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20 dazzling British shows you should binge-watch immediately
There are plenty of amazing British shows available on streaming. We’re highlighting some of the best.
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There’s no denying the outstanding quality of British television. Shows spark both conversations and international remakes, while also boasting talented casts and delivering compelling storylines.
Unlike American shows, British ones usually offer fewer episodes per season, but that’s not necessarily a drawback. It gives creators more time and space to really develop the story and make sure the end product is pristine. On top of that, their shorter length makes them ideal binge material (if you're looking for more short binges, check out our list of short and sweet TV shows).
Using a mix of expert rankings and the views of our own highly experienced streaming writer, these are the 20 best British TV shows currently streaming in Australia, in no particular order.
A haunting prison drama, Time centres on 2 men. Mark is a husband and teacher sentenced to prison after accidentally killing a man. Eric is a prison officer struggling to navigate an understaffed system. Both of them are faced with difficult decisions as they fight for survival.
Time isn't an easy watch, but it's mesmerising and gripping. It's also the kind of series you'll be thinking about for long after the end credits roll.
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2. The Pembrokeshire Murders
When a detective reopens 2 unsolved murders from the 1980s in 2006, he relies on emerging forensic methods to get answers. Turns out, microscopic evidence potentially ties the murders to a string of burglaries whose perpetrator is getting out of prison. Can the detective prevent him from killing again?
Based on true events, The Pembrokeshire Murders is a captivating series with grand performances from Luke Evans and Keith Allen. Even if you already know the outcome of the case, you'll be glued to the screen.
When a crew member is found dead on board a nuclear submarine, the Scottish police are called to investigate. However, the submarine has to stay on patrol, so a detective boards the vessel to question the crew. Meanwhile, her partner leads the investigation on land.
A claustrophobic crime series, Vigil will keep you guessing about what's going on. With brilliant performances and an intriguing premise, the show is must-watch TV. It may even prompt compulsive binge watching. Consider yourself warned.
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4. The Pursuit of Love
Based on the novel of the same name by Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love follows 2 cousins looking for "the one". While one of them settles for a conventional life, the other is determined to follow her heart, regardless of how that might affect her reputation.
This charming period dramedy is brimming with romance and witty humour. The story may kick off in the 1920s, but The Pursuit of Love feels modern and relatable throughout.
5. It's a Sin
It's a Sin opens in 1981 in London and chronicles the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Set over the course of a decade, this powerful series is well written and exquisitely acted. Prepare to experience both joy and heartbreak over the course of the show's 5 wonderful episodes.
Set in the cunning world of high finance, Industry follows a group of recent graduates who get to work for one of London's top investment banks. As they fight for permanent positions, the competition gets fiercer than they might have expected.
The lines between co-worker, friend and enemy also tend to blur, leading to exciting twists that will keep you coming back for more. You'll fly through the first season in no time.
7. I May Destroy You
I May Destroy You is a British-American production created by the talented Michaela Coel. The series revolves around a young writer who is forced to reassess her life after being sexually assaulted.
It gracefully explores the current landscape of dating and consent, while also boasting terrific performances and giving you plenty to think about. Plus, I May Destroy You is quite funny despite the sensitive subject matter. That's no easy feat.
8. Agatha Christie's Poirot
A British staple, Agatha Christie's Poirot follows the infamous Belgian detective as he solves various crimes using only his little grey cells – and sometimes the help of his faithful sidekick Hastings. The series ran from 1989 to 2013.
By the end, all of Christie's major works featuring Hercule Poirot made it to the small screen. If you're a fan of period series with a flavour of mystery, this is a must-watch.
9. Doctor Who
This classic British show has a tremendous cult following, so it may be time to see what all the fuss is about. The series centres on The Doctor, a scientist from a faraway planet who travels through space and time.
The Doctor has a fondness for Earth, so they often make trips to our planet to save it or to enlist help for their space endeavours. Compelling and fun, this is the perfect show to satisfy your sci-fi cravings.
Sherlock is one of the British shows that managed to gain an impressive international following thanks to its clever storylines and endearing heroes. The series is a modern reimagining of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries, but this time we follow the brilliant detective in present-day London as he solves cases with the help of his flatmate and trusted adviser, Watson.
The series only has 3 episodes per season. That said, they’re the length of a movie, so they should keep you busy for at least a couple of weeks. Entertaining and perfectly cast, Sherlock is the ideal binge for viewers in need of stimulating mysteries.
11. We Are Lady Parts
A delightful musical comedy, We Are Lady Parts centres on Amina, a PhD student who is recruited to be lead guitarist for a Muslim female punk band called Lady Parts.
While the band's fierce frontwoman sees something in Amina, the other members aren't convinced from the get-go. Still, Amina gets caught between the chaotic world of the band and her more conventional uni friends.
