Though they rarely get noticed unless American networks decide to remake their shows, the British are pretty great at making television. If you’re sick of American humor, over-used plots or are just a fan of British accents, take a virtual trip across the pond, and check out these great British TV shows all available instantly on Netflix.
It’s hard to know where to begin with “Doctor Who.” Spanning 11 incarnations of The Doctor, the main character, and over 30 seasons, this sci-fi show is one of the most popular British shows ever and is gaining popularity fast in the states. In a nutshell, it’s about a time traveling alien who, with companions, travels every where and every when, having adventures and saving some planet, usually Earth. It has comedy, drama, time travel, dinosaurs on a space ship, scary suit-wearing aliens, Old West shoot outs, New York style noirs and everything in between. If you’re a newcomer, it’s best to start with the beginning of a new doctor (I recommend David Tennant, number 10) to understand the storyline, but other than that, “allons-y!”
From British writing-genius Stephen Moffat (Doctor Who, Coupling, Tintin) comes a modern take on the classic detective stories of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. While this version lacks the explosions, fist fights and eye-candy of Robert Downey Jr. that the recent American films provide, it has all the tension, wit and adventure that you expect from Sherlock Holmes. While updated to 2012 (Holmes has an iPhone and a laptop) the stories stick fairly close to the books. Each episode is unique and exciting, and thanks to some brilliant writing and acting, Holmes slides easily into the 21st century version of 221B Baker St.
If there is a hole in your heart left by the now deceased “O.C.,” “One Tree Hill,” “Degrassi” or “Dawson’s Creek,” then “Skins” is just the show to heal that wound. Following a group of teenagers around Bristol, this show explores all the teen drama themes you can’t get enough of, from sex to heartbreak to partying to drugs. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking with characters that are instantly relatable. MTV tried to remake this for the states but failed, probably because the British series had Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel and, thanks to lax UK censorship, all the cursing, sex and drug-use you can’t get on American TV.
If “Skins” is a teen drama more suited for females, then this one is for the guys. Dealing with a group of four hopeless and horny teenage boys, this comedy is full of awkward, scatological and absurd humor. If you want a lighthearted reminder of those maybe not-so-great teen years or need a quick and clever dose of British humor, “The InBetweeners” is the show. MTV has also remade this, but if you get sick of the Jersey Shore or hellish reality show ads, head to your computer and try the original.
This show was the UK’s response to “Scrubs.” Set in a hospital, it follows a ridiculous cast featuring a cocky womanizing surgeon, his adorable best friend, the female surgeon they both are in love with but pretend to hate, an x-ray technician who is a bumbling, socially awkward nymphomaniac and more. The set up is a bit surreal with a lack of patients and tight plot. The structure can be hard to get used to and sometimes feels more like sketches then a show. Taking a note from “Scrubs”-style absurd humor and adding in some British wit, this show is great for some easy laughs. Also, if you like Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, who play Guy and Caroline, check out the BBC Showtime co-produced “Episodes” featuring the duo.
Other note-worthy Shows
“Top Gear” – for car lovers and adrenaline junkies
“Peep Show” or “That Mitchell and Webb Look”– for sketch comedy or Mitchell and Webb fans
“Torchwood”– for sci-fi or Doctor Who diehards
“Downton Abbey”– for the tea-loving, Jane Austen admiring, upper-class envying people who hate fast-moving plots and adore Maggie Smith.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Isa Jones at Alexandra.firstname.lastname@example.org.