Droughtlander TV/Movie Recommendations: What's on Our Screens?

Written by: Nikki Gastineau




Earlier this month, the Outlander Cast Blog writers shared their favorite books with you to help ease those terrible symptoms of Droughtlander. We now turn our focus to television shows. Between the reading list and the show recommendations, we hope that this will keep your spirits high until the return of Outlander  in September. If neither of these work, try wine.

Two small disclaimers. One, the viewing recommendations are primarily based on what viewers in the United States have access to in the way of programming. We are aware that offerings vary by country, but there is just no way for us to know about all those variations. If you are aware of other ways to view the shows that we’ve listed, please let us know in the comments section. Two, yes – we are aware that some shows appear multiple times. They're just that good and, thus, we've left in our crew's shared enthusiasm for these shows. And with that, let's see what we're watching...

Andree Poppleton
The West Wing was my all time favourite TV series before I heard of Outlander. These are the good guys, running the USA with passion and compassion. Each episode is full of wonderful characters and stories and it is very emotional at times. I love that it is very low-tech; no smart technology. They only have email and gigantic cell phones so it's just about people. If anyone starts The West Wing  now, they'll still be going until September! You know, back when a series had 22 episodes and stayed on the air for seven years. You can view The West Wing on Netflix.

I received The West Wing box set as a Christmas gift several years ago and my partner and I spent the next several months re-watching the series from beginning to end. I was surprised at how well it had stood the test of time. If you don’t think a drama about the executive branch of government can’t reduce you to tears on a regular basis then you need to watch this show.



A Place to Call Home. Being an Australian, I should have watched every episode of this, right?! Well I haven't (working at it now), but it is a great family saga where you can familiarise yourself with the talents of David Berry before he graces our screens as Lord John Grey. Now, that's something to look forward to! The series is available on Amazon Prime and Acorn TV (but not in Canada).

Spooks. Any series that goes for 10 years must be doing something right! This is a great British spy series with wonderful characters and intriguing stories. The showed aired in Canada and the US under the name MI-5 and it might now be available on BBC Canada as Spooks.


Holly Richter-White
The Crown. I am anti-monarchy, pro-Scotland, and this series actually forced me to empathize with Elizabeth, as the Queen of England. The quality of this production is stellar, and shows where even Outlander could improve. The title sequence/music is outstanding. Besides that, the lead actress, Claire Foy, who won an acting award in her first season (beating out Caitriona), is phenomenal in all episodes. The Crown is available on Netflix.

Shetland. While it is a fantastic series set in Shetland, Scotland, it also features "Tarran MacQuarrie" actor, Doug Henshall. You will understand why the series and the actor could win awards > Outlander and Sam Heughan. The series is available on Netflix.

Game of Thrones. Simply put, this is what you can do with a mega budget. Candles alone cost the show over $300,000 (US) per season! And this is what a penultimate (second last episode of a season) episode should do. "Battle of the Bastards" (Season 6, Ep. 9) is thrilling, a visual feast, heart-breaking, and left the last episode of the season to tie things up. Hint, hint, Outlander, wrapping up secondary characters (S2 Ep. 12) does not make for a great penultimate episode. And just an FYI, "Prestonpans" (S2 Ep. 10) won an award when it was pitted against "Battle of the Bastards." Game of Thrones is available on HBO.



Karen K. Rutledge
Downton Abbey. This is a historical ITV/PBS show with, count 'em, 52 episodes that are providing a long drink of water for Droughtlander. I saw bits during its run and am now midway through proper viewing of all six seasons of love, hate, murder, lust, greed and redemption. Maggie Smith and Elizabeth McGovern are among those who do a spaideil (i.e., 'fabulous' courtesy of @Gaelicconsultant) job of bringing it to life. Downton Abbey is available on Amazon Prime and I give it a four out of four-heart rating.



Black Sails. Besides the obvious connections (STARZ, set, historical aspect, attractive cast), it's another thirst slaker with 34 episodes. Since we're talking pirates, lust and greed give hate and murder a run for their money. Maybe minute amounts of love and redemption, we'll see. Black Sails is a must-watch for Outlander Season 3 prep. Black Sails is available on Starz.

