6 new historical TV dramas (and how to tell them apart)
Showtime’s Masters of Sex isn’t the only historical drama coming to TV. Below we run down six new and upcoming greenlit drama series with some handy details for distinguishing each. There’s mobsters, pirates, princesses, nerds and more. Let’s start with…
Masters of Sex (Sept. 29) / Showtime
Setting: 1957, Washington University in St. Louis.
Think: Mad Men meets Kinsey.
Plot: The story of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, two research pioneers of human sexuality.
Fashion: Golden age collegiate conservative (except when nude).
Accuracy: Based on Thomas Maier’s biography Masters of Sex. Finally, a Hollywood version of history that will be tough to accuse of adding more sex.
Problems of the Era: Widespread prudishness. Alarmingly crude-looking sex toys.
Mob City (Dec. 4) /TNT
Setting: Los Angeles, 1946.
Think: L.A. Confidential meets more L.A. Confidential.
Plot: The city is caught between a powerful and corrupt police force and a criminal network trying to establish itself on the West Coast.
Historical titan: Mobsters Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel rule L.A. with bloody fists.
Fashion: It’s stylish mobsters vs. schlubby cops — but even the schlubby cops dress fancier than your average modern executive.
Accuracy: A mob drama that mixes historical and fictional characters; based on the book L.A. Noir.
Problems of the Era: Police corruption, East Coast gangsters causing trouble.
Halt & Catch Fire (2014) / AMC
Setting: Texas “Silicon Prairie” outside Dallas, early 1980s.
Think: The Social Network meets Wall Street.
Plot: The personal computing boom told through the eyes of one visionary and one engineer prodigy.
Historical titan: A fictionalized version of IBM crushes start-up companies.
Retro-fashion: 80s business wear, but subtle — “no leg warmers,” says AMC.
Accuracy: Like Mad Men, it’s a fictional story with true-to-life period details.
Problems of the Era: Uh, which stock to invest in? It’s the ’80s. They only thought they had problems.
Turn (2014) / AMC
Setting: New England, 1778.
Think: HBO’s John Adams meets The Patriot.
Plot: New York farmer bands together with a group of friends to form the Culper Ring, a group of spies who fight for America’s independence.
Historical titan: Rebel-leader George Washington, who has has a small role in the show.
Fashion: Your coats come in two colors: Red or blue. Hot accessory: Wigs!
Accuracy: Based on the historical book Washington’s Spies.
Problems of the Era: An intrusive, over-taxing government. Thank goodness things have changed!
Black Sails (Jan, 2014) / Starz
Setting: Much of the action is centered around New Providence Island in the Bahamas in 1715.
Think: Pirates of the Caribbean with a lot more sex and no supernatural silliness (we hope).
Plot: Feared pirate Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his men take on a fast-talking young John Silver (Luke Arnold), who has stolen a map to a Spanish Treasure galleon.
Fashion: Boots, baggy pants, puffy shirts, ripped bodices.
Accuracy: Michael Bay is doing it.
Problems of the Era: Scurvy, scallywags, and every single goddamn day is Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Reign (Oct 17) / The CW
Setting: France, 1557
Think: A teen-friendly Dangerous Liaisons meets Game of Thrones.
Plot: The early years of Mary, Queen of Scots as she plans to wed the King of France amid scheming court intrigue.
Historical titan: Nostradamus serves as the queen’s psychic.
Fashion: Renaissance Fair meets East Village.
Accuracy: Well, for starters, the French and the Scots all speak with British accents…
Problems of the Era: What do adultery, paper cuts and about a million other things have in common in 1557? They can all get you killed. Average life expectancy was only 35. So when adjusted for mortality, this is the first CW show with a middle-age cast.