Best British TV Shows: 20 of our top picks to stream | Finder

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 series 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).

Here are the best British TV shows currently streaming in Australia.

1. It's a Sin


It's a Sin kicks off in 1981 London and chronicles the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis – and over the course of a decade. It's a powerful series, well-written and exquisitely acted. Prepare to experience both joy and heartbreak over the course of the show's five wonderful episodes.

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2. Industry


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. Also, the lines between co-worker, friend and enemy 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.

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3. 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.

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4. 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 one is a must-watch.

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13 seasons

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5. Gangs of London


As the title suggests, Gangs of London is all about the rivalries between various modern-day London gangs. However, that's an oversimplification, since this riveting crime series has plenty going for it – including a delicious cast, brilliant action sequences and engaging plot lines. It's harrowing and bloody, so we don't recommend it for the faint of heart. If you think you can stomach it, you'll be in for an addictive ride.

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6. 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.

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7. Sherlock


Sherlock is one of the British shows that managed to gain an impressive international following thanks to its clever story lines 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 advisor, Watson. The series only has three episodes per season. That being 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.

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8. Happy Valley


There are a lot of British shows out there focusing on law enforcement officials, whether policemen or eccentric detectives, but Happy Valley is one of the most compelling entries on our list. The series follows a police sergeant as she investigates cases in a small West Yorkshire town, while also struggling to cope with her personal demons. In Season 1, a kidnapping goes terribly wrong, which forces our heroine to go to dangerous lengths to save the life of a young woman. The series wins bonus points for telling the story of a middle-aged female law enforcement official instead of going the predictable route of featuring a male lead. Sarah Lancashire’s acting chops are impressive, to say the least.

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9. 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 from all 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.

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6 seasons

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10. 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.

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11. Skins


The show that changed teen TV for the better, Skins follows the lives of a group of teenagers in Bristol, South West England. It covers dark and complex themes like mental illness, substance abuse, dysfunctional families and more – with each episode generally focusing on a character and the struggles they’re facing. The show replaced its cast every two years, managing to successfully reinvent itself time after time. It even sparked a US version, but we recommend the gloriously hedonistic original. Teen life might have changed in the years since the show premiered, but Skins stands the test of time thanks to the honesty with which it portrays those awkward high school adventures.

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12. Fleabag


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.

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13. Luther


If you’re a fan of shows focusing on tormented investigator types, Luther is right up your alley. The series centres on a highly intelligent, yet self-destructive detective who is hunted by the dark side of humanity while chasing down criminals. It’s a tale as old as time, but Luther makes each story feel fresh thanks to a powerhouse performance from Idris Elba. Turns out, Luther may have more in common with the criminals he pursues than he would like to admit. Dark and sexy, this British show offers enough suspense and crackling dialogue to hook you from episode one.

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14. 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.

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15. Catastrophe


Catastrophe follows Rob and Sharon, a couple who is anything but conventional. Rob is an American who meets Sharon during a business trip to London, where the two have a torrid, short-lived affair. When Sharon tells him that she’s pregnant, Rob decides to relocate to the UK to try to build a family, despite the fact that the two barely know each other. The show covers a lot of familiar ground but manages to dodge most of the genre clichés and deliver a smart, hilarious and endearing end product. The fact that the two leads have amazing chemistry doesn’t hurt.

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4 seasons

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16. Black Books


There’s something special about UK sitcoms, especially when they fully capture that deliciously dry humour the 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.

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17. Broadchurch


A great binge for crime show fans, Broadchurch keeps things interesting by entangling the main mystery with a healthy dose of small-town drama. The plot centres on the murder of an 11-year-old boy, causing a small Dorset community to become the focus of a complex police investigation and some unwelcome media attention. As everyone's secrets are slowly revealed, it becomes apparent that the town is not as idyllic as one might have initially thought. The series benefits from two fantastic performances from Olivia Colman and David Tennant and offers plenty of intrigue that is sure to keep viewers glued to the screen.

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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 two seasons, with Olivia Colman taking over from season three. 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 two 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.

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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 two 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.

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20. Detectorists


Detectorists is a comedy following the lives and loves of Andy and Lance, two 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. However, 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 two leads, who bicker constantly but wouldn’t be able to survive without each other. Oh, you’ll also laugh a lot.

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If you’ve already binge-watched all the British shows on our list, here are some honourable mentions:

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