50 Best British TV Shows to Watch Right Now

50 Best British TV Shows to Watch Right Now

June 11, 2024

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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.

11. Sherwood

best

8.8

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Hugill, Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, David Morrissey

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Gripping

Beginning as a small-town murder mystery but eventually taking the shape of a police procedural, a spy drama, and a sociopolitical thriller, Sherwood fully reinvigorates the crime genre for British TV. With every twist comes a reminder of how deeply alienated the people of this former mining village have become from themselves, each other, and the outside world. Because underneath all the investigation lies a boiling tension: the scars of a past conflict among trade unionists on strike, the “scabs” who crossed the picket line to continue working, and police forces further provoking all this friction. These internal divisions haunt everything in Sherwood, brought to life by a superb ensemble—David Morrissey, Robert Glenister, Lesley Manville, Adeel Akhtar, and more—who all carry the weight and shame of being left behind by the world around them.

12. The Thick of It

best

8.7

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Joanna Scanlan, Peter Capaldi, Roger Allam

Moods

Easy, Funny

This BBC comedy by the creator of Veep is about the inner workings of the British government. Malcolm Tucker is the ruling party’s fixer — an angry, uncompromising bureaucrat who spends his days dealing with the failures of ministers.

The first season, which spans a quick three episodes, tells the story of a series of mishaps that strike the Ministry of Social Affairs. The minister announces a program that he wasn’t supposed to, and one thing leads to another and he has to name the program on live radio. “Sponge Avengers” is what comes out.

This is a genuinely funny TV show that since its release in 2005 has become a staple of workplace comedies.

13. The Last Kingdom

best

8.6

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Adrian Bower, Adrian Schiller, Alexander Dreymon, Alexandre Willaume

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Instructive, Thrilling

This historical fantasy show is based on the best-selling novel The Saxon Stories, a story set during the Viking / Dane invasion of Britain.

Uhtred was a small boy when he was kidnapped and then raised by the Danes. When he unexpectedly gets caught up in the conflict, his half-Saxon half-Dane mix makes at the same time valuable and untrustworthy for both sides.

There has never been a better alternative to Game of Thrones. The great writing and great performances from a cast of newcomers inevitably induce the same sense of addiction.

14. The Playlist

best

8.6

Country

Sweden, United Kingdom

Actors

Agnes Kittelsen, Christian Hillborg, Edvin Endre, Ella Rappich

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Mini-series, Smart

In the early 2000s, amid the rapid rise of online piracy and the consequent fall of paid music, tech genius Daniel Ek would find Spotify, a revolutionary streaming platform that served as a middle ground between user accessibility and artist rights. But even now, at its peak, Spotify’s success seems mystifying. How did they get away with providing free music to all? 

Enter The Playlist—an impressive attempt at answering that very question. In this fictionalized account, key players in Spotify’s success are given their own episode-long arc, starting with the visionary himself, Ek (played by Edvin Endre), followed by the artist, the coder, and the industry insider, to name a few. By employing multiple perspectives, each with its own cinematic style (a particular favorite is that of the lawyer’s, the most experimental out of all the episodes), The Playlist manages to spin the technical and complicated story of Spotify’s origins into something fresh, dynamic, and addictive. Despite utilizing the Rashomon effect—risky but rewarding in this case—The Playlist rarely strays from its main point and, the result is a lean, well-rounded story that’s just as credible as it is heightened. 

15. Mare of Easttown

best

8.6

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Angourie Rice, Cailee Spaeny, David Denman, Evan Peters

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Dark

As a mystery-driven crime drama, Mare of Easttown treads pretty familiar territory without necessarily digging too deeply into the sociopolitical context it seems to hint at throughout its seven-episode run. But as the miniseries’ focus shifts from the usual procedural elements to more personal drama among the townspeople of Easttown and certain past events they haven’t moved on from, the series gets to evolve as well. The details of who was responsible for the inciting crime are ultimately less important than the conditions in the town’s history that led to the crime in the first place, whether by consequence or by fate. Some reveals here may come off as anticlimactic to some, but the series ultimately has more on its mind that’s definitely worth paying attention to.

