Best British TV Dramas on Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, All4 (2024)

This list applies to UK streaming services

When I find myself in times of trouble/Streaming channels come to me/Speaking words of wisdom/ Watch TV/Watch TV-eeee/Watch TV-eeee/There will be an answer: watch TV (repeat to fade).

Go on, do it, it’s good advice – we all need a bit of escapism now and then. All of the below are British dramas currently available on UK streaming services, some free-to-air, some subscriber-only, some short, some long, some old favourites and some new arrivals, all in pleasing alphabetical order.

We’ll keep this list updated as new series are added and taken away. If you’ve children to entertain, then here’s our list of the top kids’ shows currently available on UK streaming services, and if you’re in need of a laugh, here’s our collection of the best British comedy TV shows. Sorted.

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A Discovery of Witches

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Based on Deborah Harkness’‘All Souls’trilogy about a witch (Teresa Palmer) and a vampire (Matthew Goode) thrown together against the fates,A Discovery Of Witchesdebuted on Sky in autumn 2018 and we had to wait three years for series two in 2021, before the third and final series dropped in 2022. Read our reviews here.

Where to stream? NOW TV

Around the World in 80 Days

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You can’t get much more escapist than Jules Verne’s classic globe-trotting story, and this high-budget BBC adaptation is perfect for family viewing. David Tennant is typically impressive as Phileas Fogg alongside highly entertaining performances from Ibrahim Koma as Passepartout and Leonie Benesch as Abigail

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Ashes to Ashes

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Both Life on Mars (see below) and this 80s-set sequel are currently available to stream. Ashes to Ashes sees police psychologist Alex Drake get shot in 2008 and awaken, Sam Tyler-style, in 1981. Keeley Hawes stars alongside Philip Glenister and others from the original wiggy procedural. With talk of a revival on the cards by creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah, (they finished the script for a come-back series called Lazarus in 2022) there’s no better time to revisit both series.

Where to stream? NOW

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Being Human

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Toby Whithouse’s supernatural drama puts a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf in the same Bristol flat, combining high fantasy with the banalities of day-to-day life (The Antiques Roadshow and cleaning rotas meet ancient evil and bloodthirsty monsters). Before the cast changed to feature Damien Molony, Michael Socha and Kate Bracken, it starred Poldark‘s Aidan Turner, alongside Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow (pictured above). Read why we love it here.

Where to stream? ITVX, BritBox

Black Mirror

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The sci-fi anthology drama of our time, Black Mirror tells a collection of tech-paranoia stories imagining the impact of technological developments on people’s lives. There’s a lot of nightmares in these five series, alongside the odd sunnier and more hopeful tale. If you’re brand new to it, perhaps start with ‘San Junipero’ and go from there.

Where to stream? Netflix UK

Bodies

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Before Jed Mercurio wrote Line of Duty and Bodyguard (see below) he wrote medical dramas Cardiac Arrest and Bodies (and before he did that, he trained as a doctor, giving him the insight required to make them the shows medical professionals continue to cite as the most realistic depictions of life on a ward.) Starring Max Beesley, Patrick Baladi, Neve McIntosh and Keith Allen, Bodies is the story of a struggling obstetrics unit. It’s utterly gripping, and definitely not for the weak-stomached.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

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Bodyguard

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This six-part political BBC thriller was all anybody could talk about in August 2018. The story of Keeley Hawes’ home secretary, her ex-army bodyguard (played by Game of Thrones‘ Richard Madden), terrorist attacks, moles, spies and double-agents, it was a total hoot. Gripping, intense, a bit sexy… with plenty to keep you guessing from episode to episode. Read our spoiler-filled reviews here.

Where to stream? Netflix UK

Boys from the Blackstuff

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Appearing regularly in ‘Best Of British Drama’ lists and cited as an influence by some of the UK’s finest screenwriters, Alan Bleasdale’s seven-episode story of five men attempting to cope with unemployment in Liverpool following the events of Bleasdale’s play The Black Stuff. It’s warm, honest and affecting drama that sums up a key period of modern British history, and features an early role by Julie Walters.