The show is energetic and perfectly cast. Besides, it boasts catchy tunes and challenges the usual stereotypes about Muslim women. You can't ask for a more hilarious binge.
12. Downton Abbey
This soapy period drama will charm you with its witty dialogue and nuanced characters – only a couple of the reasons why this British hit became compulsively watchable to audiences across the world. Downton Abbey follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants from 1912 onward.
As it progresses, the series covers major historical events like the sinking of the Titanic, World War I and the Irish War of Independence. The costumes are amazing and the melodrama will keep you on the edge of your seat, so watch it when you’re in the mood for a clever, yet highly entertaining period piece.
13. Call the Midwife
Call the Midwife is warm and uplifting, which makes it the perfect comfort binge. The show opens in 1957 and centres on Nonnatus House, a clinic run by an order of nursing nuns in London's East End.
It depicts the day-to-day lives of the midwives and those in their local neighbourhood. If you’re tired of cynical, gritty dramas, Call the Midwife is the heart-warming palate cleanser you’ve been looking for.
Coming from the talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag follows a young, London-based woman as she tries to cope with a recent tragedy while also struggling in her day-to-day life. The series is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
Viewers get a glimpse into the mind of the dry-witted heroine, who often breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly into the camera. Fleabag’s humour may not appeal to everyone, but those who fancy it will likely list the show as a new favourite.
15. Peaky Blinders
Well-crafted period dramas are the bread and butter of British television and Peaky Blinders is no exception. This gritty series is set in 1919, in the aftermath of the Great War, centring on one of the most prolific gangs of the time. The gang is run by Thomas Shelby, but his ambitions are higher than just owning the streets and he’ll seize every opportunity available to advance in life.
The world of Peaky Blinders is bleak and brutal, filled with compelling characters and unexpected twists. Plus, the creators’ attention to detail ensures an immersive experience for fans looking to indulge in an expertly made vintage crime show.
Starstruck chronicles the turbulent relationship between Jessie, a young nobody juggling 2 jobs and Tom, a famous film star she hooks up with on New Year's Eve. The pair couldn't be more different but, despite their efforts to keep their distance, fate finds a way to bring them back together at every turn.
With strong Notting Hill vibes, Starstruck is a witty romantic comedy fans of the genre will want to devour in a single sitting. In fact, there's a good chance even more cynical viewers will fall for this from the first episode.
17. Black Books
There’s something special about UK sitcoms, especially when they fully capture that deliciously dry humour Brits are infamous for. Which is the case with Black Books, a comedy revolving around a misanthropic bookshop owner, Bernard, and his friends as they go about their lives in London.
The fact that Bernard dislikes people and actively avoids his clients is one of the main appeals of the show, which delivers enough situational comedy to have you laughing out loud for hours.
18. The Crown
One of Netflix’s most acclaimed original series, The Crown is a lavish look at the life of Queen Elizabeth II, brilliantly portrayed by Claire Foy in the first 2 seasons, with Olivia Colman taking over from season 3. The show begins by chronicling the early reign of the Queen and takes place over several decades, which prompted the creators to replace the cast every 2 years.
It's ambitious, visually stunning and brilliantly acted, which should be enough to satisfy even the pickiest of viewers. Plus, the costumes are to die for.
19. Killing Eve
One of the most critically acclaimed series to come out in recent years, Killing Eve revolves around Eve and Villanelle, a spy and a killer, who go head to head in a fierce game of cat and mouse. Funny and witty, the series is a ridiculously good time, breathing fresh air into the spy genre and gifting us 2 complex characters who are anything but forgettable.
Killing Eve is fast-paced, quirky, manic and thought-provoking as well as psychotic and mesmerising. In short, it’s unlike anything else currently on television. You have to tune in.
Detectorists is a comedy following the lives and loves of Andy and Lance, 2 dedicated members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. It’s one of the better hidden gems on streaming, which is somewhat fitting given that the show is literally about finding little gems buried in the ground.
If you do decide to tune in, there’s little chance you’ll regret it. The show is beautifully acted and written, perfectly capturing the special companionship between the 2 leads, who bicker constantly but wouldn’t be able to survive without each other. Oh, you’ll also laugh a lot.
If you’ve already binge watched all the British shows on our list, here are some honourable mentions:
- Gangs of London
- The Office (UK)
- The IT Crowd
- The Fall
- Line of Duty
- The Innocents
- Peep Show
- The Frankenstein Chronicles
- Doctor Foster
- Death in Paradise
- The Night Manager
- Ripper Street
- The Inbetweeners
- Happy Valley
What changed on our list?
- The Pembrokeshire Murders
- The Pursuit of Love
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