We live in the wonderful world of streaming, where we can access content from across the world at the click of a button. Whether it’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Hayu, Peacock, or whatever else your country offers, there are hundreds of great shows for whatever mood you’re in.
While American shows are popular all over the world, some audiences prefer the slightly different tone of British shows. Famously, British comedy is sarcastic, dry, and often surreal, and British TV series tend to last several seasons.
Enjoying British TV
For example, The Office is originally a British show created by Ricky Gervais and has now been sold all over the world. The British original only had 12 episodes across two seasons and a Christmas special, whereas the US adaptation had 201 episodes over nine seasons.
Likewise, House of Cards was a UK production, and Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It eventually became an award-winning US comedy Veep. When we look at reality TV, global audiences have been enjoying the Great British Baking Show and Geordie Shore for several years now, but British TV has even more to offer.
So, if you like the British accent, sense of humor, and fewer filler episodes, then try out these amazing British shows. The following shows are all available on a streaming platform at the time of writing.
The Capture is an hourlong conspiracy thriller from the BBC, set in present-day London. The six-part crime-drama series follows Detective Inspector Rachel Carey as she follows a member of the Special Forces as he tries to clear himself of a horrific crime. The show’s first season premiered in the UK in 2019, and a second was announced in 2020.
Created by Nick Mohammed, Intelligence is a 22-minute workplace sitcom starring Friends alumni David Schwimmer. Amusingly, this British show features a prominent American character and explores some of the cultural differences between the two countries. Schwimmer plays an NSA agent assigned to the UK government’s communication offices. Season 1 of Intelligence has six episodes.
Political thriller Bodyguard is a six-part series starring Richard Madden and Keeley Hawes. Set in the UK, the series follows a British army veteran working as a bodyguard for Home Secretary Julia Montague and explores issues like surveillance and post-traumatic stress. The show was released in the UK in 2018 and got the highest viewing figures for the BBC since 2008.
If you haven’t seen it yet, then it’s time to finally binge British thriller Killing Eve. Featuring the incredible Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, the spy drama follows a British intelligence officer tracking down a psychopathic assassin. Season 1 of Killing Eve premiered in 2018, and a fourth season was announced at the beginning of 2020. Both main actresses have won multiple Best Actress awards for their performances, and it’s not hard to see why.
Another British hit that combines British and American characters and comedy is the sitcom Catastrophe. Created by and featuring Irish actress Sharon Horgan and American comedian Rob Delaney, Catastrophe follows a couple who unexpectedly become pregnant after a fling. This show started way back in 2015 and wrapped up in 2019. The iconic Carrie Fisher has a hilarious role in this show, which was sadly her last on TV.
For those that enjoy crime dramas, try The Fall, a British-Irish series filmed and set in Northern Ireland. This show features some big names, including Fifty Shades of Grey hunk Jamie Dornan and TheX-Files legend Gillian Anderson. Dornan plays serial killer Paul Spector who is being hunted by Anderson’s Detective Stella Gibson. The show aired between 2013-2016 and won several awards at the Irish Film and Television Awards.
For another fabulous Gillian Anderson role, check out the incredible Sex Education on Netflix. The series is set in the UK, despite its American high school vibes and John Hughes ‘80s costumes. In the show, we follow a host of teens as they find themselves, whether that’s in relationships, in their sexuality, at home, or in school. Sex Education has been a massive hit, so give it a watch if it’s passed you by. So far, there have been two seasons.
Call the Midwife
If you’re a fan of British period drama, then you might enjoy the BBC series Call the Midwife. The show follows a group of midwives working in the East End of London in the ‘50s and ‘60s and explores issues happening at the time, both in the medical field and in society at large. Call the Midwife premiered in 2012 and has been renewed through to the eleventh season in 2022. It’s beloved in the UK and has been praised for its discussion of topical subjects.
Also set in East London is Top Boy, a crime drama series created by Ronan Bennett. The show is based in a fictional housing estate in Hackney and follows the lives of the young people who live there. Top Boy first aired in 2011 but was canceled in 2014. Thankfully, rapper Drake showed interest in the show, so Netflix brought it back for a new season in 2017. Drake is now part of the creative team, and a fourth season will air in 2020.
Finally, we turn to the hilarious Derry Girls. This show is set in Derry in Northern Ireland in the ‘90s, as communities were getting on with their lives following civil unrest during The Troubles. The sitcom follows a group of teenage girls – and James – as they attend Catholic school, deal with annoying family members, and get into some trouble. Derry Girls has two seasons so far, with another coming in 2020.