Where to stream? BritBox

Brideshead Revisited

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This critically acclaimed ITV drama from the 1980s is an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel of the same name about the life and romances of wealthy protagonist Charles Ryder. The impressive cast includes the Oscar-winning trio of Jeremy Irons, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.

Where to stream? ITVX

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Broadchurch

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Another national obsession when it first arrived, Broadchurch was a genre-making ITV series whose legacy is the reason that all murders committed in UK crime dramas since 2013 have taken place within 100 metres of a moody clifftop and/or beach-front ice cream parlour. Created by former Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall, it stars David Tennant, Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker in a poignant mystery about the death of a young boy. Series two and three are also available.

Where to stream? ITVX, BritBox

Call The Midwife

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Although this multi-series period drama about midwives in London’s Poplar in the 1950s and 1960s is certainly heartwarming, Call The Midwife also deals with some pretty hard-hitting topics, from the Thalidomide scandal to domestic abuse, abortion rights and the effects of poverty. What makes it truly addictive is its excellent cast of lovable characters – and with 12 series and counting there’s certainly plenty of episodes to keep you busy.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Cracker

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Another classic, Jimmy McGovern’s Cracker is the story of a brilliant forensic psychologist played by the late, great Robbie Coltrane. It’s bloody and brutal and unflinching, and filled with grippingly portrayed flawed characters, with a cast including a young Christopher Eccleston. Set in mid-1990s Manchester, it’s a seminal piece of work, and one of McGovern’s best. Here’s why we love it.

Where to stream? ITVX

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Doctor Foster

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This BBC One melodrama had it all – sex, lies, scheming, more sex, characters you love to hate, all set against the backdrop of upscale homes in a charming small town. It’s domestic noir led by two supreme performances by Suranne Jones as woman-scorned Gemma, and Bertie Carvel as her lying husband Simon. Series two only got madder. Read more about it here.

Where to stream? BritBox, UKTV Play

Doctor Who

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Heard of this one? It’s about a centuries-old alien travelling through space and time with a succession of companions, saving the Earth and defeating villains and having complex survivor guilt/falling in tragic love/wearing trainers with suits (depending on the iteration). Stream all the classic episodes on Britbox, then see all the new ones since 2005 on BBC iPlayer.

Where to stream? Britbox (Classic), BBC iPlayer (2005-)

Endeavour

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Inspector Morse (see below) is a crime drama classic, and its prequel Endeavour is similarly adored by fans of Colin Dexter’s characters. Starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse, with Roger Allam as his colleague DI Fred Thursday, each short series tells a continuing crime story. Series eight concluded in September 2021 on ITV, with the final series airing from February 2023. Here’s why we rate it.

Where to stream? ITVX, BritBox

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Fortitude

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If it’s cold and weird you like your thrillers, then you, friend, are in luck; Sky’s Fortitude is the coldest and weirdest of them all. Set in a fictional Arctic Norwegian town where strange deaths keep happening and everybody has something to hide under their thermal coat, it has a banging international cast including The Killing‘s Sofie Gråbøl, Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci and Christopher Eccleston.

Where to stream? NOW TV

Giri/Haji

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A Tokyo detective goes on the trail of his missing-presumed-dead brother in London’s criminal underworld in BBC Two’s Giri/Haji, which earned solid reviews and a dedicated following over its eight episodes. Takehiro Hira and Kelly Macdonald lead the cast of this Yakuza gangster thriller.

