50 Best British TV Shows to Watch Right Now

50 Best British TV Shows to Watch Right Now

June 11, 2024

Share:

twitter
facebook
reddit
pinterest
link

For many fans of television, the British seem to have cracked a certain code. Scripted series from the UK—especially those of the “prestige” comedy/drama variety—tend to be shorter than their American counterparts, and what they seem to lack in terms of “spectacle” and production value, they more than make up for in the emotional intelligence of their writing and the elegance of their characterization. The shows listed below are, more often than not, series that know exactly what to say within stricter time constraints, proving that great TV doesn’t have to mean shows that are trying too hard to be like movies. These are stories that embrace the episodic format to tremendous effect.

1. War & Peace

9.6

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adrian Edmondson, Aneurin Barnard, Brian Cox, Gillian Anderson

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dramatic, Gripping

Leo Tolstoy’s most famous book, on which this was based, defies summarization but this powerful, sumptuous, and head-spinning BBC production might have done just that.

In 1805 St. Petersburg, the illegitimate son of the richest man in Russia (played by Paul Dano) finds himself at the center of his country’s downfall as it faces another Napoleonic invasion. As it follows several interconnected characters, romance intertwines with war, tragedy, and greed.

Directed by Tom Harper (Peaky Blinders), this series has it all: great acting, beautiful locations, and breath-taking action. It also stays true to the philosophical nature of the written material, capturing the glamour, deceit, and insanity of its time – as well as the sweeping scope of the original Tolstoy tome. This is TV of cinematic proportions!

2. Stath Lets Flats

best

9.5

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Al Roberts, Christos Stergioglou, Jamie Demetriou, Katy Wix

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Easy, Funny

Stath Lets Flats is so incredibly quotable that watching just its first crop of episodes will likely give you a whole new vocabulary. Even after spending three full seasons with the titular Greek Cypriot real estate agent (played, as no one else could, by series creator Jamie Demetriou) and his sister Sophie (Natasia Demetriou), it still feels like the show is inventing new ways to nonsensically butcher the English language. Maintaining total unpredictability and never letting the gags get stale is no easy feat, but Stath Lets Flats never even gets close to that, remaining utterly original — and, more importantly, hilarious — from its slapstick-heavy opener all the way through the emotional rollercoaster that is the show’s three-season-strong run. Though its existence feels criminally short, the blessing of this being unlike any other sitcom (old and new) means it has infinite rewatch potential — putting it up there with the very best of TV comedy, period. Sold!

3. Lovesick

best

9.4

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Aimee Parkes, Antonia Thomas, Daniel Ings, Hannah Britland

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Funny, Slice-of-Life

Why unlikely? Because, despite all the romance, its plot is fully based on a sexual transmitted infection. Hopelessly romantic twenty-something Dylan (Johnny Flynn) suddenly discovers he has chlamydia and is advised to contact all his (read: many) sexual encounters. Pair this plot summary with the fact that the show was originally called “Scrotal Recall” when it aired on British TV and you can be forgiven for looking the other way.

Underneath its awkward previous moniker, Lovesick is actually very funny, charming, and heavily romantic. Dylan is chaperoned by Luke (Daniel Ings, who you may know from Sex Education and The Crown), a seemingly confident but insecure business-school type, and Evie, Dylan’s smart and cynical best friend, played by Antonia Thomas from Misfits. It soon becomes apparent that Evie and Dylan could be much more than just friends if only their timelines were to align.

Lovesick is a charming little series that homes in on the heart-breaking romance of failed relationships. Something you can easily find yourself watching many episodes in one take.

4. Shōgun

best

9.2

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Anna Sawai, Cosmo Jarvis, Hiroyuki Sanada

Moods

Action-packed, Challenging, Character-driven

With plenty of classics being remade, many have cried about Hollywood playing it safe, not matching up to the source material, and at worst, being unoriginal. After 40 years, the groundbreaking 1980 Shogun miniseries now has a new adaptation, but unlike its fellow remakes, this new series goes beyond expectations to deliver a mesmerizing, epic political drama that we’ve been hoping for. The 2024 remake still maintains plenty of the jawdropping firsts that shocked America then, but it also decentralized its perspective, expanding past the English outsider Blackthorne, and prioritizing the perspective of its Japanese characters, particularly Lord Yoshii Toranaga and Lady Toda Mariko. Hulu’s Shogun may be another remake, but their takes provides something new, with its spectacular production and its epic storytelling.

5. Derry Girls

best

9.1

Country

Ireland, UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Dylan Llewellyn, Ian McElhinney, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Kathy Kiera Clarke

Moods

Easy, Funny

If you’re looking for a funny yet original sitcom, look no further than Derry Girls. 

It takes place in 1990s Northern Ireland where civil unrest reigns. News of bombings is regular. This is a cause for concern for a lot of people, but for one group of teenage girls life continues as usual. Making fun of the first boy at their all girls school and being embarrassed by crushes are unshakable priorities. 

