This has been a rough year for fans of period dramas, as the sixth and final season of ITV’s Downton Abbey hit the airwaves. Downton Abbey can be credited with bringing the genre into mainstream media, and fortunately, it will not go unrepresented on ITV for very long. The network has announced plans for an eight-part series called The Halcyon that will take place in World War II-era London.
Set in 1940, The Halcyon will tell the story of a busy and glamorous hotel balancing London society with a world in the midst of a devastating war. The series is to focus on World War II as it connects to all walks of life. Politics, relationships, work, and families will be affected no matter what class they occupy, and a soundtrack will feature music of the era to immerse viewers in the culture of the 1940s.
Period and historical dramas do have better chances of success in the wake of Downton Abbey, but there’s no such thing as a sure thing on television. Still, World War II is an era of turmoil and transition that has mass appeal to audiences everywhere, and there was certainly plenty going on in London at the time to bring some larger scale stakes to offset any domestic difficulties in the hotel.
The Halcyon featuring clashes of class within one big establishment does feel rather derivative of Downton Abbey and the lesser known Upstairs, Downstairs, but Lady Mary and Co. never exactly had to deal with the London blitzkrieg over their heads at the dinner table. The guests will be glamorous, the staff will be hard-working, and American journalist Joe O’Hara will be there to observe it all. This was a time for keeping calm and carrying on rather than fretting over the correct jacket to wear for the evening meal, and The Halcyon already has a great deal of potential to set itself apart.
There’s no news yet of casting or specific characters aside from O’Hara, but the team behind the scenes at The Halcyon has the experience to turn this new series into a success. Still, Downton Abbey would not have been the dynamite success that it was without its stellar cast in front of the camera. It’s impossible to imagine Downton without Michelle Dockery as Mary or Hugh Bonneville as Robert or especially Maggie Smith as Violet. Hopefully, The Halcyon will be able to lock down a similarly solid cast to ground all the of the wartime drama.
The Halcyon is set to begin filming in London and surrounding areas in April 2016. We’ll have to keep calm and carry on with reruns of Downton, along with the upcoming Christmas finale for U.S. viewers, until the latest period drama from ITV hits the airwaves.