This is Us. The US-based NBC network offers 17 surprising, Kleenex-requiring episodes. I think the following from the show's site is a great tease: “...a smart, modern dramedy that will challenge your everyday presumptions about the people you think you know.” The show receives another four-heart rating. Since it's new, it might not be accessible for all (check Hulu). If so, I highly recommend adding it to your list for later and to simply continue re-watching Outlander and Poldark.


Jayne Coleman
Elizabeth. This was Cate Blanchett's breakout film performance and she did a stellar job of embodying Queen Elizabeth the First, whom I have always admired. Having read many different novels and biographies about her, I feel that of all the people I have watched play The Virgin Queen, Cate captured her best. Her follow-up film, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, was also spectacular. Her speech rallying the troops to face the Spanish Armada is epic and Shakespearean in tone.


Against The Wind. An Australian TV series from 1978, it harks back quite a long time but it was brilliant and gripping television with a wonderful soundtrack by the composer and singer Jon English. It tells the story of Mary Mulvane, a young Irish girl who is transported to Australia and takes us through the years she served as a convict and her eventual freedom. Once again, the historical accuracy is wonderfully portrayed and the actors and actresses brought the characters to life. It is another story of survival against very long odds by a young woman with few resources but a strong will and great character. This series appears to only be available on DVD.

Dune. This much-beloved mini-series first aired in 2000. It was an adaption of the book written by Frank Herbert. For anyone who loved the original, a reboot is coming in the next few years.


Janet Reynolds
Poldark. The original series, called The Poldark Saga, was a phenomenon after it first aired in England on the BBC and then later in the US on Masterpiece Theater (now available on DVD and I recommend it too). The lead couple became celebrity rock stars in England, and in the US to a lesser degree. Now a famous remake called Poldark features a smoldering Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. It, too, is quite good. They have two seasons under their belt and a third to make its premiere soon. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Amazon Prime. See our reading recommendation post for more details.



Catastrophe. Oh dear god if you don't laugh at least five times an episode, I'm not sure you're human. The third season premieres at the end of April so the lucky people who have not seen this yet have two seasons to binge watch before then. It follows an Irish woman and American businessman who meet up and hilarity ensues. I don't want to spoil it, but these two say out loud just about everything a man or woman has thought in real life while in a relationship but has kept to him or herself. Hysterical, and bonus points: Tobias Menzies has a recurring role as a gynecologist.

I couldn’t agree more! My other half and I have belly-laughed our way through the first two seasons and are anxiously awaiting the third.

This is Us. It airs on NBC, but you can also see it streaming other ways, like on Hulu. I was skeptical of a mainstream US show, but after being urged by several friends, jumped in. The storylines are compelling and the issues they tackle are real life. Beautifully written and wonderful acting. You'll need tissues, though.


Ashley Crawley
Yes to everything Janet said, especially Catastrophe – a show that, as I type this right now, I find myself emphatically endorsing yet again via a text message to my dear pal. I just can't say enough about it, so I won't try. Go with Janet and Nikki's sentiment. We share a brain on this. Lucky me.

Big Little Lies. This limited-run series (7 episodes total) just wrapped up on HBO and I'm still reeling from it — trust me, it's that good.  Let's start with the cast: Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgård,  Zoë Kravitz, Adam Scott... I mean, need I go on? Sometimes the stacking of heavy hitters can be too much, but it works, it SO works. The cast's chemistry, notably from the three female leads whose friendship evolves onscreen, is electric. The series, based on a wildly popular book by Australian author Liane Moriarty, follows the lives of the mothers of first graders in the idyllic city of Monterey, California. Their "perfect" lives unravel over the course of the seven episodes, all told through flashbacks during the investigation into a murder of one of the main characters (it's not revealed until the final moments which one it is).  There is currently banter (thank you, Reese Witherspoon) about how they can bring the show back for another season despite no continuing source material. You can watch the show on HBO.


