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Parade's End - BBC/HBO's answer to Downton Abbey?

Updated on November 19, 2015
Docmo profile image

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

There's No business like War business

Parade's End is a new TV Drama series commissioned by BBC and HBO jointly. It will premier on Friday the 24th of August 2012 on BBC2. The extraordinary international success of ITV's Costume Drama Downton Abbey was bound to spawn some competition, and many are claiming this will be it. The reasons for such comparisons are the fact that both are sumptuously produced big budget costume Dramas that cover the same time period. However, many claim while Downton Abbey deals with adult themes rather tamely and aims for the family viewing market( there's no sex or violence), Parade's End deals with themes up of adultery and passion during wartime in a more 'full frontal' way!

This sweeping drama takes us from the glorious English countryside to the fashionable Paris suburbs, the higher echelons of English society to the explosions of the battlefield.

The series is based on the classic novel series 'Parade's End' and the screenplay has been written by none other than the talented playwright Sir Tom Stoppard. He won an Oscar for his work on 'Shakespeare in Love'. Stoppard was actually commissioned to write the screenplay long before Downton Abbey arrived on our screens.

It has a stellar cast , headlined by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock (TV), War Horse, Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy.) and Rebecca Hall ( The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona).

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall
Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall | Source
Ford Madox Ford (17 December 1873 – 26 June 1939)
Ford Madox Ford (17 December 1873 – 26 June 1939)

The Books

Ford Madox Ford's linked novels that comprise 'Parade's End' Tetralogy have been hailed by many as one of the greatest works of 20th century English literature and is ranked 57 in the Modern Library's 100 best novels list.

Unusual for a novel set in that period and written in 1924-28, Ford captures the inner turmoils and the emotional war between his characters while using the actual physical war as a backdrop.

He uses his story to peel back layers of glossy social class pretensions to reveal deeper motivations - greed, adultery, jealousy, pride he pretty much visits the seven deadly sins in its scope. The author himself enlisted at the age of 41 and was sent to France with the Welch regiment ( originally Welsh Regiment) and his combat experiences provided him for much of the material for Parade's End.

Ford Madox Ford's other works include 'The Good Soldier (1915)' and 'The Fifth Queen Trilogy'(1906-08) - both these works are also critically acclaimed like 'Parade's End'

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall as Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens
Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall as Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Some Do Not...A Man Could StandNo More ParadesLast Post
Some Do Not...
Some Do Not... | Source
A Man Could Stand
A Man Could Stand
No More Parades
No More Parades
Last Post
Last Post

Parade's End Tetralogy

The first novel Some Do not revolves around the married couple Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens - him a brilliant statistician and civil servant who can see through the pretentiousness of the class, straight talking and upright in his views and ethics.

Sylvia, a cold, calculating, manipulative yet passionate soul who likes him as a possession but saves her passion for many other men. She is frustrated by her inability to truly control her own husband like she could other men.Christopher then meets wild child and suffragette Valentine Wannop in Paris and discovers parts of him that he never knew existed.

The second and third novels 'No more parades' and ' A man could stand up' concentrate on Christopher's experiences and subsequent return from the front, while following the paths of Sylvia and Valentine. The fourth novel ' Last Post' is mainly a series of monologues and viewpoints set in a single summers day that draws all the thread to a close in the aftermath of the war.

The 'Parade' in the title refers to the complex moral and ethical code held by Christopher that stops him from divorcing his wife despite coming to know of her adulterous relationship and even not knowing with certainty whether their child is his. His moral code is fiercely tested by the war and its aftermath as well as his attraction to Valentine.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Valentine Wannop - Adelaide ClemensCast and CrewChristopher Tietjens- Benedict CumberbatchValentine & ChristopherSylvia Tietjens - Rebecca HallSylvia Tietjens - Rebecca HallChristopher Tietjens- Benedict CumberbatchMiranda Richardson ( in the middle) Valentine Wannop - Adelaide Clemens
Valentine Wannop - Adelaide Clemens
Valentine Wannop - Adelaide Clemens
Cast and Crew
Cast and Crew
Christopher Tietjens- Benedict Cumberbatch
Christopher Tietjens- Benedict Cumberbatch
Valentine & Christopher
Valentine & Christopher
Sylvia Tietjens - Rebecca Hall
Sylvia Tietjens - Rebecca Hall
Sylvia Tietjens - Rebecca Hall
Sylvia Tietjens - Rebecca Hall
Christopher Tietjens- Benedict Cumberbatch
Christopher Tietjens- Benedict Cumberbatch
Miranda Richardson ( in the middle)
Miranda Richardson ( in the middle)
Valentine Wannop - Adelaide Clemens
Valentine Wannop - Adelaide Clemens
Click thumbnail to view full-size

