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.

31. Documentary Now!

best

8.2

Country

United Kingdom, United States, United States of America

Actors

Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Helen Mirren, Irving Azoff

Moods

A-list actors, Anthology, Easy

Fans of sketch comedy, documentaries, and the always-hilarious duo of Bill Hader and Fred Armisen are in for a treat with Documentary Now!, a delightful miniseries that both satirizes and pays tribute to the non-fiction format. Each episode parodies a particular documentary and tone, bringing the comedians and their ever-revolving roster of guest stars to different eras, regions, costumes, accents, and more. 

With SNL veterans Hader and Armisen at the helm, this mockumentary is sure to amuse and impress even the most stoic among us, if not for the show’s humor, then for its sharp attention to detail and endlessly creative references.

32. The Devil’s Hour

best

8.2

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Alex Ferns, Jessica Raine, Nikesh Patel, Peter Capaldi

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Dramatic

Part police-procedural and part supernatural thriller, The Devil’s Hour is the perfect show to binge if you love solving complicated puzzles and don’t mind being spooked by the occasional jump scare. It’s also co-produced by Steven Moffat, who was the brain behind equally mind-bending thrillers Sherlock (BBC) and Doctor Who.

The six-parter follows social worker Lucy Chambers as she looks after potential victims, a behaviorally challenged son, and a schizophrenic mother—and this is on top of her personal problems, which include bloody hallucinations and waking up every day at exactly 3:33 am, or what she dubs the devil’s hour. There are a lot of moving parts in The Devil’s Hour, but aside from the intricate world-building, it’s the powerful performances from Jessica Raine and Peter Capaldi that truly anchor this ambitious show.

33. I Hate Suzie

best

8.2

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Billie Piper, Daniel Ings, Leila Farzad

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Grown-up Comedy

A black comedy with an aggressively bleak view of its own protagonist, this story of a celebrity’s life falling apart starts off funny and gradually becomes more and more difficult to watch. As the titular character scrambles to keep each part of her life afloat, her sense of self begins to fracture as well—emphasizing how our lives are defined by the responsibilities we have over others and ourselves. Billie Piper is extraordinary in the lead role, spiraling further down in ways that are truly haunting, and Leila Farzad balances her out perfectly as Suzie’s unapologetic, type A manager.

If the show’s first season is impressive enough with its unpredictable mix of styles and stern drama, season two—which only consists of three episodes—ratchets up the tension even more, playing out like an extended anxiety attack backstage at a reality show. Think Uncut Gems but with lots of dancing. For the boldness of its direction alone, I Hate Suzie doesn’t serve to just fly under the radar.

34. Everything Now

best

8.2

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Aurélien Pallot, Harry Cadby, Lauryn Ajufo, Luca Slade

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Funny

Messier than Heartstopper, but tamer than Skins, Everything Now has everything you’d expect from a British teen show. Sexuality, vices, and experimentation is what the series shares with other coming-of-age series, but at its heart is Mia Polanco as she tries to get back to her regular life after anorexia recovery. Cutting between her life now and her seven-month hospital stint, the show feels like a realistic depiction of a non-linear healing journey. It’s a show that makes sense to release right now, as the world’s teens try to get back to normal and try to reach standard teen touchstones.

35. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

best

8.2

Country

Japan, United Kingdom, United States of America

Actors

Brie Larson, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Moods

A-list actors, Action-packed, Character-driven

Watching the trailers, and even the first ten minutes, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off just seems like a rehash of the prominent Edgar Wright film, especially since his cast reprise their roles in this new anime. However, when that episode ends, even the most ardent fans of both the film and the original comic book series would have no idea where this would go. It’s a fearless, daring approach, from the original creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, and it’s met with the wackiest, spectacular animation from Japanese animation studio Science SARU, remixing O’Malley’s designs with 8-bit, fighting video game action.

36. This Way Up

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Aasif Mandvi, Aisling Bea, Daniela Spataru, Dorian Grover

Moods

Funny

Two incredibly funny women are the stars of this authentic and heart-felt British comedy: writer, stand-up comedian, and main actress Aisling Bea, and the amazing Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), who also co-produced the show. Irish teacher Áine (Bea) lives in London, yes, like Sharon Horgan’s character in Catastrophe, and works as an English-as-a-foreign-language teacher, but instead of getting knocked up by an American, she suffers a nervous breakdown and goes to rehab. When Áine checks out, she has to re-navigate all the aspects of real life that brought her to rehab in the first place. She does so with her sister Shona (Horgan) at her side. This is very clever and honest comedy about mental health, recovery, and loneliness, and about creating meaningful connections with the people around you. In true Bea and Horgan style, though, the humor is dark and will make you flinch and laugh at the same time. The chemistry between them is incredible!

37. I May Destroy You

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Michaela Coel, Paapa Essiedu, Weruche Opia

Arabella is a Twitter-famous writer from London who has one night to submit a draft of her second book. She gives herself an hour’s break that night to go out for a drink with a close friend. When she gets back, she realizes that far more than one hour had passed, that she had blacked out, and that she had bruises all over her body. Like the excellent Chewing Gum, the BBC/HBO miniseries I May Destroy You is a Michaela Coel one-woman show: she is the showrunner, the writer, co-director, and leading actress. And whatever Coel touches, she makes it personal and without compromises. I May Destroy you is based on her experience of being sexually assaulted while making Chewing Gum. To make sure she told this story right, she turned down a $1 million deal from Netflix over creative ownership. It is not only dizzyingly told and brave, but also original and funny. A timely drama if there ever was one!

38. Utopia

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adeel Akhtar, Alexandra Roach, Alistair Petrie, Emilia Jones

In a very fun thriller format, this show is about three eccentric comic book fans who come across a graphic novel that has information on future world events, like epidemics.

Also looking for this novel are a couple of violent hitmen from an organization called “The Network”. The three youngsters find themselves up against a dark web of conspiracies and violence.

It’s plot-heavy, imaginative, and very enjoyable – everything you’d expect from a good thriller series.

39. Vigil

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adam James, Anjli Mohindra, Connor Swindells, Gary Lewis

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Challenging, Dramatic

Vigil is a murder mystery/political thriller set in the depths of British waters, particularly in the nuclear-powered missile submarine HMS Vigil. When a navy officer dies and a fishing trawler disappears at the same time and place, Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) is sent in to investigate the case.

While Vigil mostly dove under the radar when it first came out last year, the BBC production is drawing in new audiences as it streams on Peacock. Watching it, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t a box-office production, because it looks and sounds every bit like one. It’s got a massive budget, an epic scale, a thrilling political premise, and talented actors across the board—what’s not to love?

40. Save Me

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom

Actors

Adrian Edmondson, Jason Flemyng, Lennie James, Lesley Manville

Moods

A-list actors, Character-driven, Depressing

Though it sets itself up as a mystery series, the tense and dramatically heavy Save Me avoids easy questions and focuses instead on how a crisis can affect different members of a community in equally painful ways. The show isn’t immune from random coincidences and contrivances, but even these little twists in the plot point force us to reevaluate how we think about these characters from moment to moment. This group of people that comes together when a teenage girl disappears isn’t made up of the most heroic individuals; in fact, it becomes difficult to root for some of the most prominent characters due to sins that they’re still trying to atone for.

This is what elevates Save Me above other mystery/thriller dramas. And giving depth and dignity to these working class people are a brilliant ensemble full of great performances: lead star and creator Lennie James, Suranne Jones, Stephen Graham, Lesley Manville, and season two addition Olive Gray—whose turn as a traumatized victim of human trafficking feels almost too real.

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