It is no secret that novel-based TV shows are a recipe for blockbusters, especially when the novels are having their premise set somewhere in the European hinterlands. ‘Game of Thrones’ could be one such example, with George R R Martin, British, Scottish, and Irish accents, wars and gore, and one throne – a combination that looks like a love potion for the producers. ‘Outlander’ has always had a similar effect since its inception, with forever soaring popularity and stunning visuals. More importantly, it is a combination of a very rare mix – time travel and romance – the stuff of movies, if not TV shows, until ‘Outlander’ broke that myth and crushed it.
Having finished a 3-season run, the plot of ‘Outlander’ is set around Claire Randall, a nurse in the present day 1946, in the post-WWII era, who’s on a Scotland trip with her husband Frank when she’s teleported back in time, two centuries prior. She’s stuck between a tussle of the Highlanders and British Redcoats, is kidnapped by the Highlanders, marries Jamie – a Highlander himself, and finds out that Captain Jonathan of the Redcoats is none other than Frank’s ancestor and her current arch-nemesis. The next two seasons have Claire back and forth in time while bearing a daughter and raising her back in the 20th century.
TV shows like ‘Outlander’ would resemble many aspects of it – time travel, medieval-era kingdoms, historical dramas, the underlying politics, set in a European backdrop, blood and gore, and most importantly, appealing romance, the primary reason why ‘Outlander’ has an outstanding viewership. Here’s the list of TV shows similar to Outlander that are our recommendations. You can stream some of these shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
12. Reign (2013-2017)
Set primarily in Scotland, similar to ‘Outlander’, the central character of the series is Mary, Queen of Scots. The series begins with Mary’s teenage days in Scotland and France, primarily within the French political setup. As Mary is all set to marry the prodigal Prince Francis, she’s caught in the political turmoil involving Bash – Francis’ half-brother, Elizabeth – the then Queen of England, and Nostradamus – the soothsayer whose predictions typically comes into play in determining marital ties which may lead to possible wars. The four-season long TV show was panned for its historical inaccuracies, though it got praise due to the romance portrayals – the only other reason why it resembles ‘Outlander’.
11. Timeless (2016-2018)
Abigail Spencer as Lucy Preston, the leader of a ragtag group called “Lifeboat” comprising a history professor, which is herself, along with Wyatt, a Delta Force mercenary, and Connor, the creator of Lifeboat among other fellas. The group should revisit history by using a time-machine prototype to save America as we know it from a criminal who has stolen the actual time machine to alter history. They have to tread carefully, for the butterfly effect can be powerful, at the same time, not trying to change any critical events in the past. Lucy finds herself attracted towards a young lad in the 1800s, combined with the growing complexities of solving the case. ‘Timeless’ has now officially been canceled, though the premise was strong enough to have another seasonal run.
10. The Tudors (2007-2010)
Set around the life and times of King Henry VIII, portrayed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, along with an ensemble cast comprising Natalie Dormer, Henry Cavill among other big names, ‘The Tudors’ gained a worldwide audience as soon as it debuted as a series in 2007, despite being critiqued for its over-glorification of the lust for power over historical and political accuracies. To summarize, the premise begins with Henry VIII picking up his reign replete with political disturbances, courting Anne Boleyn, the famous queen who was executed later on, the marriages that follow, and the age-old French-English conflicts that form the crux of the series. ‘The Tudors’ resembles ‘Outlander’ in many ways except for the time-travel part, although the historical inaccuracies could’ve been a little less abundant.
9. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
Set in Victorian-era London in the late 1800s, the superbly enacted and widely followed TV series revolves around four primary characters – Vanessa Eves – the leader of the pack, Sir Malcolm Murray, an explorer whose daughter Mina has been kidnapped, Chandler, a marksman, and Frankenstein, the mad scientist. All these misfits should come together in solving cases, banishing evil, and falling in love all the while. ‘Penny Dreadful’ hit the zenith of its viewership when it was released and got all the critical praise it needed, thus catapulting it to being one of the most-watched series in its sub-genre. The intensity, the peculiar characters, Eva Green’s performance, the blood, and the carnage have been convincingly filmed and portrayed, I’d say a notch better than ‘Outlander’.
8. Victoria (2016-2017)
Another TV show surrounding the British Royal Family, albeit of a slightly dated era, ‘Victoria’ has Queen Victoria of England as the central character and the series depicts her life and times from as a young princess until her crowning and assuming an additional title of Empress of India, followed by her struggle to assume office between childbirths and diplomacy, while trying to strike a fine balance between her personal and public life. Jenna Coleman plays the titular character and although we have seen a great deal of British Royal charm through Netflix’s ‘Crown’, this series takes you a little way back into the literal “Victorian” era and the mesmerizing visuals are merely an added bonus.