Derry Girls might have been a good show with just the 90s nostalgia and the political undertone, but the sharp and hilarious writing elevate it to greatness. It is truly one of the best sitcoms ever made. If you liked The End of the F***ing World, you will enjoy Derry Girls. They differ in plot but they both carry similar elements of dark and dry humour. 

Watch out for Sister Michael, she is hilarious. 

6. Luther

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

David OHara, Dermot Crowley, Enzo Cilenti, Idris Elba

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dramatic, Gripping

Ok, two words: Idris Elba. This 11-time Emmy-nominated detective series is his show. He leads the action as DCI John Luther, a Serious Crime Unit detective, who is as smart as he is self-destructive. A committed policeman but frequently in over his head and prone to be consumed by the darkness of the criminals he pursues. And, finally, a main role where Elba can legitimately use his thick East London accent, innit.

Creator and writer Neil Cross (Doctor Who) has said to be inspired by Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. While this is a pretty apt description of Luther’s ambivalence, this detective delves into even darker territory than his cultural predecessors. In addition to Elba, Ruth Wilson is one of many amazing actors that grace the show, playing the seductive and completely psycho character Alice. Luther will routinely have you on the edge of your seat screaming “No, why did you do that?”, rooting for the DCI even when he’s taking all the wrong turns. This gritty BBC drama is British television at its nail-biting best.

7. Happy Valley

best

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Long, Amit Shah, Charlie Murphy, George Costigan

Moods

Binge-Worthy, True-crime

While the BBC is famous for making some great understated drama series about the dark side of detective work (Luther, Line of Duty, Broadchurch), it has raised the bar with Happy Valley. It’s so good, it successfully breathes new life into the middle-aged but strong-willed small-town police officer trope, taking it to some uncomfortable and difficult places with exceptional writing.

Said small-town police officer is Catherine Cawood from West Yorkshire, impressively portrayed by Sarah Lancashire. Cawood has a hard time coming to terms with the release of a man from prison, who she is connected to in a fateful way and whose comeback coincides with a kidnapping attempt by a local drug kingpin. These events reveal the criminal underbelly of a seemingly quaint small town. Hidden behind its ironic title, Happy Valley will keep you on your toes with understated suspense, dry humor, and a quietly devastating storyline.

8. Sex Education

best

8.9

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Aimee Lou Wood, Alistair Petrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Asa Butterfield

Moods

Funny, Slice-of-Life

Pressured by the feeling that everyone is having sex except him, Otis (Asa Butterfield), like most teenagers, is very uncomfortable with sex, masturbation, and intimacy in general. In addition to the standard-issue teenage awkwardness, to make things worse, he grows up in a sex-positive household under the watchful eyes of his mother Jean, played by Gillian Anderson, who is a sex therapist. Obviously, the subject is omnipresent as are erotic art, oversized dildos, and coitus-craving couples all over the house. The twist comes when he transforms his tribulations into a business model by teaming up with bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to counsel his teenage peers on sexual issues of all kinds. As you can imagine, uninitiated teenagers have a lot to offer in that department. Apart from its raunchy premise and explicit images, this is a hilarious, diverse, and warm teen comedy thanks, in particular, to the writing of playwright Laurie Nunn. Lauded by critics for its honesty, this future comedy classic will surely teach you a thing or two about sexuality yourself.

9. This Is Going to Hurt

best

8.8

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Alex Jennings, Ambika Mod, Ashley McGuire, Ben Whishaw

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Dark, Depressing

In the dark comedy This Is Going to Hurt, Ben Whishaw stars as junior doctor Adam, who’s barely keeping it together in the understaffed and under-equipped ob-gyn ward of Britain’s NHS hospital. We see, often in sad and graphic detail, what goes on in a public hospital and the heavy toll this takes on both the patients’ and medical staff’s personal lives. It’s hard to look away, especially when Adam addresses us in the first person. 

Even more upsetting? The miniseries is based on a memoir. Former medical trainee Adam Kay wrote a best-selling book detailing his horrific time at the NHS, and now he serves as executive producer and writer of the series.

10. The Capture

best

8.8

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Andy Nyman, Ben Miles, Callum Turner, Charlie Murphy

Moods

Action-packed, Binge-Worthy, Challenging

In BBC’s The Capture, a young soldier’s murder conviction is overturned thanks to submitted video evidence. But before he can enjoy his newfound freedom, a different video—this time live CCTV footage—places him at the scene of a new crime. The proof seems damning, but the deeper Detective Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger) digs into the case, the more she learns about the wider conspiracy underneath it.

The Capture is everything you’d expect from a British police procedural: intelligent, lean, and sufficiently dramatic: no extra fat and unnecessary bits to be found here as action and mystery take center stage. And although TV may already be brimming with thrillers like it, what sets The Capture apart is its eerie insight into our so-called “post-truth” era. Instead of hardened criminals, our heroes go up against deepfakes, disinformation, and 24/7 surveillance. The series lets us know that the threat manipulated technology poses isn’t mere science fiction anymore—it’s evolved into an unfortunate and unbeatable reality.

Comments

Add a comment

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw

© 2024 A Good Movie to Watch. Altona Studio, LLC, all rights reserved.