For those of you who love a good British television series, and who don’t mind bleak television, Netflix is a very good source, and these British dramas stack up as well or better than most of the best dramas in America. I will note, however, that I did not include Happy Valley (of which I have heard very good things) or The Fall because I thought the Gillian Anderson series had an ultimately disappointing second season.
Here, however, are the six best British television dramas on Netflix:
The Honorable Woman (Watch Here): I won’t lie to you. Honorable Woman is a remarkably good, well acted and brilliantly crafted political thriller starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. But it is bleak, and one of the darkest, grimmest series I’ve ever watched. It immediately concerns a family business that provides fiber optic cables, but it quickly gets wrapped up in a grand conspiracy involving Israel and the Middle East peace process. There are a lot of deaths, there’s a lot of anguish, and there’s some very dark themes. It’s a great series — and maybe even an important one — but it is not fun to watch.
Broadchurch (Watch Here): The series, once the most tweeted about in the history of British television, may have lost some of its luster, thanks to a misguided American remake on Fox and a second season (not on Netflix yet) that wasn’t as well-received as the first. But that first season — starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman — was great television, if you’re into dark, heartbreaking murder mysteries. It involves an investigation into the death of a child, and it’s also incredibly grim television, as much of the focus is on the grieving family, although there is some fun to be had in trying to figure out the murderer (and there are some great twists along the way). It’s very much what The Killing on AMC aspired to be, but came up woefully short.
Sherlock (Watch Here): Not too much needs to be said about Sherlock here, where many of you have already given the three-season series a shot. It’s the best update of Sherlock you will see, and puts those Robert Downey, Jr. movies to absolute shame. The three episodes each season play more like movies, and though showrunner Steven Moffat got a little too cute with the series in the second and third season, it’s nevertheless remarkable television, chock full of Easter Eggs, great performances, incredibly witty writing, and great mysteries, even if the logic doesn’t always hold up to close scrutiny.
Black Mirror (Watch Here): I know that Danger has vowed not to watch Black Mirror, but, honestly, it’s incredibly good. Each episode is stand-alone, but they each revolve around the very real threat that technology and the future pose. The series is often very funny, but it’s incredibly dark humor, and some of the plot turns are, uh, very twisted. They’re like Twilight Zone episodes set in the near future, where our iPhones, artificial intelligence, and YouTube, and reality television pose some very real dangers to our society.
Peaky Blinders (Watch Here): At the moment, anyway, Peaky Blinders may be my favorite British series on Netflix, and easily the most fun to watch, even if it, too, is bleak at time. If you don’t know anything about it, Peaky Blinders is basically the British version of Boardwalk Empire, in that it’s set in the same time period and deals with some of the same matters, only over in Britain. Peaky Blinders are British gangsters, and while bootlegging and gambling is involved, so is the IRA. Cillian Murphy in the lead is absolutely fantastic, something akin to a Prohibition era Boyd Crowder, and there’s also some fun guest arcs from the likes of Noah Taylor and Tom Hardy. There are two seasons, and trust me, once you start, you’ll get hooked.
Luther (Watch Here): I always like to think of Luther as the anti-Jack Bauer. Bauer may yell and torture his victims, but all it takes from Idris Elba’s Luther is his cold death stare. No one in the cop world swings a bigger dick than John Luther, and he’s got enough swagger to intimidate Raylan Givens. There are three seasons available, and each season tends to break down into four episodes, two each to tackle a serial killer and an entire season to deal with some personal crisis in Luther’s life. Yes, Luther is also kick-in-the-teeth bleak, but it’s also entertaining television, and the best cop series on the other side of the Atlantic.