7. Black Sails (2014-2017)
A fictional series set in the Golden Age of Piracy, the typical late 1600s and early 1700s when piracy was rampant and infamous in the uncharted waters, ‘Black Sails’ opens in New Providence Island wherein the pirates are proclaiming war against the entire world, for they’re been meted with the same fate. There are many pirates of the lore whose characters have been written for the screen, including our beloved Blackbeard. Treasure hunts, waging war against the British empire, love interests and sensuality form the remaining of the series. ‘Black Sails’ is gripping and fictionalization is done to the extent of realism which is great from a cinematic point of view, but the stereotypes and to an extent, the fleeting character development may have proved wrong with some critics. Come what may, this is one of those costume-heavy, pirate dramas with ample blood, sex, and romance that one cannot overlook.
6. Spartacus (2010-2013)
If ‘Spartacus’ can delve deep into one of the aspects of ‘Outlander’, it would be sex. And nothing else. Maybe romance bordering with lust, plenty of gore, and beefy men and sultry women, set in the backdrop of ancient Rome. The desirable TV series has had a convenient, successful run across three different storylines and a miniseries and yet there was no dearth in a demand for more. The story’s central character is Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who is surrounded by a host of Romans and other gladiators and slave men. For no reason, you would somehow start liking and binging it and the guilty pleasure is immense. What are you waiting for?
5. Vikings (2013-Present)
The only reason why ‘Vikings’ deserves to be on this list is due to its apparent historical significance (being connected to the Norse mythology) and the highlight of the medieval era that is set around the Age of Vikings. The life and times of Ragnar Lothbrok, a mythical Norse legend who is brought to life in the series, ‘Vikings’ series revolves around the Nordic traditions, families, political turmoils, wars, and killings, and most importantly – standing up to the legends of Ragnar is known for. Unlike ‘Spartacus’ where the character development is nearly lost and sex is the driver, ‘Vikings’ showed us more depth in its characters, and the premise was practically woven around them, a departure from the preconceived notions surrounding such TV shows.
4. Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
A TV show with a narrative that starts from the day of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, until the late1920s, ‘Downton Abbey’ is centered around the Crawley family, and their domestic servants. Matthew Crawley is the new heir apparent following the demise of the Grantham heirs in the now sunk Titanic, one Lady Mary who is attracted to Matthew, combined with the tug-o-war between the aristocrats, and the effects of politico-social events on the Crawley family. Aristocracy in the pre-war era of Great Britain has never been told so well until ‘Downton Abbey’ happened. An unmissable, worthwhile, award-winning tv series, at your leisure.
3. Doctor Who (2005-Present)
By listing ‘Doctor Who’ on this list, I am trying to tackle the time-travel angle, a premise that has so far been “exploited” in a very limited number of tv shows or movies. The premise is set around a fictional Time Lord nicknamed “the doctor” who fled his home planet Gallifrey in a TARDIS – the de facto time machine which helps the doctor traverse through time. The doctor brings weirdos along in his quests through time to take on the enemies and often changes appearances to bypass any mortal shortcomings. As a result, we have seen thirteen different actors, and actresses portraying the doctor so far. ‘Doctor Who’ has shattered many records across many verticals and is probably one of the most followed, cherished, and acclaimed British television series ever, only next to ‘Game of Thrones’. If nothing, we can watch it for the accent. Can we, please?
2. Poldark (2015-Present)
The closest to ‘Outlander’, in terms of the costumes, production design, and also probably the context, ‘Poldark’ is the story of Captain Ross Poldark, a British soldier who has returned from the American War of Independence, only to find about the pile of debt his family is in, the ruins of an estate he has inherited and the love of his life is being married to his cousin Francis. He falls for Demelza and the timeless romance begins that sets the precedent for the remaining of the series, perhaps the most prominent reason for the immense popularity of the show. The casting and the performances are the highlights of this binge-worthy, addictive TV show.
1. Game of Thrones (2011-Present)
GoT is on the list only because of merit, and perhaps a bunch of intense romance moments, which comes as a surprise for those who think of it as a show with wars, politics, bloodshed, and swear words. Be it the extremely addictive chemistry between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen or be it the love tales of Samwell Tarly or the one-sided infatuation of Ser Jorah towards his Khaleesi, ‘Game of Thrones’ has shown it all. And what’s there to narrate about the never-ending lust and the sex-scenes which are replete across each and every episode of the highly-acclaimed tv show. Though it has a very subtle resemblance with ‘Outlander’, the addiction and the dialogues are the selling points of ‘Game of Thrones’. And hell, it has dragons and all.