Netflix has changed how people enjoy television, and it has helped people watch shows that they previously did not have access to, including shows that were created or broadcasted in other countries. With a number of quality British television shows now available to American audiences, Netflix has increased viewership to these shows and helped to promote fan bases for British shows on this side of the pond.
While these shows span a variety of genres and styles, they were created initially for British audiences – even the ones that claim to be “Netflix originals” first premiered on the BBC. There were many shows to choose from, and these picks were chosen both for their quality and their diversity.
Whether you are a British ex-pat looking for a reminder of home or an American anglophile looking for something to binge-watch, here are 15 Great British Shows Available to Stream on Netflix:
15. Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders follows a family of 1920s Birmingham mobsters, led by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). Along with his aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and his brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole), Tommy works to create a criminal empire while dealing with the brutal Irish police investigator, Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a double agent, Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), and other criminal leaders, including Alfie Solomon (Tom Hardy).
Tommy is a true antihero, who manages to remain fairly sympathetic despite his dubious motives and violent tactics. The show includes many elements of historic realism, including the many social and psychological impacts of World War I. It’s Downton Abbey, but with a Arctic Monkeys soundtrack and an unflinching camera that does not shy away from the violence of the Shelby brothers.
14. The Office
For many Americans, The Office is synonymous with watching Michael Scott (Steve Carell) argue with Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and crying at Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) wedding. But the original British show, which stars Ricky Gervais as David Brent, is an entirely different series that only bears some resemblances to its American cousin.
Similar to House of Cards, the creative team behind The Office took the name and premise from the British show, but created new characters and scenarios when it came across the pond. However, both the American and British Office are painfully funny and embrace the hilarious awkwardness that comes from an office full of colorful characters.
13. The Fall
The Fall stars Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, but it is not a mystery show. It is a game of cat and mouse, as she hunts for serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). The viewer also watches Spector in his daily life, and so it is perfectly clear from the beginning that he is a sociopath and a murderer.
But The Fall illustrates the frustrating, the mundane, and the heartbreaking which can lead the police to finding or losing a killer. The Fall builds slowly over time, but the stakes are always high and the tension is palpable.
12. The IT Crowd
The IT Crowd (as in the abbreviation for “Information Technology”) is a sitcom that is set in the tech basement office of Reynholm Industries. The new department head, Jen Barber (Katherine Parkinson) doesn’t know anything about tech, having completely lied through her interview process, but it turns out that the IT staff that she ends up managing, Maurice Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy Trenneman (Chris O’Dowd), don’t know anything about people. The show is riddled with cultural “tech culture” references, including the popular web comic xkcd and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
11. Black Mirror
Black Mirror caused quite a stir when a tabloid headline about Prime Minister David Cameron seemed all too similar to the show’s first episode, in which a fictional Prime Minister is blackmailed into committing heinous acts with a pig in order to secure the release of kidnapped Princess.
A dark and twisted vision of the all-too-near future, Black Mirror walks the line between humor and horror. Each episode is its own self-contained story that features new characters and scenarios. It is somewhat akin to The Twilight Zone, but technology, rather than the supernatural, is always the culprit of the bizarre events of each episode.
10. Happy Valley
Don’t let the title fool you – Happy Valley is not happy at all. It follows a police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) as she attempts to catch the man who raped and drove her late daughter to suicide. As it turns out, that man, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton) is currently involved in a kidnapping operation, which Catherine’s interest in him endangers. The dark and violent crime show was nominated for five BAFTA awards, and won Best Drama Series and Best Writer: Drama in 2015.
9. The Inbetweeners
The Inbetweeners is a British sitcom about a group of four teenage friends at Rudge Park Comprehensive School. Will McKenzie (Simon Bird), Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas), Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison), and Jay Cartwright (James Buckley) all navigate the awkwardness of teenage life and the issues that teens face as they grow up.
