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What are the best British series? A relentlessly subjective selection of our favourites: suspenseful, thrilling, witty and foremost very British!
England 1912: Downton Abbey in Yorkshire is home to the aristocratic Crawley family and a small court of servants. The plot begins with a historical event: in the sinking of the Titanic, the son-in-law and planned family heir drowned. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Downton Abbey, has three daughters but no male offspring.
The series tells the fate of the family, their servants and the estate in the following decades, weaving historical events into the fictional world of Downton Abbey. In the turmoil of the times, each character is put to the test.
Here’s where to watch or buy the series at amazon*.
No list of the so-and-so best British series would be complete without an example of brilliant nonsense. Everyone has a rough idea of what is meant by typical British humour, but you can actually differentiate different varieties from each other: the macabre, black humour, the dry, sharp-tongued wit, the aristocratically delivered subtle irony and just the shrill, absurdist nonsense!
While the Monty Python troupe created unforgettable classics in this genre, we recommend here the intelligent nonsense series of the 00s: Little Britain! In little sketches, comedians Matt Lucas and David Walliams take aim at every cliché about the British and their idiosyncrasies. The recurring characters in the series include the feisty, overweight redneck Vicky Pollard (“But yes, but no, but yes, but no” ), the eccentric Scottish hotelier Ray McCooney and Marjorie Dawes, the self-centred leader of the self-help group Fat Fighters (“Eat dust!“). Delightfully irreverent, Little Britain mocks political correctness, taboos and stereotypes and is great fun in the process. The satirical airport series Come Fly with Me also comes from the same creators.
Little Britain can also be found on amazon Prime for immediate viewing.
Each episode a different world, a different reality and different characters having to cope with the realities of the future. In each episode, Black Mirror takes the viewer into a different version of the near future that is often eerily similar to our present.
Will we all soon be constantly giving each other star ratings? Will our entire lives depend on it? Will we soon be able to store all our memories through an implant and retrieve them at will? And above all, do we really want that?
Black Mirror is definitly one of the best British series because it breaks new ground as a series and captivates with its mind games that take current trends in technology and society just a small step further and thereby paint realistic and often frightening future scenarios.
On Netflix you can watch Black Mirror in German, on amazon the series is so far only available in English.
The cult series about the time-travelling Dr Who is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most successful and longest-running science fiction series of all time. The first episode was broadcast in 1963 and, apart from a break between 1989 and 2005, the adventures of the time-travelling Dr. Who continue to thrill viewers to this day.
Dr. Who is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time in an old English emergency telephone booth and experiences the craziest adventures. He is accompanied by selected companions such as a robot dog or people he meets on Earth. Dr Who is now played by the 12th actor and in British popular culture the series has a similar status to Tatort.
On amazon Prime you can find all seasons and episodes of Dr. Who for immediate viewing.
A small-town idyll in England: Broadchurch is a picture-perfect holiday village on the southern English coast. When the body of 11-year-old Danny Latimer is found on the beach, the villagers are stunned, because it is quickly clear that it was murder.
The special thing about Broadchurch is that the series doesn’t just follow the investigative work of the police like a crime scene, for example. Instead, the series focuses on the impact of the murder on the people of Broadchurch, Danny’s family and the investigators.
The investigator duo is an unusual combination. Ellie is a village investigator full of faith in the good in people, but she gradually loses it. At the beginning of the first season, the unwieldy Alec Hardy is forced upon her as her superior and partner. Alec’s latest unsolved scandal case doesn’t give Broadchurch a moment’s peace either, and as more and more sinister secrets reveal themselves behind the village’s clean façade, Broadchurch draws the viewer in more and more.
The first 2 seasons of Broadchurch are available for example at Netflix.
What happens when a group of delinquent youths acquire psychic powers from one day to the next? That’s right: chaos, madness and absolutely crazy occurrences. The completely different characters who meet here not only change themselves, but also the world around them.
Misfits is rich in quirky humour, but also often deals with dramatic, serious conflicts that young people have to deal with. With supernatural elements such as mind reading, time travel, gender swapping and many surprising twists, the series never loses its appeal. Even though the characters are almost all rednecks, outsiders, freaks and socially disturbed people, they grow closer to the viewer’s heart with every episode, as they are lovingly drawn throughout.
Misfits has already been completed and the complete series can be found, for example, at amazon.
Also in London, Detective Luther (Idris Elba) investigates, but the eponymous series strikes an entirely different tone. The dramatic series centres on an ingenious detective who uses unconventional methods and often investigates on his own.
In the first season, Luther faces what is probably the biggest challenge of his career so far. He has to solve a perfectly staged murder, which develops into an obsession for him. As a result, his private life also becomes more and more unhinged and his approach, which does not always follow protocol, pushes him to the limits of his own psyche. His antagonist is an equally highly intelligent, fascinating young woman, a super criminal who won’t let him go and will change his life forever!
There are already 4 seasons of the series Luther, you can watch all episodes at amazon Prime.
Growing up is a rollercoaster ride and Skins takes an unsparing look at it. A group of teenagers in Bristol, England are at the centre of this funny, dramatic and touching series. The title Skins does not stand for skinheads or skin in the literal sense, but is the slang term for the long leaves used to roll joints. Excessive drug use, sexual escapades, emotional dramas, the normal madness of high school and sometimes bitter blows of fate toss the characters back and forth between all emotional states.
One of the special features of Skins is that each episode is told from the perspective of one of the characters. As a result, the viewer’s opinion of individual characters changes again and again. In addition, the cast changes almost completely after every 2 seasons, as the last 2 college years of the teens are always told.
All episodes of the 3 seasons Skins are available at amazon.
Brilliantly cast and directed historical drama about a gang of gangsters that bears comparison with Boardwalk Empire.
Birmingham in the 1920s: when a major arms shipment unexpectedly falls into the hands of the Peaky Blinders gang, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), the head of the gang, sees a big opportunity. He pursues ambitious plans for the Peaky Blinders…
The stolen weapons set a series of events in motion, as the police become aware of the Peaky Blinders and begin to crack down. Chief Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) in particular, who sets a beautiful Irish agent on the intelligent head of the gang. The situation comes to a head when Tommy Shelby, severely traumatised by the First World War, suspects that there is a traitor in his ranks. And the rival gangster gangs also become aware of the Peaky Blinders…
Those with a Netflix subscription can watch the first 2 seasons of Peaky Blinders online there.
Our #1 best British series may not be the most original choice, but hey Sherlock is just as good as it gets. Every single episode of this series is miles better than the average German TV movie and Sherlock simply offers the quintessence of quality British television: great actors, an eccentric hero, thrilling twists and razor-sharp dialogue. The series also manages to present the most old-fashioned of detectives in a modern remake (and much better than the American series Elementary, if you ask us).
Besides excellent scripts and high production standards, Sherlock also thrives on its well-cast cast. Benedict Cumberbatch, rightly celebrated as the new acting genius, embodies the charismatic master detective in 21st century London as a neurotic savant. His friend and partner Dr Watson is played by the versatile Hobbit star Martin Freeman.
The special appeal of the British Sherlock series lies in the maddeningly precise powers of observation and the surprising conclusions of the ingenious investigator, as well as in the action-packed realisation. Each episode is feature film length and builds up the tension to the gripping finale.
Sherlock is available on Netflix – but if, like us, you don’t want to wait long for the new episodes to come online, you can also find Sherlock on amazon Prime*.
*Affiliate links: If you order products through them, we receive a small commission without changing anything in terms of price.
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