TV's Sexiest Star

Downton Abbey with abs? PBS hopes for another Masterpiece with Poldark's smoldering star

Downton Abbey with abs? PBS hopes for Poldark fever with hunky star

Aidan Turner in Poldark shirtless
Aidan Turner, star of Poldark, gets a touch-up before a shirtless scene that caused a lot of swooning in Great Britain. Courtesy of BBC

Thrilled with the overwhelming response to Downton Abbey, PBS believes it has another blockbuster hit in Poldark, an eight-part British series that premieres Sunday night on Masterpiece (Channel 8, 8 p.m.).

And a lot of it has to do with leading man Aidan Turner.

Based on an international British hit in the mid-'70s, where it was broadcast in 40 countries, including the United States, Poldark has been rebooted in Great Britain, where it has again become a huge success, just like Downton Abbey, before hopping the pond to American audiences.

Though both series are marked with striking production values and great views of the English countryside, the stories have little in common other than juicy plot lines, strong-willed characters and tangled love lines.

While Downton follows the upper class Crowleys at their massive Highclere Castle estate near London in the early 20th century, Poldark is set in the picturesque, seaside county of Cornwall in the late 18th century. The story follows the dashing British Army officer Ross Poldark (Turner) who returns to southwest England after thought to have been killed in the Revolutionary War to find his family estate in ruins, his father dead and his sweetheart engaged to his cousin. Though encouraged to leave the village, he resolves to stay and restore his lost fortune.

 Turner's chest hair has its own Twitter page and his body has become the subject of reams of discussion. 

Thanks to the popularity of the series, which has already begun filming the second season in Cornwall, Turner has become a major heartthrob. His chest hair has its own Twitter page and his body has become the subject of reams of discussion.

A 20-second skinny dipping scene, shot from a long distance, in the second episode, provoked Twitter titters, and Turnermania swung into full gallop in episode 3 when the 31-year-old actor appeared shirtless, with zero percent bodyfat, while before scything an ancestral field, his rippling muscles glistening in the sun.

Turner, who has appeared in The Hobbit movies and the British TV series Being Human, where he played a vampire, has become such a sex symbol that one British publication compiled a list of why he's so much hotter than another PBS heartthrob, Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch.

Among the reasons:

  • "He does dark and brooding so well. That long dark curly hair and sexy stubble – he’s a 21st century Heathcliff."
  • "His chest is a thing of beauty and he gets it out on screen – A LOT."
  • "He has a sexy Irish accent. Forget about Benedict’s clipped English tones and allow yourself to be lulled by a soothing Dublin lilt. Music to our ears."
  • "He can actually ride a horse – he learnt in New Zealand – and said when riding ‘you feel as if Mother Nature is in charge, anything could happen.' We’re not too heavy to go on horseback."
  • "He was described as the sexiest dwarf as warrior Kili who falls in love with the elf Tauriel played by Evangeline Lily, in The Hobbit movies."
  • "He is not a fan of the gym too, saying: ‘I hated it. I was hungry all the time. I kept wanting to skip the gym, but my trainer would be there… it was awful.’ We understand just how you feel Aidan."

We'll soon see if U.S. audiences agree.