There are plenty of amazing British shows available on streaming. We’re highlighting some of the best.
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. 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. They have a fondness for Earth, so they often makes 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. Season 11 premieres in October and will feature the first female Doctor, so it’s an exciting time to tune in.
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 advisor, Watson. The series only has three episodes per season. However, 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 perfect binge for viewers in need of some stimulating mysteries.
3. 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. Besides terrific writing, 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.
4. 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, to only name a few. 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.
- Stream on Netflix
5. 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. As the series progresses, we’ll see how different historical events impact the work of the midwives and the fate of their patients. If you’re tired of cynical, gritty dramas, Call the Midwife is the heart-warming palate cleanser you’ve been looking for.
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 time after time. It even sparked a US version, but we recommend the gloriously hedonistic original. Teen life might have changed in the 10 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.
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.
- Stream on Amazon Prime Video
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.
9. 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, centering 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.
10. The IT Crowd
Dig The Big Bang Theory, but believe it has gotten just a tad too mainstream in recent years? Well then, don’t we have just the perfect show for you. The IT Crowd is a delicious British sitcom following a group of IT technicians as they strive to keep their department running with as little effort and social interaction as possible. Quirky and awkward, the show grows on you with each episode, to the point where you’ll feel like you’re part of the wacky gang. Who would have thought IT emergencies can be so hilarious?
Lovesick is the perfect rom-com to binge during a lazy weekend – it’s funny, smart, and surprisingly heartfelt. The series centres on Dylan, who finds out that he has an STD and has to contact all of his former partners to let them know about his condition. Each episode features a flashback from one of Dylan’s previous relationships, while also following him and his best friends, Luke and Evie, in the present. Inventive and charming, Lovesick’s best quality is its hopeful tone, as the show completely embraces the joy associated with being in love.
11. The Office
If you’re a fan of the US version, you’ll stan the original as well. The Office is a mockumentary series about a group of workers at a nondescript paper company, led by the often insufferable David Brent, whose management style is questionable at best. Just as hilarious as the US remake, the British version sports a darker tone, flawlessly documenting the never-ending tedium associated with the corporate world. Moreover, Ricky Gervais is brilliantly cast as the boss from hell, arrogant and unaware of his shortcomings. Everyone can see some aspect of themselves in The Office, which makes the series universally appealing.
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, when the two have a torrid, but 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 either.
13. 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 and they go about their lives in London. The fact that Bernard dislikes people and actively avoids even his clients is one of the main appeals of the show, which delivers enough situational comedy to have you laughing out loud for hours.
A great binge for crime show fans, Broadchurch keeps things interesting my 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 the community’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, sure to keep viewers glued to the screen.
15. The Fall
A creepy psychological thriller, The Fall centres on a serial killer and the female detective tasked to catch him before he strikes again. The show packs a lot of tension and amps up the intensity with each episode, throwing just enough sensuality into the mix to keep you coming back for more. It’s a reminder that crime series can be extremely addictive when executed right and highly benefits from a nuanced performance from Gillian Anderson. You won’t be able to look away.
16. 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. 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. Olivia Colman is set to portray the Queen from Season 3 onward. The show is ambitious, visually stunning, and brilliantly acted, which should be enough to satisfy even the pickiest of viewers. Plus, the costumes are to die for.
Britannia is set in A.D. 43, when the Roman Imperial Army invades the mythical land on the very end of the Roman Empire, ruled by warrior women and powerful Druids. As a result, the different tribes populating the area have to work together to survive the foreign invasion. Eccentric and ferocious, Britannia is likely to appeal to Game of Thrones fans, but it more than stands on its own as a totally bonkers and highly entertaining fantasy series. One thing’s for sure – you won’t get bored while watching this one.
19. Killing Eve
One of the most critically acclaimed series to come out in 2018, 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 and quirky, manic and thought-provoking, psychotic and mesmerizing. 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, 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.
If you’ve already binge-watched all the shows on our list, here are some honorable mentions:
- Collateral – Netflix
- The Innocents – Netflix
- Peep Show – Netflix, Stan
- Victoria – Netflix, Foxtel Now
- The Frankenstein Chronicles – Netflix
- Doctor Foster – Stan
- Death in Paradise – Netflix
- Misfits – Netflix, Stan
- River – Netflix
- The Night Manager - Amazon
- Ripper Street – Stan
- The Inbetweeners – Netflix