There was a time when being addicted to British TV in the U.S. meant you had to settle for getting your fix from Masterpiece Theater and endless Keeping Up Appearances reruns on PBS. Hyacinth Bucket is a treasure, but an Anglophile cannot survive on Britcom reruns alone. Thankfully, there is now Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Acorn TV, and a host of other services devoted to bringing you all of the British costume dramas, crime shows, and comedies your heart has always desired. After you have devoured the old standbys and new favorites like modern Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Black Mirror, and Luther, it is time to explore the world of underrated British TV gems.
Now, I am not just talking about The I.T. Crowd and The Inbetweeners here, this is going to be a deep dive into the world of modern British television. There is a comedy about Sean Bean (yes, the actual Sean Bean) as a spirit guide, and another one about a couple whose lives are almost entirely contained within their apartment. There will be dramas with narrators so unreliable you might take on a bit of their madness, and period pieces with scenery so lush, you will find yourself trying to figure out how to book a trip to 19th century England. These are the very best British shows available stateside that you are not watching.
Go ahead and put on a pot of tea and prepare to cancel your plans for the weekend because you are about to discover your next British TV addiction.
A twentysomething virgin raised in a restrictive religious household gets in touch with her sexual side in this raucous, wickedly smart comedy written by and starring Michaela Coel. Coel’s Tracey is an instantly loveable narrator whose unexpected romance with a bloody awful poet manages to be sweet even though the show itself is always bawdy.
Starring Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s Iain De Caestecker and Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, The Fades is a one season wonder about a teen boy who stands between the world and the apocalypse. At once a coming of age tale and a supernatural delight, the show’s six hours are among the best genre television produced so far this decade.
Set during the waning days of the British rule of India, this gorgeous period drama chronicles the obliviousness of the privileged elites who holiday in India, and the rising passions of the young Indian people with a burning desire to reclaim their country.
A fantasy obsessed guy lucks out and gets Sean Bean in full Game of Thronesmode as his spirit guide. He then proceeds to waste this gift as he meanders through life getting high and going on menial quests in his small British village. Hilarity, of course, ensues.
A noir-tinged mystery, Marcella will make you question every moment as you try to piece together what exactly happened to Anna Friel’s detective as she plays a game of cat and mouse with her own memories.
The War of the Roses is a fascinating period of history, and yet, somehow, Starz and the BBC made it even more compelling with this women-centric look at the power plays going on back at the castles while the men were off at war.
If you love British TV and haven’t sprung for the Amazon Prime add-on Acorn TV yet, then you need to go do that immediately. Then you can watch what is arguably the most thrilling adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famed book ever made. (Basking in the joy of seeing Poldark’s Aidan Turner play a devilishly sexy man of questionable morals is just a bonus.)
A romantic comedy contained entirely in a three-room apartment shouldn’t work, and yet this crude, but weirdly sweet series absolutely does.
One woman’s insecurities about her marriage lead her on a dark path, and you won’t be able to look away from her obsessive descent, even when you really, really want to.
From the creator of Misfits, this gem is the British answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two girls chosen by fate to stave off a demon uprising in England try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in a show where female friendships are valued above all else.
World War I takes a heartbreaking toll on one friendship over the course of five brutal years in this stirring war drama.
If you love ABC’s lineup of unconventional family comedies, then give Raised by Wolves a try. The series about a working class single mom and her brood of homeschooled children is brazen, unrelentingly funny, and, at times, a touching tale of a family basking in all the things that make them special.
You have definitely heard of Catastrophe. Now it is time to watch this backwards romance between a Scottish woman and an American man whose one night stand ends in a messy, compelling marriage.
14. Detectorists (Netflix/Hulu/Acorn TV)
A show about metal detecting enthusiasts may sound like a bore, but it is an absolute treasure. This comedy is brimming with humanity and earthy humor. Trust me, you need this show in your life.
15. The Secret of Crickley Hall (Hulu)
This haunted house miniseries stars Maisie Williams. Do you really need more details?
No show on television tackles more subjects related to women and their health than Call the Midwife. Featuring rich characters and a warmth that makes each episode feel like visiting old friends, this long-running drama is the very definition of underrated.
Never forget, before he was a late night star, James Corden was a gifted comedian, and his talents have never shone brighter than they did in this Hitchcockian sitcom.
As amazing as Benedict Cumberbatch is as Sherlock, it is important to remember he is a man of many talents — all of which are on display in this WWI drama.
Thank goodness Netflix imported this sharp series about a Yorkshire police sergeant. Sarah Lancashire is giving one of TV’s best performances as Catherine Cawood. If you haven’t binged this series yet, then you are in for some seriously good TV.
20. Threesome (Hulu)
A young couple and their gay best friend have a drunken, birthday threesome, and nine months later a baby arrives. In between, this two-season comedy explores the true meaning of family and growing up, while making you laugh until you cry (and on rare occasions, just cry from the sweetness of it all).
Quite possibly the best teen show of all time, My Mad Fat Diary tackles body image, mental health issues, young love, and the bonds of youthful friendship in mid-’90s England. Whether you grew up in the era or not, the show will leave you both nostalgic for your youth and glad it’s over.
What happens when a Big Brother style reality TV series is interrupted by the zombie apocalypse? Nothing good.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge owned 2016, and you need to look no further than her two unique, addictive tragi-comic series to understand why the world cannot wait to see what she does next.
Now, pinkies up, my friends. It’s time to sip your tea while watching your new favorite British show.