16. Chernobyl

best

8.5

Country

Lithuania, UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Nagaitis, Adrian Rawlins, Alan Williams, Alex Ferns

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Intense, Mini-series

It’s a near-impossible feat to turn something as tragic and devastating as the Chernobyl disaster into a gripping and enlightening tale, but the HBO miniseries does just that. Through insightful storytelling, affecting performances, and sharp dialogue, Chernobyl the show stuns viewers into awareness and, at its best, galvanizes them into action. 

It’s a well-crafted five-hour series that does just enough in the way of humanizing a distorted reality, bringing to light the all-too-relevant consequences of power plays and placing the interests of the political elite and national image over real, human lives.

17. Bad Sisters

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Anne-Marie Duff, Brian Gleeson, Claes Bang, Daryl McCormack

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Easy, Grown-up Comedy

Bad Sisters is an Irish miniseries that is part romance, part murder mystery, and all-around cheeky, bold fun. It follows the Garveys, five sisters who’ve developed a tight bond after the untimely death of their parents. They protect each other mainly from their brother-in-law John Paul, whose antics have become increasingly threatening and toxic over the years.

The series is very much in the vein of Big Little Lies, Dead to Me, and Good Girls, where women who’ve kept up with so much for so long finally let loose in a fit of violent rampage. But Bad Sisters narrowly escapes cliches thanks to a winning ensemble and deft handling of its weighty subject matter.

18. Baby Reindeer

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Alexandria Riley, Amanda Root, Danny Kirrane, Hugh Coles

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

Baby Reindeer is a tough watch, starting out with out of kilter comedy that eventually and unrelentingly reveals its darker and darker sides. But not only was this a hard show to watch, this story is genuinely difficult to tell, because of how entangled all the threads of Donny’s trauma gets– it’s not a straightforward story about going through one traumatic incident and then immediately moving to logical forms of healing. It’s about one traumatic incident keeping him stuck and leaving him and his loved ones vulnerable to even more abuse. It’s a terrifying situation. And it’s terribly, terribly honest.

19. Adventure Time

best

8.5

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Dee Bradley Baker, Hynden Walch, Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Lighthearted

It’s a show with existential questions from an idealistic kid presented in the most absurd way. Finn the human and Jake the dog navigate emotions and dilemmas packaged into journeys and battles of varying degrees of cuteness and danger. The show’s colors are extremely bright and virtually every character is a unique creature, which can be overstimulating unless your brain is specifically ready for it. One of the benefits of having a big cast of characters per episode, though, is more chances to connect with something on the show, and a fairly large episode count means the show will have had so many quirky songs, recurring characters, nuggets of advice, and story arcs to dive into. Just like any other candy, Adventure Time should give you a boost if you don’t choke on it.

20. Industry

best

8.4

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Levy, Alex Alomar Akpobome, Conor MacNeill, Harry Lawtey

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Challenging, Character-driven

Industry has all the markings of an HBO show: an abundance of sex, drugs, alcohol, and sure enough, an inextinguishable affinity for the F word. Like Succession, The Sopranos, and even Euphoria before it, it revels in its freedom to explore the nitty-grittiest parts of its subject matter and put its gruesome findings on full display. But instead of capitalism, organized crime, or teenhood, Industry incisively takes on hustle culture. 

Through the eyes of four new hires at a premier investment bank in London, we see the dangerous means people put themselves through in order to achieve some semblance of respect, recognition, or at the very least stability. Bullying is rampant, hazing is normalized, competition is encouraged, and blind loyalty is rewarded. The characters are so flawed and damaged, you’ll often find yourself rooting for their demise. But you’ll also be glued to their arcs and storylines. Will they break the cycle of abuse or continue it? Can they actually change the system from within or does that remain a utopian dream? These questions are hardly charming, but Industry has a way of making them engaging, exciting even. It fully inhabits the meanness you can and should only enjoy behind the safety of a TV screen. 

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