Where to stream? Netflix UK

Happy Valley

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One of the most talked about and beloved UK crime dramas, Happy Valley aired its first two series in 2014 and 2016, and after waiting patiently for the third and final chapter to arrive in January 2023, it was well worth waiting for. Sarah Lancashire’s stars as Sgt. Catherine Cawood, a no-nonsense police officer whose tragic family history leads her into conflict with James Norton’s monstrous ex-con Tommy Lee Royce. A must-watch for crime drama fans.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

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His Dark Materials

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If you’re in the mood for pure escapism, where better to escape to than Lyra’s world – a place where the human soul comes in the form of an animal companion, or ‘daemon’. Meet Gyptians, armoured bears, witches and mysterious truth-telling device the alethiometer. This lush BBC/HBO adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is family-friendly viewing, the third and final series aired in December 2022 so now you can binge the lot.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

House of Cards

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Before there was Frank Underwood, there was Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) in the original UK political drama on which the Kevin Spacey-starring US Netflix hit was based. This is where the Machiavellian scheming and to-camera asides all began. Read more about the BBC classic here.

Where to stream? Britbox

Humans

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Though a fourth series of Channel 4/AMC’s Humans never happened, there’s plenty in the first three runs to enjoy. Remade from the Swedish original, it’s a domestic sci-fi about a parallel present where the latest must-have home appliance is a Synth, or robot servant. When the Hawkins family buy Anita (Gemma Chan) though, they get more than they bargain for.

Where to stream? ITVX, BritBox

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I May Destroy You

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When I May Destroy You became one of 2020’s most critically acclaimed TV shows, it deservedly put Michaela Coel – who not only starred in the series but wrote and executive produced it – on the map as one of the UK’s biggest talents. The BAFTA-winning black comedy drama documents novelist and social media star Arabella Essiedu’s recovery from sexual assault, and Coel provides an outstanding performance in the lead role, as do her co-stars Weruche Opia and Paapa Essiedu.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Inspector Morse

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A classic of the crime drama, starring John Thaw as Colin Dexter’s detective inspector (portrayed as a younger man by Shaun Evans in Endeavour – see above). Set in the city of Oxford, where complex murder cases unfurl for Morse to solve against a backdrop of dreaming spires, there are 33 feature-length episodes to sink comfortingly into. Here are the 10 best.

Where to stream? ITVX

It’s a Sin

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This certainly isn’t the only Russell T Davies drama on this list, but it might be the best. It’s A Sin tells the story of a young friendship group living through the AIDs crisis in the UK during the 1980s, with a brilliant cast including Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Neil Patrick Harris and Keeley Hawes. It’s funny, it’s uplifting, and at times it’ll rip your heart right out. Simply unforgettable.

Where to stream? Channel 4

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Jonathan Creek

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Talk about comfort viewing. BritBox recently added the complete Jonathan Creek to its listings, which means 32 heightened mysteries (1997-2014) for the windmill-dwelling, duffle coat-wearing detective to solve. Delightful. Read our interview with star Alan Davies here.

Where to stream? BritBox

Killing Eve

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There’s four delicious series of Killing Eve to enjoy, tracking the dangerous mutual obsession between a ruthless assassin, Vilanelle (a BAFTA-winning performance by Jodie Comer) and a relentless spy, Eve Polastri (a Golden Globe-winning performance by Sandra Oh). It’s a stylish, funny and extremely gripping thriller, helped in particular by the first season having Fleabag‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the show’s head writer.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Last Tango in Halifax

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Sally Wainwright’s one of our finest screenwriters, and this Yorkshire-set family story is up there with her best (see also: Happy Valley, Gentleman Jack). A short fifth series aired in 2020, revisiting the stories of Alan and Celia (Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid), two childhood sweethearts who reconnect in their 70s, and the families of their two daughters Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Gillian (Nicola Walker).

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer, Britbox

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Life on Mars

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All episodes of the sci-fi/fantasy police procedural, which sees John Simm’s DI Sam Tyler hit by a car in 2006 and wake up in 1973, are available to stream. And the even better news is there’s going to be a Life on Mars comeback, with a script for a new series called Lazarus completed in 2022 (see Ashes to Ashes, above).