The TV Series

Jointly produced by BBC Worldwide and HBO with a lavish budget and high production values, the media comparisons to Downton Abbey are perhaps unfounded. Parade's End is a much more complex structurally and emotionally, it deals with themes of class and effect, war and its aftermath as well as darker tones of adultery and pretentiousness.

The Hero is a straight laced statistician whose moral code is tested time and again throughout the story line. While the countryhouse setting and the period may be the same, Parade's end may well have set its ambitions on classy, self contained period drama than a high class- albeit addictive- soap like Downton Abbey.

The series is set to be broadcast on BBC2 in UK from Friday the 24th of August and is set to be a 5 part miniseries.

Cast & Crew

Benedict Cumberbatch ( Sherlock, War Horse)
Christopher Tietjens
Rebecca Hall ( Vicky Christina Barcelona)
Sylvia Tietjens
Adelaide Clemens
Valentine Wannop
Stephen Graham ( Boardwalk Empire)
Roger Allam (Game of Thrones)
General Campion
Anne-Marie Duff
Jack Huston ( Boardwalk Empire)
Rufus Sewell (Dark City )
Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter series)
Janet McTeer (Damages)
Susanna White
Sir Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love, Anna Karenina))

Thank You!

Thank you for reading this hub and hope you've enjoyed this work. Please do leave some comments and feedback below. Please do vote as appropriate!

If you like what you read share it with friends and family on Facebook/ Twitter/ Pinterest or similar.

Appreciate your time and interest, dear reader.

Do come again.


© Mohan Kumar 2012


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    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      Julie- thanks. would you believe I too forgot to set the Sky+ and will have to catch it on iplayer! I think the media just whipped it up. Downton is is such a behemoth I don't think this miniseries is going to make any dent in its reputation. Can't wait for series three of Downton- its like an addicts fix!

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      Rosemay- you should be able to buy the DVD of series two from online retailers in UK if you need your Downton fix.. thanks for your visit. We have the same here with US series you read about them online and wait months before they arrive here...

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      8 years ago from North-East UK

      Mohan, Thanks for this hub which is very interesting indeed. I forgot to set my 'record' on Sky + so I'm off to watch this on iplayer annoyed with myself. I think Downton Abbey will take some beating but people do like a bit o smut every once in a while in a story so it will probably get lots of viewers :o)

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      8 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I'll look forward to this series. Here in NZ we get the UK series quite a while after they are shown in the UK. The first series of Downton Abbey was shown here last Sunday. I hate having to wait so long haha

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      I think while the media has been comparing this to Downton abbey - this maybe a different take on the same period- may not give us the warm cosy feel Downton does! Thank you!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      If it's as good as Downton Abbey then I will watch. Thanks for bringing this to hubpages.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      eHealer- thank you! I think there are far more prolific writers out there I try to roll out a few but it gets harder with my work and family.

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      Janine- thank you for your visit and share, much appreciated!

    • Docmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Kumar 

      8 years ago from UK

      Dianna - This looks great I'm sure you'll enjoy it. I don't know if this will be on BBC in US as HBO co-produced this...

    • eHealer profile image


      8 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey Docmo, whose the most prolific writer on HubPages? You, I think you are! At least to me! I need to get this flick, right up my alley. Thanks for the info, and I'll let you know what I think. You rock on!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      Docmo, thank you for sharing information about this new show and will try to catch it when it starts. Have voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Docmo, I am going to try to catch this new series on TV. We have been watching the BBC channel lately; it seems the quality of viewing is better than what the other channels offer. Thanks for the review, very interesting and well done. Many votes across!


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