producer Bel, and charismatic anchor Hector are the news team behind “The Hour,” an investigative newsmagazine show. As a controversial story breaks, the trio becomes entangled in an intense interplay of politics, ambition, and romance ignited by a mysterious murder and chilling conspiracy.
Endeavour on Masterpiece
In this cerebral prequel to the popular Inspector Morse series, rookie Constable Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) is fed up with police work and ready to nip his career in the bud by handing in his resignation. That is, until a murder turned up that only he could solve. Follow the early days of this young Morse, who is a detective in the Oxford City Police, as he unravels mysteries amidst the turning tides of ‘60s and ‘70s Britain.
The Indian Doctor
Immerse yourself in 1960s South Wales in this delightful comedy-drama. Prem Sharma (Sanjeev Bhaskar), a highly educated Indian doctor, and Kamini (Ayesha Dharker), his beautiful upper-class wife, depart India in 1963 for the promise of opportunities in the new National Health Service and a glamorous lifestyle in London – only to find themselves sent to a small practice in a Welsh coal mining village. This comes as quite a shock to both the Sharmas and the villagers, who quickly become embroiled in one another’s lives.
Line of Separation
After the fall of the Third Reich, the small town of Tannbach is cruelly divided down the middle in the battle between East and West regimes, and the town’s inhabitants suffer the consequences. Line of Separation is a gripping historical drama exploring the devastating and sobering effects that decades of conflict had on the close-knit German communities after the second world war and into the Cold War in the 1960s. In German with English subtitles.
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Ridley Road on Masterpiece
Summer 1962: London is swinging with new music, mod fashions, and an irresistible hedonistic spirit. Yet despite the changing times, the legacy of World War II casts a long shadow. Neo-Nazism is alive and well in the United Kingdom in the heart of the Jewish community in London’s East End. Bomb sites still mark the streets of East London, and among the crowds, Cockney slang is peppered with Yiddish. The exhilarating 4-part series follows Vivien Epstein, a young Jewish hairdresser who goes undercover in the British neo-Nazi movement on behalf of Jewish anti-fascists.
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Looking for more historical drama, check out Part I for historical dramas from the 1600s through the early 1900s.