What to Watch While You Wait for Little Women

At long last, spring is here, and trailers for Little Women tempt us while we await daffodils, songbirds, and this new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s universally beloved story! While you wait for the Sunday, May 13th (that’s Mother’s Day!) premiere of Little Women on MASTERPIECE, why not watch some like-minded hidden gems from our archives? You’ll find the Dickens adaptation that swept the 2009 Emmys; popular works by Jane Austen; cast members you’ll recognize from Victoria, Downton Abbey, and other favorite dramas seen on MASTERPIECE; and legendary British actors who have earned titles both official (“Dame”) and unofficial (“national treasure”).


  1. 1.

    Cranford

    Based On: Elizabeth Gaskell’s three novellas CranfordMy Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison’s Confessions
    Adapted By: Heidi Thomas (Little Women, Call the Midwife)
    Stars: Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins
    Don’t Miss: Alex Jennings (Victoria, The Crown), Michael Gambon (Little Women, Churchill’s Secret), Francesca Annis (Home Fires)
    Downton Connection: Jim Carter
    Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, iTunes store
    Watch Cranford for the comfort of simple village live, the community of strong women, and the cast of British dames and their all-star peers! Those anticipating Little Women will love the sisterhood, the small comedic dramas, and the struggles and sorrows—the humor and the heart—of this rural English town circa 1840.

  2. 2.

    Return to Cranford

    Based On: Elizabeth Gaskell’s three novels CranfordMy Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison’s Confessions
    Adapted By: Heidi Thomas (Cranford, Little Women, Call the Midwife)
    Stars: Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton
    Don’t Miss: Tom Hiddleston, Tim Curry
    Downton Connection: Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter
    Where to Watch: ShopPBS, iTunes Store, Amazon (as Cranford Season 2, DVD)
    It’s everything you love about Cranford, with even more A-list actors and—a bonus for Little Women fans—Christmas!

  3. 3.

    Little Dorrit

    Based On: Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit
    Adapted By: Andrew Davies (Bleak HousePride and Prejudice)
    Stars: Claire Foy (The Crown, Upstairs Downstairs)
    Don’t Miss: Andy Serkis (The Hobbit, Planet of the Apes franchise), Tom Courtenay (Unforgotten), Russell Tovey (Sherlock), Alun Armstrong (Dark Angel, Downton Abbey, Prime Suspect: Tennison), Eve Myles (Victoria)
    Where to Watch: ShopPBS, iTunes store, Amazon (DVD)
    Little Dorrit swept the 2009 Emmys, taking an impressive seven wins for its adaptation of Charles Dickens’ portrayal of gentle-spirited Amy Dorrit and her trials holding her family together inside debtor’s prison and beyond. Our sweet-tempered, selfless heroine who flourishes in the face of injustice will appeal to Little Women fans, as will Little Dorrit‘s tender romance, its unforgettable characters, its magnificent performances, and its triumph of goodness in the face of cruelty and poverty.

  4. 4.

    Persuasion

    Based On: Jane Austen’s Persuasion
    Adapted By: Simon Burke (Zen)
    Stars: Sally Hawkins
    Don’t Miss: Rupert Penry-Jones (Silk, Casanova)
    Where to Watch: Amazon (DVD)
    Persuasion shares more than a cursory amount of DNA with Little Women—set during wartime, this MASTERPIECE has all the marriage plot of your standard Austen, but a heroine sweeter than Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse. Watch for the unlikely romance, the humor, and The Shape of Water‘s star Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot.

  5. 5.

    Sense and Sensibility

    Based On: Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
    Adapted By: Andrew Davies (Bleak HousePride and Prejudice)
    Stars: Charity Wakefield (Wolf Hall), Hattie Morahan (My Mother and Other Strangers)
    Don’t Miss: Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Wolf Hall)
    Downton Connection: Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars
    Where to Watch: ShopPBS, Hulu, iTunes Store, Amazon
    Three sisters, impoverished by the death of their father and relocated to a modest cottage in coastal Devon, receive visitors, suitors, cads, and heirs as their prospects for marriage ebb and flow and their hearts break and heal. Little Women fans will love Hattie Morahan’s Elinor Dashwood (there’s Marianne Dashwood for those on Team Amy!), the romance, and the sisterhood. And you needn’t be a fan of Downton Abbey to appreciate the scene in which Dan Stevens, pre-Matthew Crawley, chops wood in the rain!

  6. 6.

    Wives and Daughters

    Based On: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters
    Adapted By: Andrew Davies (Bleak HousePride and Prejudice)
    Stars: Keeley Hawes (The Durrells in Corfu, Upstairs Downstairs), Francesca Annis (Home Fires)
    Don’t Miss: Michael Gambon (Little Women, Churchill’s Secret, Cranford)
    Downton Connection: Iain Glen, Penelope Wilton
    Where to Watch: ShopPBS, Amazon (DVD)
    Stepmother, stepsister, suitors and secrets abound in Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s unfinished masterpiece, wherein a beloved daughter of a country lawyer gains a vain and silly stepmother when her widowed father remarries. The marriage plot and the social constraints of small-town life will resonate with Little Women fans, as will the brash but loving performance by Michael Gambon, also of Little Women, who’s just one player in a remarkable all-star cast that’s basically a Who’s Who of MASTERPIECE!

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