Netflix has some great home-grown series, including both legacy shows as well as originals. But there are also lots of great options from other studios both inside and outside its country of origin, including an amazing selection of British TV series.
Ranging in genres from comedy to crime, here are some of the best British TV series on Netflix that are worth adding to your watch list.
This British serial crime drama, which aired on ITV from 2013 to 2017, is set in the eponymous fictional English town in Dorset, and follows the activities of police detective Alec Hardy (David Tennant). The premise from the onset centers around the death of an 11-year-old boy. Praised for its writing, cinematography, and character development, and also starring The Crown‘s Olivia Colman, you can binge all 24 episodes of the three seasons pretty quickly.
Even for mega-fans of the American version of this mockumentary sitcom starring Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Jenna Fischer, it’s worth checking out the original series on which it was based. Starring Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman, the show followed the workings of a fictional paper company (this one called Wernham Hogg) and the plight of its staff under their terminally annoying boss, David Brent. There are only two seasons of six episodes each, along with two Christmas specials. But while ratings were initially low, the series has become one of the most successful British comedy exports.
The Great British Baking Show
Called The Great British Bake Off in the U.K., this baking series pits aspiring bakers against one another as they bake classic dishes outlined by the hosts and judges, showing their skills on both the technical and creative sides. Starring Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and Prue Leith as judges, your mouth will be watering as you watch the contestants bake everything from basic cookies (er, biscuits) to more elaborate cakes and pastries. The oddest (and best) part about this reality show? They’re all nice to each other!
This crime drama set in Birmingham, England, follows the story of the Shelby crime family after the First World War. The family is loosely based on the real 19th-century urban youth gang of the same name and stars Cillian Murphy as gang leader Tommy Shelby. Five seasons have aired thus far of the series, all of which are available to stream. The series has been heavily praised as riveting and fast-paced with great writing, acting, visuals, and cinematography.
Launched in January 2019, this British drama has been called heartfelt and surprisingly wise. It stars Asa Butterfield as a socially awkward teenager who is ambivalent about sex, largely due to her mother (Gillian Anderson) being a sex therapist. Netflix reports that the series had more than 40 million viewers after it launched on the site; the second season debuted on January 17, 2020 for a total of 16 stream-able episodes.
You’ll recognize the lead character in this series, Richard Madden, from his role as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. He plays a police sergeant and British Army war veteran named David Budd who is suffering from PTSD. He is assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montague, with whom he disagrees politically, making for some tension and moral ambiguity. The series has been lauded for its commentary on government monitoring of private information as well the spotlight it sheds on PTSD. It’s also landed Madden in the conversation as the next James Bond.
This crime drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Rupert Graves, has been going strong now for four seasons. Centered around the life of detective Sherlock Holmes and based on a modern-day version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Cumberbatch plays the title character and Freeman his sidekick Dr. John Watson. While most of the series transports Holmes into the modern age, a one-off special flips back to the Victorian period. With its star-studded cast and compelling story, it’s no surprise this series has received critical acclaim.
Originally titled Scrotal Recall (really), this series started off on Channel 4 and was commissioned as a Netflix original for seasons 2 and 3. It follows a group of friends living together in a house in Glasgow, Scotland and their sexual exploits and blunders. From secret crushes to STD diagnoses, episodes are told mostly through flashbacks in the first season as the main character Dylan Witter (Johnny Flynn) attempts to contact all former sexual partners following a chlamydia diagnosis.
While Black Mirror was eventually expanded as a “Netflix original,” Charlie Booker’s brilliant dystopian series first premiered on Channel 4 in the U.K. Most episodes look at dire, worst-case-scenarios regarding our relationship with technology and modern reliance on it. With five seasons to date, this isn’t the type of show you’ll be able to binge-watch quickly. But you can watch in any order and are guaranteed to see your jaw drop by the end of each episode. It’s compelling, thought-provoking television.
The End of the F***ing World
Based on the Charles Forsman mini-comics of the same name, this dark comedy-drama follows the life of 17-year-old James (Alex Lawther) who thinks he’s a psychopath. He befriends a classmate Alyssa (Jessica Barden) who latches on to him in order to escape her troubled home life. Charlie Covell, who wrote the series, has said she does not plan to produce a third season. So check out the two, eight-episode seasons that have been praised for their taut balance of misanthropy and humor.
One of the oldest series on this list, this coming-of-age sitcom debuted in 2008 and aired three seasons for a total of 18 episodes. It’s all about the misadventures of a suburban teenager and his friends at a fictional school. They deal with typical teenage stuff, from school life to male bonding, friendship, and failed sexual encounters. Often compared to another British series, Skins, some critics have opined that this series provides a more realistic view of dull suburban life.
It’s an entire sitcom centered around the working lives of actors who work as extras and in bit parts in TV, film, and theater projects. Created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, who also both star, the series debuted way back in 2005, but you can now stream both seasons. Gervais plays Andy, an aspiring actor and Merchant his sub-par agent and part-time retail employee Darren. Both stars have said that the characters are exaggerated or inverted parodies of their own public personas. Filmed in a more traditional sitcom style, it’s a break from the usual Gervais mockumentary format.
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