Period dramas are a consistently popular genre with audiences, but these shows can take very different forms. This has been apparent with the recent success of two new period dramas, The Gilded Age and 1883, which both take place in 1880’s America but in settings that couldn’t be more different. The Gilded Age’s sumptuous setting among New York high society contrasts starkly with the dramatic western vistas of 1883 and is a reminder that ‘period drama’ is a loosely defined category for shows that can leverage history to very different ends.
Despite the recent attention on these new premieres, Outlander still tops the ranking of historical dramas, with 28.9 times the average series demand in February. High demand for this show in February came ahead of the show’s season 6 premiere on March 6th after a nearly two year hiatus. When Calls the Heart also premiered a new season March 6th and had high demand in February.
Peaky Blinders was the third most in-demand period drama in February. It concluded its sixth season on February 27th and had 20.4 times the average series demand. Vikings has had consistently high demand, but in particular this February saw an increase in demand in the lead up to the premiere of its spinoff series from Netflix, Vikings: Valhalla, on February 25th.
For All Mankind has been a hit for Apple TV+. Its unique focus on the space race has attracted audiences who would normally gravitate to sci-fi series like Star Trek as well as viewers who are drawn to the historical setting. In particular, its use of alternate history to imagine how historical events might have played out under different circumstances sets it apart in the genre. It is a historical drama, but one where audiences don’t know how things will end.
Comedies also make use of period settings, although there are fewer examples of period comedies than period dramas. The most in-demand period comedy in February was The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which had 17.8 times the average series demand for the month as it built towards its series finale on March 11.
Other series like That ’70s Show and The Goldbergs show how an unabashed appeal to nostalgia can make for a successful sitcom. Despite having concluded in 2006, That ’70s Show, continues to have high demand in the US similar to how Friends became a long-lasting staple in the streaming era. In fact, Netflix is planning a spinoff, That ’90s Show, in hopes of recreating the magic of the original.
M*A*S*H was also among the most in-demand period comedies last month. Its recent popularity was driven by current events - it saw a rise in interest at the end of February concurrent with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The show’s timeless depiction of war and blending of comedy and drama has meant that audiences have sought it out in light of the current state of the world.