Costume dramas have shaped television tastes of today through explosive stories of yesteryear. Edward & Mrs. Simpson rankled royals and the issues seen in Upstairs, Downstairs resulted in a partial ban in the States.
Costume dramas ignited young performers' careers and benefited from the glow of established stars. Alex Kingston's Moll Flanders led her to ER, and Keira Knightley's Lara in Doctor Zhivago got Hollywood calling.
The "bodice rippers" of the 1990s helped costume dramas shed their staid reputation as quickly as characters doffed their period garb. Colin Firth's wet-shirt scene in Pride and Prejudice and the romps of Moll Flanders lead the saucy literary adaptations.
The pursuit of high production values drove costume dramas into real castles and countryside. Castle Howard appeared in Brideshead Revisited, Cornwall lent local color to Poldark, and a Lithuanian river became the Thames for Helen Mirren's Elizabeth I.
Costume dramas spawned an army of dashing heroes in uniform, but not all fought with the aplomb of Sharpe or Horatio Hornblower. The Monocled Mutineer opened a controversial chapter of WWI and A Piece of Cake's flying stunts rewrote the Battle of Britain.