How online streaming sites made British period dramas mainstream

British culture has its roots in the United Kingdom’s prosperous history, its people and the four countries from which the nation is formed, each with their own respective traditions and customs – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

British cultural and social norms may come across as different to international visitors and there are many traits which set Brits apart from their neighbouring countries. For example, at the risk of over-generalising typical British traits, one can conclude that Brits are usually punctual. Being late is considered rude whether you are attending a public meeting or a dinner party, and Brits take pride in complying with protocol and etiquette as regards the above.

Brits are also extremely polite in their day-to-day interactions with others, sometimes to the degree that it leaves international visitors baffled by the level of politeness. Using words such as please, thank you and sorry are regarded as normal parts of everyday conversations across the world. However, the Brits have a tendency to take the latter to an entirely new level.

Another trait that stands out when visiting across the pond is the physical distance maintained between an average Brit and their counterpart. In the UK it is acceptable to keep one arm’s length between yourself and the person that you are speaking with.

To conclude, queues are a thing in the UK and jumping queues is seen as extremely rude and disrespectful; patiently standing and waiting for your turn in a line is a normal part of domestic culture in the UK.

The politeness, the restrictive use of superlatives when speaking and the protocol for socializing are all parts of the allure of British films, TV series and literature. Bridget Jones’s Diary would probably not have been as successful either as a film or book had it not been for love interest Mark Darcy’s typical British quirkiness.

The same goes for Jane Austen’s remarkable literary pieces and the British period dramas which have taken the world by storm these past few years. In this article we will dive deep into how online streaming sites have contributed to making two particular British period dramas globally successful.


Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey, a highly acclaimed and award-winning series from Julian Fellowes, illustrated the lives of the aristocratic, fictional Crawley family alongside their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era (1912 to 1926), with the made up Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey as the backdrop. Over the course of six seasons the viewers followed historical events, such as the sinking of the Titanic, and how the characters navigated their respective challenges in life. Although Downton Abbey was initially released on terrestrial TV in 2011, the series remains very much “alive” to this day, and has gained an immense following through streaming sites such as Amazon Prime and PBS. The latter illustrates how streaming (as an alternative to cinema and TV) has revolutionized the way we consume entertainment and how a British period drama released nine years ago can remain popular and current long past its last episode through technology and access to the internet.

To exemplify further, films and series are not the only industries which have undergone a transformation along the above lines; the gaming world is yet another example, as classical games such as poker and scratch cards are now easily available online. Through the use of the internet, these days free scratch card games are eco-friendly as they don’t waste any paper, and poker tournaments no longer require physical attendance as virtual players are equally as common.


The Crown

Another British period drama which has contributed to putting the UK and British culture on the map is Netflix’s highly popular The Crown, depicting the House of Windsor’s trajectory as the ruling monarchy. The Crown is a joint American-British drama series, released in 2016, which depicts Elizabeth II’s service as Queen and takes the viewer through various important political and cultural events in Britain’s recent history. Filming of The Crown’s much awaited season 4 has now concluded. Netflix has confirmed its release on 15th November 2020 and that Olivia Colman will return as Queen Elizabeth as the plot heads into the Margaret Thatcher years of UK history. The Crown has won multiple Golden Globes throughout the years (Best Performance By An Actress In A Television Series, amongst others), and has expanded the knowledge of the UK’s monarchy and British culture to more than 23 million viewers on Netflix alone.