Friday Night Lights. Sigh. This show has the precious ability to work its way into your soul and then reside there permanently. When you've watched all 5 seasons, you'll find yourself weepy and wishing that a small piece of your heart always hold onto Dillon, Texas – no matter how fictional a town it might be. The show centers on this small rural Texas town that harbors a close-knit community who live and breathe by high school football. There's just enough football to appeal to those interested in that, but I wouldn't call it a sports show. The mostly unknown [at the time] cast is great, but the real reasons to watch? Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, the leads who will have you swooning over them (and their hair) while you fall equally in love with both them and their make-believe marriage. They're the epitome of #relationshipgoals.  I didn't dive into this show when it first aired on NBC, but then Parenthood ended and I was in the emotional fetal position needing more. Both shows were produced by Jason Katims, so I finally gave it a whirl... and came up for air about one month and 60+ episodes later.  Tiny, but not ashamed, confession: I'm currently in my second re-watch of the entire series, and it's only been two years since the first viewing. Apparently, clear eyes, full hearts*... can't let go of this show.  The entire series is available on Netflix.

*You'll get it once you watch, and it'll soon thereafter become your personal mantra.

Anne Gavin Penny Dreadful. This is a period piece based in Victorian England that follows the lives of several core characters and their encounters with the macabre and supernatural. The acting is superb. It’s a bit gory at times, but fascinating. A true masterpiece of an ensemble of actors all interacting in strange and mysterious ways. Costumes and special effects are amazing. Three seasons and cancelled. Available on Showtime and Netflix.



A Place to Call Home. This Australian series is available on Amazon Prime or Acorn TV. It’s a delicious soap-opera-y family drama starring David Berry, who was also cast as Lord John Grey for Outlander season 3. Addictive. There are four seasons so far.


Denise Stewart

Call the Midwife. Set in England in the 1950s, this series follows nurse midwives working in the East End of England. It is well written with a compelling medically based storyline. It gives insight to how life would have been for the less fortunate at this time, especially in the area of women's health. The characters are fun, witty and identifiable. Currently seasons 1-5 are available on Netflix; season 6 is on in the US in now.
 



The Crown. This series is a little more well known. The story takes us through the early years of the reign of the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II. Only finishing its first season, it is an easy short watch of ten episodes. I find it fascinating to see the behind the scenes of the early monarchy. Plus John Lithgow plays a fantastic Winston Churchill. The series is available on Netflix.

Beyond. I am straying from historical fiction on this one. If you are a fan of Heroes and Super 8, this one is a great find! The story centers around a young man who wakes from a coma which lasted 12 years. When he goes into the coma he is a preteen and wakes as a young man. The adjustment in that alone is a great story. Add in some sci-fi and you've got an enthralling series. The series is available on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Mary Larsen 
The Leftovers. It is an incredibly thought provoking show — plus we have a podcast about it, The Living Reminders. Shameless plug in 3, 2, 1... you should watch the show and then listen to our weekly podcast! The series is available on HBO.

Parks and Recreation. It ran for seven fabulous seasons on NBC in the US, and made me laugh almost every episode! The series is available on Hulu.


An Idiot Abroad. It makes me laugh. I love laughing! The series is available on Hulu and The Science Channel.


Nikki Gastineau
Copper. This television series was developed for BBC America and began its two-season run in 2012. The show follows Kevin “Corky” Corcoran as he navigates life as a police officer (copper) in the gritty Five Points neighborhood of New York City in the 1860’s. There’s a great deal of tension here between recent Irish immigrants, freed slaves, and the growing aristocracy. Corky is a hottie and, naturally, finds himself in some messy situations with the women of the cast. As much as I love Corky, my favorite two characters are Matthew and Sara Freeman, both runaway slaves who are building a life for themselves in the midst of this chaos. Episodes are approximately 45 minutes in length, so it’s possible to view the entire two seasons quickly. The series is available on Netflix.




The Indian Doctor. This three-season series originally aired on BBC One. It follows Dr. Prem Sharma and his wife Kamini as they immigrate from India to a South Wales mining village in the 1960s. The Sharmas' move was intended to be to a London hospital but the NHS had other ideas. The series focuses on the culture clash between the Sharmas and the people of the town but there are lots of touching scenes between Prem and Kamini and other characters. I found myself laughing and crying in nearly every episode. I watched the entire series over the course of a week last year when I had a particularly nasty strain of the bubonic plague (not an actual medical diagnosis). The series can be viewed on Hulu.

