An easy comparison between television in the U.S. and the U.K. is what we saw in The Office. Similar cast and plot lines, but distinct brands of humor and writing. While the U.S. has some tremendously good programming, it’s never too early (or late) to give the Brits a chance to earn a spot in your heart. Here are 10 British TV shows you should binge watch on Netflix right now.
At this point, you’ve probably heard how awesome a show Peaky Blinders is. An epic British gangster drama set in chaotic post-WWI Birmingham, Peaky Blinders tells the story of Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and the Peaky Blinders gang as they vie for the position of England’s most notorious street gang. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix, and after receiving incredibly positive reviews from both viewers and critics, Peaky Blinders was renewed for fourth and fifth seasons.
Scrotal Recall (AKA Lovesick)
From the title, Scrotal Recall (AKA Lovesick) sounds incredibly stupid—like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to remember all the places his dick has been. But stay with us here. A man, Dylan (Johnny Flynn), finds out that he has chlamydia. Being a responsible adult, Dylan decides to track down all of his previous sexual partners in order to inform him of his disease. The show is basically a series of flashbacks to every sexual encounter Dylan has ever had, and believe it or not, it’s really, really good.
If American Pie and Freaks and Geeks moved to England and then had an awkward baby with a British accent, it’d be The Inbetweeners. High school is an awkward time, and The Inbetweeners prove that it doesn’t matter how goofy your accent is; no one is exempt from those awkward teenage moments. Cringe at and with Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) and his friends as they navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence—sex, academia, responsibility, experimentation, the pressures of getting into a good school—all with more dick and fart jokes than you know what to do with.
If you don’t think Idris Elba is a phenomenal actor, you should probably skip this entry (but also you’re wrong and crazy). All four seasons of this incredible psychological crime drama are available for instant streaming on Netflix. The show follows DCI John Luther (Elba) as he kicks ass and takes names, but also deals with the emotional and psychological repercussions of his actions. He develops an interesting working relationship with Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), who he wants to arrest for murder, but can’t due to lack of evidence. Since he can’t arrest her, but also won’t cut ties with her, their developing relationship helps him glean insight into the minds of some of the criminals he investigates. It’s action packed, intelligently written, and showcases Elba at his honest best.
Another Britcom, Detectorists comes on slow, but wins you over in the long run. Essentially, the show revolves around two unusual members of the fictional Danebury Metal Detecting Club, Andy Stone (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance Stater (Toby Jones). The show has them seeking buried treasure along lost Saxon burial ground and deal with the day-to-day goings on of the club and everyday happenings of life. It’s quirky, genuine, and makes for a solid, binge-worthy watch.
One of the edgiest British crime dramas to date, Happy Valley is a hell of a trip. The first episode of the first season opens with a wild lady cop with a fluorescent yellow vest and a fire extinguisher, approaching a very drunk man who’s threatened to light himself on fire in a public park. The woman, Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), gruffly tells the man, in regards to self-immolation: “It hurts. Three seconds in, you’ll be screaming at me to put ya out. Seven seconds in and you’ll be begging for me to shoot you.” She then goes on to announce, “I’m Catherine, by the way. I’m 47, I’m divorced, I live with me sister, who’s a recovering heroin addict. I’ve two grown up children, one dead, one who don’t speak to me, and a grandson, so….” And then it cuts to the opening credits. THE OPENING CREDITS. If you’re looking for well-thought-out action and genuine witticism, you’ve found it.
The IT Crowd
Another British sitcom (are you starting to see a pattern or two?) The IT Crowd is kind of like the British doppelgänger of the U.S.’s The Big Bang Theory—but replace a bunch of science nerds with a bunch of computer nerds. It revolves around the IT staff in the fictional London offices of Reynholm Industries, and covers the inter-office hijinks between Maurice Ross (Richard Ayoade), Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd), and Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson), as well as their bosses Denholm and Douglas Reynholm. You definitely won’t learn whatever the hell it is IT people do, although that’s sort of the point of one of the longer running jokes, but the show is a lot of fun, and the chemistry between O’Dowd, Parkinson, and Ayoade is excellent. The show’s four seasons (and one-off finale) are up on Netflix to stream, and it’s definitely something we’d recommend if you’re into nerd culture sitcoms.
This mini-series originally aired on Channel 4 in 2013, but has since come to Netflix and taken over as some of the most compelling British dramas available on the streaming service. With a total runtime of just three hours, the four-part series is about a journalist who explores the mind of a man who commits a mass shooting. There’s nothing joyous about this series. It’s intense, heart breaking, and at times, terrifying—all the way through to the end. What makes it so spectacular, however, is that the non-linear way in which the story is told. It takes hold of you early, and doesn’t let you go until it’s all over. Absolutely brilliant filmmaking.
If there’s one thing this list can teach you about British T.V., it’s that they really, really get their rocks off on a good crime drama. River is no different. Starring Stellan Skarsgard and Nicola Walker, it premiered on Netflix last November, and immediately became a hit. The six-episode series (fans are hopeful for a Season 2, but not holding their breath) follows Detective Inspector John River (Skarsgard) as he attempts to solve the murder of his former partner, DS Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson. The show brilliantly delves into topics of immigration, crime, and corporate corruption, without getting exhaustingly political. Excellent writing and cinematography really make this a Netflix stand-out.
Before we get into the meat on this show’s bones, we’d just like to say one thing: Dana Scully with a British accent.
Gillian Anderson plays Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, who’s called into help Belfast police stop a serial killer in their tracks. We really enjoyed watching Season’s 1 and 2 on Netflix, and you can expect to have access to Season 3, which debuts next week on BBC Two. And naturally, it will slowly but surely make its way to Netflix.