Where to stream? Britbox

Line of Duty

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Acronyms! Bent coppers! The gaffer floating down the Lagan in a bubble! Who is H?! If all that just sounds like the confused ravings of a diseased mind to you, then you need to catch up with BBC One’s finest crime drama Line of Duty and literally get with the programme. Vicky McClure, Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar play the police in charge of sniffing out wrong’uns in the force. From Bodyguard‘s Jed Mercurio, it’s addictive viewing.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Luther

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Idris Elba as a detective in a flappy coat, moodily solving (and sometimes perpetrating) twisted crimes is another perfect dose of escapist television courtesy of BBC iPlayer. All five series of Luther are available to stream, from the early Ruth Wilson episodes onwards. An unbeatable distraction, and well worth catching up on in time for the Netflix one-off film The Fallen Sun.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

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Merlin

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For a period on BBC One, Saturday teatimes meant family fantasy. A succession of stories about heroes and villains and magic, filmed in Wales, arrived in the time-slot, and among the best was Merlin. It boasted the young Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath and Angel Coulby, with Anthony Head and Richard Wilson providing the gravitas. Revisit all five series of the Arthurian fantasy on iPlayer and Disney+.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer, Disney+

Misfits

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Before he was Game of Thrones baddie Ramsay Snow, Iwan Rheon was MisfitsSimon, an introvert who – along with a gang of others – developed superpowers during a mysterious storm. Invisibility, mind-reading, immortality… this group of community payback youths got them all, resulting in high jinks, death, sex and five series of engrossing adult fantasy created by Howard Overman.

Where to stream? Channel 4, BritBox

Our Friends in the North

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Peter Flannery’s decades-spanning drama is often celebrated these days for launching the screen careers of its central quartet Daniel Craig, Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee and Mark Strong, but that doesn’t give enough credit to just how good it is in its own right. Following a group of friends from the 1960s to the 1990s, it’s a state-of-the-nation drama well worth revisiting or seeking out for the first time.

Where to stream? BritBox

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Peaky Blinders

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After starting life as ‘that BBC Two Birmingham series with the funny name’, and ending in an explosive, tension-filled Series Six in 2022, Peaky Blinders is more properly a phenomenon. There are celebrity fans, merchandise, tie-in bars, an actual festival… It’s the story of the Shelby family, led by brilliant blue-eyed-boy Tommy (Cillian Murphy) from the slums of 1920s Small Heath to the upper echelons of British society, which turns out to be every bit as full of criminals and hoodlums.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Poirot

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When Hercule Poirot returned to screens played by Kenneth Branagh in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, and by John Malkovich in 2018’s The ABC Murders on BBC One, it was a reminder of how much we loved Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. David Suchet’s incarnation is of course, the classic. See his little grey cells are in action on ITVX.

Where to stream? ITVX

Queer as Folk

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Screenwriting king Russell T. Davies‘ riotous drama about the lives of three gay men in Manchester was a long-overdue portrayal of life in the British LGBTQ community in 1999. It stars Aidan Gillen (who went on to play Littlefinger in Game of Thrones), Craig Kelly, and Charlie Hunnam (who later played Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy), and all 10 episodes are available to stream. Terrific stuff.

Where to stream? Channel 4

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Red Riding

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This three-part adaptation of David Peace’s bleak and gritty ‘Red Riding’ novel quartet about a series of murders taking place in Yorkshire in the 1970s and 1980s may be the opposite of the sunny escapism many are after in these troubling times, but it remains gripping drama. Andrew Garfield and David Morrissey are among the casts of these three feature-length films about conspiracy, abuse and a fight for the truth.

Where to stream? BritBox

Ripper Street

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One of the first ‘Lazarus’ TV series killed off by a traditional channel and then resurrected by a streaming service, 19th century crime drama Ripper Street was cancelled at the end of its second series on the BBC, then revived by Amazon for a further three. This Whitechapel-set detective show has a great cast, involving serial storytelling and a proper ending. Read more about the series here.