Fleabag. A Rolling Stone review earlier this year tipped me off to this gem. Phoebe Waller-Bridge wrote the show (originally a play) and stars as Flea Bag. We follow her as she navigates London, friendships, sex, relationships, love, and loss. Flea Bag constantly talks to the camera and, in those conversations, we see the depths of her dark (oh so dark) humor and the pain in which that humor was born. An added bonus is Bill Paterson (Outlander's Ned Gowan) as Fleabag's father. There are six episodes of 26 minutes. The series is available on Amazon Prime.


Now that you know what we're watching between now and September, we want to hear from you. What series is getting you through the lonely days of Droughtlander? Let us know in the comments below.



28 comments

  1. Please check out "Kurt Seyit ve Sura" on Netflix... an epic Turkish love story drama (46 episodes). Yes, there are subtitles. But one of the very best shows I have seen in a long time. And it is based on the true story of Seyit and Sura.

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    1. Intriguing! Thanks for the recommendation.

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    2. Chelsea, I've heard so many good things about this show!

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    3. Chelsea, have you seen Magnificent Century?

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    4. Loved this program. My daughter had started it and told me about it. Both of us got stuck somewhere about 3/4 of the way through, but went back to finish and found it very satisfying and entertaining.

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  2. Bates Motel they just wrapped season 5 which is the very last show ever. Brilliant acting, directing, casting I just can't say enough about it! It's dark,full of suspense,murder,lust and sadness, but has great laughs as well. It's well worth the watch. It aired on A&E.

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  3. Victoria on pbs, schitz creek with Eugene Levy, it's so funny!

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  4. We get so serious sometimes. It's time to watch Life in Pieces. Hilarious!

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    1. A co-worker was telling me about this just last week. Apparently, my rail against the school PTO reminded her of a scene from the show.

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  5. I don't think Shetland in available in the states.

    I am watching many of the shows mentioned but can recommended tunes every as well : Homeland, The Americans and Home Fires

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    1. Shetland is definitely available on Netflix. It's also available on Amazon but it's not free.

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    2. Homeland! Why didn't I think of that one???! Every time I think I'm finished with that show it pulls me back in. I can't seem to quit it.

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    3. Last time I looked for Shetland is was not there but glad to know. Thanks

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  7. Have to add King Arthur - Poldark fans will recognize Demelza!

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  8. Can't believe I also forgot to mention another of my all time favourites 'Northern Exposure' ... the kooky and quirky series about a city slicker doctor who ends up living in remote Alaska ... in my family when the theme tune came on we'd all start smiling and laughing. Again, I love the low-techness of it. If you like shows with a moose walking down the main street, you'll love this.

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    1. Andree, it made me so happy to see this!! My family loved this show too.

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  9. On different note...
    The Newsroom (Aaron Sorkin wrote it) Jeff Daniels' "monologue" (the opening scene really) about American Government is stunning
    and
    has anyone watched Grace and Frankie??

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    1. Oh MJ excellent one. I LOVED this show and was so sad that it didn't continue for a third season. Completely agree on that opening scene. It's spellbinding.

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  10. I'm enjoying the Medici series on SBS in Australia at the moment. Historic Florence, with CGI to show the building of Brunelleschi's dome, period costumes and great characters.

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  11. There is also The Last Kingdom. It is excellent and S1 is now on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/search?q=The%20Last%20Kingdom. Here is the S1 Trailer: https://youtu.be/WxPApTGWwas The Synopsis: The year is 872, and many of the separate kingdoms of what we now know as England have fallen to the invading Danes, leaving the great kingdom of Wessex standing alone and defiant under the command of King Alfred.

    Against this turbulent backdrop lives our hero, Uhtred. Born the son of a Saxon nobleman, he is captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Forced to choose between the country of his birth and the people of his upbringing, his loyalties are ever tested.

    What is he? Saxon or Dane?

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    1. SOOO much love for Last Kingdom! I didn't include it in my recommendations because I'm only halfway through the first season. HOWEVER, I love me some Uhtred. Have you watched the entire first season?

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  12. I am watching Shetland on Netflix in the US and am really liking it. Mystery is not my go to genre but Willie and Ned Gowan ( Outlander Names) are in it. Doug Henshall is a really good man in it.

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  13. We're hearing so many good things about this show. Glad that you are enjoying it.

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