5 Best TV Shows to Watch If You're a History Buff
With the wealth of historical TV shows and documentaries available these days, you'd think the average history enthusiast would be spoiled for choice. But quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality (there's a reason "The Tudors" annoyed purists so much). Whether they're documentaries about true events, or works of fiction set in historical times -- like "Outlander" -- the following options are all sound entertainment choices for proud history nerds.
1. 'Raiders of the Lost Art' (2014 - )
This highly detailed series is a combination documentary and mystery show, focusing on some of the more infamous art heists in history. Each episode deals with just one theft, so there's time to really get into the details of what happened to each piece of art. Sure, you might know the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, but do you know exactly how it was found, and by whom? What about the real-life Monuments Men trying to discover and return the countless artifacts smuggled by Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt during World War II? The use of archival footage and reenactments makes "Raiders of the Lost Art" compelling viewing.
2. 'Poldark' (2015 - )
Redcoat soldier Ross Poldark returns to his Cornish home after the Revolutionary War to find his father dead, his lands in ruin, and the woman he loves about to marry his cousin. Bummer. Based on the novels by Winston Graham, "Poldark" is an Anglophile's dream, with sweeping, gorgeous English landscapes, a haunting soundtrack, and a brooding, complicated hero in Aiden Turner as the title character. History buffs will enjoy flashback sequences set during the War of Independence, as well as a look at life in 18th-century Cornwall from the perspectives of both the rich and the servant class.
3. 'The Tudors' (2007 - 2010)
"Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." The tale of Henry VIII and his six wives remains a source of endless fascination for historians, and for good reason. Henry was a man of contradictions -- a man who changed the face of his kingdom by breaking from Rome and setting up the Church of England. He was an educated man, but also a ruthless, vindictive murderer. All these elements make for great TV and "The Tudors" is a good choice for history buffs willing to suspend disbelief for some entertainment. The series is not a serious historical retelling of Henry VIII's reign. Instead, enjoy it as a historical soap opera with a stellar cast (Natalie Dormer's Anne Boleyn is up there with the best of them). A high point is lithe, dark-haired Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing what is supposed to be the old, fat, red-headed Henry. Artistic license was never put to better use.
4. 'Rome' (2005 - 2007)
This historical drama details the tumultuous period when Rome changed from a republic into an empire, told through the viewpoints of both the Roman aristocracy and ordinary people. Rome" apart is the sheer scale of production involved in bringing the ancient city to life. History buffs will appreciate the minute attention to detail paid to the show's costumes, architecture and landscapes.
5. 'Outlander' (2014 - )
Based on Diana Gabaldon's series of books, "Outlander" tells the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married nurse who accidentally travels back in time and falls in love with Highland hunk Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). The background to this love story is the Jacobite uprisings, which culminated in the Scottish rebels being roundly defeated at the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Claire and Jamie do everything they can to prevent the rebellion from happening, knowing as they do the fatal outcome for the supporters of Charles Stuart. The show does an impressive job detailing the background to the rebellion, from Protestant-Catholic tension to the Scottish desire for independence from England. Beautiful costumes, stunning scenery, and sizzling romance make "Outlander" a pleasure to watch.