Following the immense success of Netflix shows like The Crown and Bridgerton, it’s clear that many of us are self-proclaimed Anglophiles that can’t get enough of British culture—on-screen, that is. While Brits are regularly making it big in Hollywood, audiences don’t always realize how their favorite stars started out across the pond. Here, we round up 30 of the best British TV shows, for anyone hoping to channel their inner Kate Middleton.
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It would be impossible to make a list of the best British TV shows and exclude Doctor Who. The low-key sci-fi series follows the exploits of the Doctor in their time-traveling spaceship, the TARDIS. Sex Education star Ncuti Gatwa is set to become the 14th Time Lord when Jodie Whittaker’s tenure comes to an end.
I May Destroy won a plethora of awards, and helped solidify Michaela Coel as one of the U.K.’s eminent writing, directing, and acting talents. The stunning limited series follows millennial novelist Arabella (Coel), and the shocking fall-out that unravels her following a night out she can’t remember.
If any series can claim to be the epitome of Britishness, it’s Julian Fellowes’ uber-successful Downton Abbey, which has already spawned two big screen installments. Maggie Smith’s performance as the Dowager Countess of Grantham is nothing short of iconic, and has rightfully inspired a zillion GIFs.
Netflix’s British comedy series has helped put its entire cast of young stars on the map. Season 4 of Sex Education is currently in production, and will continue to follow the students, parents, and teachers of the fictional Moordale Secondary School as they face an often-hilarious slate of intimate dilemmas.
Steve Carell‘s performance as terrible-yet-lovable boss Michael Scott in The Office remains one of the greatest comedy characters of all time. But before Dunder Mifflin, there was the Wernham Hogg paper company, which was run by the equally infuriating (but less lovable) David Brent, played by series co-creator Ricky Gervais.
There have been many adaptations of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, but ITV’s 2018 version, starring Olivia Cooke as Becky Sharpe, is a must-see. From its modern music to the plentiful onscreen eye-candy, Becky Sharpe’s social climbing remains relatable, tragic, witty, and endlessly fun to watch.
The Great British Bake Off
The series that many Americans know as The Great British Baking Show continues to attract new fans thanks to its kind-hearted simplicity. Join a new group of contestants as they attempt to bake a range of delicious-looking treats. Unlike many reality shows, the contestants manage to stay supportive and nice throughout.
Olivia Colman is now an Oscar-winning performer, and she’s also famous for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. But before Hollywood came calling, she costarred in dry British sitcom Peep Show. The series follows two male best friends living in South London, who have completely opposite personalities. A cult classic.
Often referred to simply as Ab Fab, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley star as Eddie and Patsy, two women living and working in London. They drink too much, take too many drugs, and attempt to stay young while navigating the ever-changing fashion scene. Hilarious in its ridiculousness, a 2016 movie followed the series.
Simon Pegg is a big Hollywood star now, but before he hit the big time, he co-created Spaced with Jessica Stevenson. Directed by Edgar Wright, who’s since helmed films like Baby Driver and Last Night in Soho, Spaced is a hilarious sitcom about two best friends who most definitely aren’t a couple.
Forget Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. The BBC’s 1995 adaptation introduced Jane Austen to a new generation. And before he played a murderer in HBO Max’s The Staircase, Colin Firth was the ultimate Mr. Darcy. In fact, the scene featuring a very wet shirt helped inspire his role as the romantic lead in Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Olivia Colman and David Tenant play a pair of police detectives in this British crime drama set in a fictional coastal town. The first season focuses on the death of a child and the impact it has on the close-knit community. A U.S. version of the series, renamed Gracepoint, and starring Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn, was less well received.
Catherine Zeta-Jones got her start in this homely British series set in South East England in the 1950s. Based on the novels by H. E. Bates, Anglophiles will delight in The Darling Buds of May, which follows the lives of the Larkin family in the English countryside. Don’t let YouTube fool you—you can stream this classic on Freevee.
Nicola Coughlan became a fan favorite in Bridgerton, but viewers will love her performance in Derry Girls, too. Derry Girls focuses on a group of teenage girls attending a Catholic high school in Northern Ireland in the ’90s during The Troubles. The series wrapped with a special episode following its third season.
It’s likely you’ve already binge-watched The Crown, but in case you haven’t, Netflix’s royal drama is essential viewing. Focusing on the current British royal family, The Crown is based upon real events, with a heavy dose of imagination and fictionalization mixed in. Season 5 is on the way.
Whether or not Bridgerton is truly a British TV show might inspire some debate, thanks to its American author Julia Quinn, and American creator Chris Van Dusen. But the show is set in England, so we’ll let it slide. Lose yourself in the sumptuous Regency era drama that’s taken Netflix by storm.
If The Crown is a little too serious for your tastes, then The Windsors could be for you. The cheeky British sitcom is also based upon the royal family, and incorporates real life events, but in a truly hilarious way. And if you’re not a royalist, you’ll love this too.
Before James Corden took America, he was the darling of British TV, and co-created one of the country’s best loved sitcoms. Gavin & Stacey is set between Wales and Essex, and focuses on the lives of a long distance couple and their best friends. Heartwarming, hilarious, and an insight into what life is like when you’re not rich or royal.
Reality TV fans have likely heard of The Only Way Is Essex, or TOWIE as it’s often referred to. The British docu-soap has already run for 28 seasons, and it’s showing no signs of stopping. Whether you’re familiar with the exploits of the TOWIE cast or not, the reality series will give you insight into what life might be like in one particular part of the U.K. that isn’t London.
The endlessly watchable Aisling Bea was delightful in Netflix’s Living with Yourself alongside Paul Rudd. This Way Up stars Bea, who also serves as creator and writer here, and focuses on a single mom who’s recovering from a nervous breakdown. Sharon Horgan costars.
Benedict Cumberbatch may be a Marvel superstar now, but to many he’s still Sherlock Holmes. The BBC’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories costars Martin Freeman, and comprises of four seasons and a special to date.
Amy Mackelden is a freelance writer, editor, and disability activist.
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