Where to stream? Amazon Prime Video UK

Save Me

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Created by and starring Lennie James, with an enviable ensemble cast including Stephen Graham and Suranne Jones, Save Me is a six-part UK thriller that went down a storm on release in 2018. (Here’s why we loved it.) Set in London, it’s the story of a teenage girl’s disappearance and her estranged father’s search for her. The second series arrived in April 2020 and was just as strong as the first.

Where to stream? NOW TV

Secret Diary of a Call Girl

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Based on Brooke Magnanti’s bestselling book and blog, Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl, this series very much does what it says on the tin. Billie Piper takes on one of her most memorable roles as high-end London escort Hannah, who lives a double life, increasingly struggling to hide her profession from her family and friends. Covering four series, it’s fascinating, often funny, and offers a refreshingly different take on contemporary sex work not often seen elsewhere.

Where to stream? ITVX

Sherlock

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From Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, this modernised take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective was the biggest show in the country at one point and so won’t have passed anyone by. Still, it’s nice to revisit Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in 221B Baker Street occasionally to remember what all the fuss was about.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Skins

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This sex-and-drugs-and-BTEC-Nationals drama-comedy made a splash with its portrayal of hedonist teens when it first arrived, but it was always more than that. As well as a top cast including launchpad roles for Nicholas Hoult, Daniel Kaluuya, Jack O’Connell, Hannah Murray, Joe Dempsie and Kaya Scodelario, it had heart and romance and laughs too. Here are the top 30 moments, according to us.

Where to stream? Amazon Prime Video UK

Slow Horses

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We suspect this under-appreciated Apple TV spy thriller would be as big a hit as Line of Duty if it were on the BBC. Based on Mick Herron’s Slough House novels, Slow Horses centres on a team of haphazard MI5 agents who have variously disgraced themselves on the job and ended up exiled to a small team of supposedly boring admin roles. The team is head by the scruffy, quick-witted Jackson Lamb, played masterfully by Gary Oldman, and finds itself embroiled in addictive nail-biting cases including a white supremacist terrorist attack and a plot by Russian sleeper agents. The first two series are highly recommended – and Series 3 and 4 are on the way.

Where to stream? Apple TV

Spooks

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All 10 series of this British intelligence thriller about a bunch of MI5 officers getting into espionage-based mischief/being horribly injured were recently made available on iPlayer. Revisit the noughties with Keeley Hawes, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicola Walker and the gang. Here’s our review of the 2015 feature film, starring Kit Harrington.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Teachers

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Channel 4’s comedy drama Teachers starred a pre-The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln as English teacher/man-child Simon, and a cast of characters in similarly arrested development. Set in a Bristol Secondary School, it’s a funny look at staff room chaos with a down-to-earth sense of humour (in its first couple of series at least).

Where to stream? Channel 4

The Crown

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Queen Elizabeth II and her lot are the focus of Peter Morgan’s glossy Netflix period drama following the UK’s royal family from Liz’s coronation all the way through the decades. With five series available and a sixth and final one on the way, it’s a look at a changing Britain and the rulers reluctantly forced to change alongside it. Exemplary casting and very fine storytelling.

Where to stream? Netflix UK

The Hour

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The cancellation of Abi Morgan’s The Hour after series two provoked an outcry from fans of this smart period drama about the making of a current affairs television programme in 1950s London. Romola Garai, Dominic West and Ben Whishaw all star in an involving look at British history.

Where to stream? Amazon Prime Video UK

The Last Kingdom

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The fifth and final series of this meaty Vikings and Saxons drama aired in 2022, an adaptation of books from Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Saxon Stories’ saga, and a feature-length Netflix film will round off the show in April 2023. It’s the tale of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon raised by Vikings who returns to England to reclaim the birthright his scheming uncle stole from him, but who has countless other adventures on the way. Great fights, great characters and a superlative third run with a beating political heart.