As they deal with parents, teachers, bullies, and peers, the four boys bicker, banter, and try (mostly unsuccessfully) to hook up with girls. The Inbetweeners has inspired two spin-off films, two spin-off books, and an American adaptation on MTV, but none compare to the original series.
Broadchurch is a mystery crime drama starring David Tennant (currently on American Netflix as Kilgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series) as Detective Hardy and Olivia Colman as Detective Miller. The pair investigate the murder of a child in a small, fictional English town.
While at its core Broadchurch is a mystery, it differs from many British crime shows in that it focuses on how the town is affected by the death and the subsequent events. Suspicions are high and the media exacerbates the situation as the detectives attempt to piece together what happened.
While there are many adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, there is only one Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman play Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson respectively, and their odd couple chemistry and quip-filled dialogue bring the modernized mystery stories to life. Each episode’s plot is a reimagining of an original Doyle story, which means that literary fans will can enjoy nods and winks to the books without knowing where the story will lead. The endearing characters and engaging stories make Sherlock enjoyable for any amateur sleuth in need of a good mystery.
6. Black Books
Black Books is an off-beat and quirky black comedy about Bernard Black (Dylan Moran), who owns a bookstore. The bookstore acts as a revolving door of a set of ridiculous characters, including his new assistant Manny (Bill Bailey) and friend Fran (Tamsin Greig).
The comedy is very dark, as Bernard is a chain-smoking alcoholic nihilist and misanthrope who dislikes everyone – well, except for Fran. The service-industry is not really the best place for a misanthrope, and so as Bernard operates his bookstore, he constantly berates and belittles his customers.
5. Being Human
Much like Skins, Being Human was a popular British television show that spawned a less successful American counterpart. However, the British Being Human features the best elements of the American reboot without some of its drawbacks.
Similar to the American show, Being Human follows the lives of a vampire (Aidan Turner), werewolf (Russell Tovey), and ghost (Lenora Crichlow) as they each attempt to live a “normal” human life as roommates. The British show embraces the ridiculousness of the premise, and is simultaneously hyper-aware of the absurdity while truly humanizing its non-human characters.
4. Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a mammoth of British television. The science fiction show has seen 35 seasons and twelve of different actors who have played the titular role of the Doctor, including David Tennant, Matt Smith, and most recently Peter Capaldi.
The alien doctor travels through time and space in different regenerated bodies along with various human companions. Along the way, they solve problems and mysteries, and help different worlds that are in need of assistance.
3. Peep Show
David Mitchell and Robert Webb are the well-known British comedic duo of the sketch show The Mitchell and Webb Situation, but their partnership began with the cult classic Peep Show, a sitcom about odd couple flatmates, Mark Corrigan and Jez Usbourne.
The show follows the pair as they navigate living with each other’s neurotic tendencies. They also pursue various sexual partners and monetary schemes – more often than not, either leads to a large dose of humiliation and failure (which is, to be clear, hilarious).
2. Top Gear
Top Gear is a show that explores the history and technology of vehicles, primarily cars. It is the most popular TV-factual program in the world, which first began in 1977 and then was relaunched in 2002.
While the content of its commentary and behind-the-scenes altercations have caused drama outside of the show, the show itself provides fascinating information and footage about cars, as well as some enjoyable road trip hijinx.
In Luther, Idris Elba plays the titular Detective Chief Inspector Luther, a hot-tempered detective who specializes in catching cold-blooded killers. Luther is sometimes aided and sometimes hindered by a brilliant and deadly sociopath, Alice (Ruth Wilson). Luther frustrates his estranged wife, Zoe (Indira Varma), infuriates his commanding officers, and alienates his colleagues – but he always gets his man, by whatever means necessary.
Idris Elba is especially fond of DCI Luther, and has expressed interest in creating a film that centers on the brilliant detective. All three seasons of Luther are available on Netflix, and there is a forthcoming two-part special which is set to air on December 15th.
There are a variety of British television shows that are reaching new audiences through Netflix. Which one is your favorite? Did we forget it? Let us know in the comments!
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