British TV is more popular than ever, with shows like Sherlock, Downton Abbey and Doctor Who garnering huge fan bases outside the UK. The really big hits end up just as popular on this side of the pond, but there are so many more fantastic shows that don’t get quite the same attention.
While many British classics are now getting a little more love in America than they used to, there are plenty of newer shows that are well worth the watch. From sitcoms to dramas to crime thrillers, we’ve rounded up the 13 Best British TV Series You Haven’t Seen Yet.
This little-known BBC drama set against the backdrop of the Iraq war follows three British soldiers as they return to the Iraqi city of Basra for very different reasons. Only three episodes long, each episode introduces one character’s story, and wraps up the story from the previous episode, connecting the characters while allowing each their own focus.
One heads back to Basra for love, one for money, and one for his ideals. The short drama series is powerful and expertly crafted. Delicate topics are handled well, and despite subject matter that is often sensitive and upsetting, the end result is poignant and well worth the watch.
12 The Hour
This beautiful period drama set in Cold War era England only ran for two seasons, and remains hugely underrated in the annals of British TV series. The show centers on an investigative news "programme" and the various members of the team that bring it all together, primarily journalists Lix Storm (Anna Chancellor) and Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), and anchorman Hector Madden (Dominic West).
The series shows us the events of the time through the eyes of journalism, with a distinctly espionage flavor and incredible performances from the huge cast. Peter Capaldi, better known for playing the twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who also makes an appearance.
11 Fresh Meat
This raunchy, ribald sitcom takes place in a shared flat in Manchester, where six university "freshers" (technically five freshmen and one older student) are forced to live together after late applications meant that all university accommodation was taken.
Vod (Zawe Ashton), Howard (Greg McHugh), Josie (Kimberley Nixon), Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie), Kingsley (Joe Thomas) and JP (Jack Whitehall) share their first experiences out in the big wide world, with plenty of drinking, sleeping around, and verge-of-adulthood angst. Fresh and hilarious, the sitcom doesn’t stint on heartwarming moments either, as the debauchery and bad decision-making are cut with some quite emotional scenes.
This tense crime drama starring Idris Elba focuses on the characters, more so than the premise, and created an incredibly well-crafted and fascinating look at how constant exposure to the worst of the world can change a man.
Elba stars as DCI John Luther, a detective whose genius-level intellect can’t balance out all the things that he has seen. A brilliant detective, he is also far from functional in the world, and operates in a moral grey area when working on cases. If you loved House and Sherlock, this kind of damaged genius as a centerpiece will be perfect viewing.
9 This is England
Based on the film of the same name, The Is England is actually three separate mini-series, each set in a different year (’86, ’88, and ’90), but following the same characters from the original film. While the film centered on a young boy drawn in by the nationalist skinhead culture, the series show him as a teen, struggling to keep out of trouble and still with the same group of friends.
The characters who were young punks in the film are now adults, coping with new problems as they try to hold down jobs and relationships. Black comedy merges with powerful drama in these series that shed a light on a little-talked-about subculture and time in Britain’s history.
8 Him & Her
This award-winning comedy series is a far cry from the usual bright and shiny sitcom, with its central characters being a lazy, working class couple. Becky (Sarah Solemani) and Steve (Russel Tovey) share a charmingly messy flat where they spend the majority of their time watching TV and avoiding creepy neighbor Dan (Joe Wilkinson).
Intentionally a little rough around the edges, the writing is absolutely polished, and the characters are wonderfully real (and a little bit odd). With episodes only loosely connected, Him & Her is a fantastic show to dip into when you are feeling a bit like the titular couple – happy just to watch TV in your sweats.
This LA-based series is a brilliantly tongue-in-cheek look at Britishisms and Hollywood, as writer-producers Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) travel to LA to work on the US adaptation of their award-winning series, Lyman’s Boys.
In a perfectly hilarious look at the differences between Los Angelinos and Brits, the two struggle to retain control of the series, their sense of self, and even their marriage (helped along the way on that one by co-star Matt LeBlanc, who plays himself). It’s witty, sharp and oh-so-self-aware, and it’s a perfect example of how to laugh at yourself with style.
6 The Fall
Starring Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, The Fall follows a serial killer and the dedicated police officer sent to catch him. Stella (Anderson) copes with her own flaws and complications within the police department, while killer Paul (Dornan) deals with his personal life, love and motivations.
The series deals with more than just the killer himself, dealing with a range of deeper themes as the show goes on. Unapologetically sexy, this award-winning crime drama is only on its second season, with a third due for release this year, but it is definitely one to watch. Tense and provocative, it’s the perfect new serial-killer show for Dexter withdrawal.
This intense spy thriller series ran for ten seasons in the UK, and played in the US under the alternate title MI-5. Centered on the British intelligence agency headquarters, the series gets very dark, very fast, with character deaths so violent that they drew record numbers of complaints.
As it progresses, Spooks looks at various aspects of the MI-5 operation, as well as the lives and relationships of the operatives. The tense and action-packed series launched a spinoff series (Spooks: Code 9), a series of novels, video games, and a film (Spooks: The Greater Good). Not for the faint of heart, this award-winning series will have you on the edge of your seat.
4 The Inbetweeners
This award-winning British sitcom was so popular that an American version was created in 2012, but it was quickly canceled due to low ratings. For a dose of the original brilliance, check out the British version, and be prepared for lots of cringing through your laughter.
The Inbetweeners opens as Will (Simon Bird) is transferred from private to state school after his parent’s divorce. The initial comedy may rely on his awkwardness in a new situation, but as he quickly makes friends, the rest derives from the usual adolescent embarrassment as the boys attempt to have parties, get girls, and generally prove that they aren’t losers.
Starring ex-Tenth Doctor (Doctor Who) David Tennant and Peep Show alum Oivia Colman, Broadchurch is a crime drama centered on a small town. When a young boy is murdered, a media frenzy descends on the town, along with Detective Inspector Alec Hardy (Tennant), who has been called in to head up the case.
Colman plays local detective Ellie Miller, who works with Hardy to attempt to understand how this terrible crime was committed. The seemingly idyllic town is rocked by the tragedy, and the investigation slowly reveals that all is not as it seems in the lives of the residents. Broadchurch is fast-paced and addictive viewing.
2 Black Mirror
A dark anthology series that looks at modern society, technology and humanity, Black Mirror is a very different kind of TV series that will keep you up at night. Each episode exists in its own separate bubble – sometimes even in separate timelines or universes.
It’s an uneasy look at ourselves, and one that will definitely get you thinking (and possibly overthinking) our relationships with the machines that make our lives so much easier. With only three episodes per season, it’s easy to watch, but makes for very uneasy viewing. Definitely not one to binge-watch, Black Mirror needs some time to decompress between episodes, but it absolutely worth watching if you can wrap your head around some of its darker moments.
A smart and spunky twist on the classic superhero story, Misfits centers on a group of young offenders working out their community service together. They are just your average, slightly criminally minded, teenagers, when a storm hits and gives them (and quite a few other people) superpowers. Gifted with telepathy, invisibility, duplication, immortality, time travel and more come from the teens’ core personalities, and they attempt to find a way to live with their new powers.
Unlike most superheroes, these kids aren’t out to save the world (and actually end up killing quite a few people along the way), but are just trying to get through adolescence together. Misfits is a touching and hilarious drama for any superhero fan.
Any other British TV series that you wish more people were watching? Let us know in the comments below!
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