Where to stream? Netflix UK

The Missing

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This is where it all started for Julien Baptiste, Tcheky Karyo’s French detective character who went on to become the star of his own spin-off series. In the first series of this hit BBC thriller, Baptiste helped Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) search for his missing son, while in the second, Baptiste investigated the case of a missing teenager who returns to her family years after being abducted. Twisty goodness.

Where to stream? Netflix

The Prisoner

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Sometimes the old ones really are the best. Cult Sci-Fi mystery drama The Prisoner first aired back in 1967, and starred Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, a kidnapped secret agent who finds himself in a bizarre, nightmareish prison in a remote village. There’s only one series, but it’s a good’un.

Where to stream? ITVX

The Shadow Line

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Before The Honourable Woman and Black Earth Rising, Hugo Blick created The Shadow Line, a seven-part thriller about a murder investigation that threatens to topple the establishment. With an outstanding cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Christopher Eccleston and Stephen Rea, it’s one of the UK’s finest modern thrillers.

Where to stream? UKTV Play

This is England ’86, ’88, ’90

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Arguably the best film spin-off TV show ever made, the three series that followed Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne’s 2006 feature This is England were superlative drama. Heart-breaking but funny, hard-hitting but entertaining, they told difficult stories with honesty and warmth, with a cast of characters impossible not to love. They’re all good, but Vicky McClure and Stephen Graham are the stand-outs. Here’s why we love it.

Where to stream? Channel 4

This Life

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The 90s! Lawyers and flatshares and cocaine and booze and unhealthy hook-ups, This Life offers all that and a man named Egg. (Andrew Lincoln in his pre zombie-killing cowboy days). The BBC Four repeats a few years ago sent a generation reeling back into nostalgia, and now you can do the lot on BritBox.

Where to stream? BritBox

Torchwood

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Remember back when there was a new Doctor Who spin-off for every day of the week? Torchwood was the after-dark one, a sci-fi with bloody murders and sex alongside the aliens (or fairly often, with the aliens). Chris Chibnall’s first Who showrunning gig brought us the extended adventures of Captain Jack Harkness and Eve Myles’ police officer Gwen Cooper. We revisited the lot here.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Unforgotten

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The only UK crime drama that remembers to be kind as well as gripping and filled with twists, Chris Lang’s Unforgotten is cleverly plotted and built around an excellent double-act. Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar are Cassie and Sunny, detectives working cold murder cases who attempt to bring closure to families who’ve lost loved ones and never known where, how, why or who to blame. Read more here.

Where to stream? ITVX

Vigil

Best British TV Dramas on Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, All4 (56)

Suranne Jones is one of those names that add a certain promise of quality to any drama she appears in, and her starring role in Vigil is the perfect example of why this holds up. In this six-part series, she plays a DCI sent aboard Royal Navy submarine HMS Vigil to investigate a suspicious death on board, only to find herself embroiled in an increasingly dangerous mystery involving murder, MI5 and a missing fishing trawler. At times breathtakingly tense and claustrophobic, with an excellent supporting cast including Paterson Joseph, Rose Leslie and Line of Duty‘s Martin Compston, this is well worth watching.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Wolf Hall

Best British TV Dramas on Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, All4 (57)

Mark Rylance did a lot by doing very little in the BBC’s Wolf Hall adaptation. Playing crown advisor and treasurer Thomas Cromwell in this beautifully pitched adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning trilogy, Rylance’s performance was all about understatement. Claire Foy and Damian Lewis are also great in this political period drama.

Where to stream? BBC iPlayer

Years and Years

Best British TV Dramas on Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, All4 (58)

Another entry from Russell T. Davies, this six-part sci-fi series is a satirical horror show in the Black Mirror vein, showing life 15 years from now through the story of one Manchester family. See technological developments, environmental collapse and terrifying political movements take hold, all told with Davies’ characteristic wit and brio. Top stuff.

Where to stream? Disney+

Best British TV Dramas on Netflix UK, BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Prime Video, NOW, BritBox, All4 (2024)
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