Visit the UK, through 18 great TV shows!

Here’s a great list of British TV shows from The Guardian:

I’ve seen some of those they recommend, my thoughts on these:


Derry Girls

Heaven! I’ve watched this one several times and can’t decide which of the girls I love best — dreamy Orla, brash Erin, permanently-outraged Clare or hellraiser Michelle. And their goofy aunt Sarah and their cousin James, initially very much derided for being…OMG… English. Their accents are so thick and they speak so fast you’ll be hard pressed to follow along, a great excuse for watching it over and over! If you can resist Sister Michael, I despair. Also, great new vocabulary — vomit (boak) or a sexy guy (ride).



Sigh. Swoon. Sigh.

I’m crushed the pandemic will postpone my Poldark-inspired trip I’d so hoped to make this fall to Cornwall, a place I’ve never visited yet whose landscapes and town names have become so familiar, thanks to this gorgeous show.

It’s the unlikely love story of Ross Poldark, injured fighting against would-be Americans in the Revolutionary War, returning to his ancestral home after four years, eager to marry his sweetheart, Elizabeth — newly engaged to his cousin. Instead, he ends up marrying his kitchenmaid, Demelza, flame-haired, outspoken, and a scandal to all his well-born neighbors.

Ross fights endlessly to make local copper mines profitable, with multiple story lines through it all, like the initially doomed love story between Morwenna and Drake. If you, as I do, enjoy spectacular scenery and 18th c interiors, clothing and other details, you’ll love it.



Hard to go wrong with the tremendous Olivia Colman (who went on to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite) in the lead! Her partner is the  lean, foul-mouthed David Tennant, a pair of police in Dorset trying to solve the murder of a young child.



Spectacular scenery — made me want to get there asap! Another police show, but in a setting very few of us will likely ever see firsthand.


A few more The Guardian didn’t include:



A cop show set in and around Oxford in the 1960s and 70s, with a young police detective named Endeavour Morse and his older fedora-clad partner, Fred Thursday — who, in earlier episodes, drive the most gorgeous vintage Jaguar you’ve ever seen.


Happy Valley

A cop show, much darker in tone, with the tremendous Sarah Lancashire in the lead, in the Calder Valley of West Yorkshire. The lead bad guy, who is really scary, is played by the dishy James Norton.


Call The Midwife


This is a must-see, (even if you’ve never had kids) or don’t especially want to watch every episode’s inclusion of a (very quick!) birth. Set in Poplar, a poor section of East End London, this long-running series starts in the 1950s and as it progresses through the years, includes medical plotlines like polio, thalidomide and the Pill. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.



The pairing of a handsome young vicar and a crusty local cop, Jordy, makes this show charming and quirky. James Norton is the vicar — quite disorienting if you also watch Happy Valley!


Last Tango in Halifax

Welcome to the world of Sally Wainwright, who created many of the shows I’m recommending here, including Gentleman Jack. LTIH is one of the very few shows that features a married couple in their 70s and their two adult daughters are — as the British would say — chalk and cheese, wildly different. Gillian is the feckless farmer always in some sort of trouble (Nicola Walker) while Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) is a prim, blonde, expensively-dressed headmistress of a private school. Many family dramas, but none unbelievable.



I love Keeley Hawes, probably best-known as playing Louisa Durrell in The Durrells in Corfu. Here she’s a steely, cold senior government official — with a troubled soldier appointed to become her bodyguard.


Gentleman Jack

An 1832 setting, a wealthy and very determined landowner — female, lesbian — and you have an unlikely story, based on period diaries. Suranne Jones is fantastic in the lead role.



I love watching Nicola Walker in anything and this detective show — with her as the lead — is excellent.


Two things strike me about these British shows — they often include a number of older (60s, 70s or older) regular characters, almost invisible in American television.

And the number of times you’ll see the same (very talented) actors playing wildly different characters can be quite disorienting!

Do you have any favorite British TV shows?


18 thoughts on “Visit the UK, through 18 great TV shows!

  1. Most of the shows I watch these days are British, although I still watch Canadian ones like Schitt’s Creek when I can. And Australian. But the American ones? Fewer and fewer, even though there are many that I watched for years. I love Derry Girls (all of them really, but Clare is my favourite). Adore anything from Sharon Horgan but especially loved Catastrophe. Sex Education is amazing! Peaky Blinders, obvs. Also loved Last Tango in Halifax (the review doesn’t mention that ‘stuffy’ Sarah Lancashire has left her philandering professor hubby for a lesbian relationship). Years and years was also really something. I could go on…I’m a hardcore television series addict and nobody does it better than the Brits!

    1. I watched a lot of Peaky Blinders om my solo European trip when it was lousy weather and I stayed in bed. But the violence just wore me out and I stopped.

      Haven’t yet tried Schitt’s Creek (a few of them) or Sex Education. American shows are so different. I do love Succession, The Plot Against America and a few others.

  2. Jan Jasper

    I greatly enjoyed Happy Valley, The Bodyguard, and I really loved Broadchurch.
    I used to subscribe to Acorn TV, which has a wonderful catalog of (mostly) dramas from Great Britian, Wales, New Zealand, and Australia, but I reluctantly stopped my subscription when they stopped supporting my brand of Smart TV. I just wasn’t interested in “relaxing ” in front of my laptop to watch a show

  3. I’m familiar with most of these – I loved Broadchurch, Shetland and Happy Valley. Others you didn’t mention but might enjoy – The Fall, In the Line of Duty, Hinterland (Welsh). They are all on Netflix. 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      I did see The Fall (soooooo scary!) last September in my Toronto Air B & B….I was working hard on my healthcare story and whipped at day’s end…so I would do an episode or two every night. I’ve never seen it offered here (!?) in the U.S.

      I also liked Hinterland. Not sure if I’ve seen Line of Duty.

  4. I worked on a few episodes of Poldark as a Location Manager. I could never get used to looking at the 18th Century set, then looking back the other way at the 21st coffee wagon. Whenever a trailer showed Aiden Turner with his shirt off; the ratings would shoot right up. I couldn’t see it myself. We’ve just shot a new series called “McDonalds & Dobbs” Set in Bath & Bristol, Old school – largely ignored detective solving cases in the midst of 21st century police methods. He dosen’t even use a computer. If you’ve comitted a crime & he’s on the case – watch out!

    1. Wooooooowwwwwwwww. Swoon!

      What an amazing thing to do…I always dreamed of being a location scout for film and TV.

      Bath is gorgeous — my mom had an apartment there for a while in the mid 80s and I loved visiting.

      Thanks for the heads-up!

  5. i haven’t yet delved into the british series yet, but they do seem intriguing and i love british films, so i think i’d love them.

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