Jessica Brown Findlay, Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville lead the cast of Harlots – a period drama set within the brothels of Georgian London.
In the UK, the drama originally aired in 2017 on ITV Encore – a now-defunct channel owned by ITV which you could only get via Sky’s digital satellite platform (Sky Go, Now TV and the like).
Unsurprisingly, that meant it didn’t get a ton of viewers. Meanwhile, US fans were able to watch on Hulu.
But in July 2020, the BBC suddenly announced that it had acquired Harlots from ITV Studios. All three series of the drama will now get an outing on BBC Two.
Sue Deeks, BBC Head of Programme Acquisition, said in a statement: “Aided by a truly magnificent cast, Harlots brings 18th Century London to life with enormous style, wit, intelligence and humour. BBC viewers will become immersed in the gripping lives of business women Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley as they make their way in London’s grimy, decadent world.”
When is Harlots airing on BBC Two?
Harlots will first air on BBC Two on Wednesday 5th August at 9pm, starting with a double-bill. Series one and two will air back-to-back.
What is Harlots about?
Here’s the official synopsis: “Set against the backdrop of 18th century Georgian London, Harlots is a powerful family drama offering a brand new take on the city’s most valuable commercial activity – sex. Inspired by the stories of real women, the series follows Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and her daughters, as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner.
“When her business comes under attack from Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), a rival madam with a ruthless streak, Margaret must fight back, even if it means putting her family at risk. Jessica Brown Findlay stars as Charlotte, Margaret’s eldest daughter and the city’s most coveted courtesan, who begins to grapple with her position in both society and her immediate family.”
The drama was written by Moira Buffini, and inspired by Hallie Rubenhold’s history book The Covent Garden Ladies (2005). The drama was inspired by real-life women and their stories (follow the link for more on the Harlots true story).
Who is in the cast of Harlots?
Leading the Harlots cast is Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells, the beautiful daughter of a brothel-keeper who has become a London celebrity and the “kept woman” of a rich gentleman. The actress is best-known for playing Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey.
Samantha Morton plays Margaret Wells, who owns a brothel in London’s Covent Garden. The Oscar-nominated Bafta-winning actress has been seen in The Walking Dead, Fantastic Beasts, Minority Report, Synecdoche, New York, The Last Panthers, and many (many) more.
The “Lady Macbeth” character of Lydia Quigley is played by Lesley Manville, the Oscar-nominated actress of stage and screen who was recently cast as Princess Margaret in The Crown.
The cast of Harlots also includes Dorothy Atkinson, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Kate Fleetwood, Danny Sapini, Richard McCabe, Hugh Skinner, Rosalind Eleazar, Douggie McMeekin, and Julian Rhind-Tutt.
Will there be another season of Harlots?
To date, there have been three seasons of Harlots, each consisting of eight 50-minute episodes.
Unfortunately for both long-time fans and newcomers to the series, in June 2020 it was reported that Hulu has cancelled the series after three seasons. But that still leaves 24 episodes to watch if you start back at the beginning!
Check out what else is on with our TV Guide.