The 12 Best British Shows on Netflix You've Never Heard Of
American fans of British TV have long had to make do with what BBC America and PBS choose to import. But Netflix has stepped into the breach and brought to these shores a lot of acclaimed British television that has gone unseen here. Brew yourself a pot of Earl Grey and start binging on these series. The 12 shows below are available on Netflix US, but read this if you want access to all Netflix UK content.
1 'BLACK BOOKS' 8.6
It's probably overselling this sitcom to call it a British "Seinfeld," but it is a wickedly funny show with interlacing plots, frequent pop culture parodies, and absurd situations. Its three protagonists (including series creator Dylan Moran and future "Episodes" star Tamsin Greig) are obnoxious big-city singles for whom no good deed goes unpunished and who follow Larry David's maxim: No hugging, no learning.
2 'DETECTORISTS' 8.6
In America, a series about obsessive, suburban, middle-aged, metal-detector-wielding treasure hunters would be a reality show on HGTV. Here, it's a quirky, wry comedy starring Toby Jones and "Office" alum Mackenzie Crook (who also writes and directs the series). Hard to believe such a quiet, offbeat show would be so absorbing, but it is.
3 'DOC MARTIN' 7.0
Martin Clunes plays the title character, an aloof small-town medic loosely based on the more easygoing character he played in the Craig Ferguson-scripted movie "Saving Grace." Here, he's a grouchy snob and brilliant diagnostician (à la House), but he also suffers bouts of nausea and has a phobia about blood, How he copes with these weaknesses and his colorful patients is the subject of this long-running dramedy.
4 'FRESH MEAT' 8.0
From the creators of "Peep Show" comes this comedy about college life. Sweet, sad, and messy, it's like "How to Get Away With Murder" with more jokes and fewer corpses.
5 'THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW' 8.4
This cooking competition's serene outdoor setting belies the layer-cake-thick tension as colorful amateurs try to bake increasingly elaborate towers of pastries and cookies -- er, biscuits -- in order to impress the professional judges and avoid elimination. ABC ran an abbreviated, Americanized, Christmas-themed version of the series last month, but stick with the meringue-topped, full-scale original.
6 'HAPPY VALLEY' 8.4
The title is ironic, since this crime drama is about as bleak as can be. The initial season focuses on embittered sleuth Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) pursuing an increasingly complicated case involving kidnapping and revenge.
7 'THE IT CROWD' 8.6
Chris O'Dowd starred in this popular, four-season sitcom about snarky tech maintenance geeks working for a corporation that didn't really understand technology, much less geek culture and humor. The show made its US debut while back on IFC, but so far, several attempts to create American versions have failed to come to fruition.
8 'PEAKY BLINDERS' 8.8
This stylish true-crime epic, set in the years following World War I, has been described as a British "Boardwalk Empire." That's not far off the mark, but this one features shinier movie stars than its U.S. counterpart. Here, dashing Cillian Murphy is the leader of the title gang, while Sam Neill is the inspector determined to bring them down.
9 'PEEP SHOW' 8.6
Don't be misled by the suggestive title. What's intimate and revelatory about this comedy is its use of interior monologues to reveal the characters' thoughts. That's also what makes it more than just a show about a couple of South London roommates struggling to find romance and career success. Ricky Gervais has cited this as one of the most innovative comedies of the last decade.
10 ‘SCROTAL RECALL' 7.9
The title is unfortunate, but the premise is juicy. When the protagonist learns he has chlamydia, he gets in touch with each of his past girlfriends (one per episode), making the sitcom a "High Fidelity"-like look at one man's history of romantic failure.
11 'SOUTHCLIFFE' 7.0
This four-part mini-series focuses on the aftermath of a mass-shooting incident, with each episode focusing on one of the people involved. Some British viewers found the show especially dark and violent, but sadly, in America, we're all too accustomed to the topic.
12 'RIVER' 7.8
The great Stellan Skarsgard plays the title character, a burned-out London cop who's haunted by the ghost of his slain partner (Nicola Walker). Literally. The drama series is about how he copes with his guilt and obsession, holds on to his sanity, and still manages to solve crimes.