Americans have long loved British TV. From Monty Python in the 1960s and Brideshead Revisited in the 1980s to Downton Abbey for six seasons up through March 2016, British humor and period drama, not to mention murder mysteries galore, have been delighting U.S. television viewers for nearly 60 years.
In fact, many a hit U.S. series, both reality and scripted, was inspired by a Brit success — among them House of Cards, Veep, American Idol and Dancing With the Stars .
It's no surprise, then, that options for finding the best of British TV — once limited to PBS — are growing with all streaming services, but in particular BritBox and Acorn, which together supply hundreds of offerings.
BritBox, a joint venture of the UK's BBC and ITV, offers only British shows. Acorn, meanwhile, is part of RLJ Entertainment and offers more from other countries, including Australia and Canada. And don't forget BBC America, partly owned by America's AMC network and making a killing on breakout hits like Killing Eve , renewed for a third season scheduled to air next year.
With all this choice, it's hard to determine where to start. So we selected a smattering of the best British shows to watch now — and where to find them.
- A Discovery of Witches (8 episodes) is a new hit, thanks in part to feisty Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) as Diana, a professor, historian, and witch. Atmospheric, chilling and darkly romantic — Diana has a centuries-old thing for a dashing vampire.
- Next of Kin (6 episodes) scores as a gripping — if violent— political thriller featuring a mysterious murder and starring The Good Wife's intriguing Archie Panjabi, 47.
- The Night Manager (six episodes) has Tom Hiddleston as a secret agent, The Favourite's Olivia Colman as his boss and House's Hugh Laurie, 60, as an arms dealer known as “the worst man in the world” — whom the two intend to bring down. All three stars nabbed Golden Globes.
- Midsomer Murders (122 episodes) may be old-fashioned in look, feel and acting, but the writers continue to show a knack for coming up with offbeat cases for its sleuthing police detective (first played by John Nettles, then by Neil Dudgeon). Grownups aren't always the good guys: In one episode, a rich elderly couple is suspected of killing a social worker.
- London Kills (5 episodes) shows a haunted London police detective (The Full Monty's Hugo Speer, 50) and his elite team of murder investigators cracking baffling puzzlers. (Who on earth would kill a groom at his bachelor party?) Think CSI with tea and crumpets. Season 2, with five more episodes, arrives July 15.
- Queens of Mystery (six episodes) follows three 50-something sisters (Julie Graham, Sarah Woodward, Siobhan Redmond) who each write mystery novels — while helping their bright niece detective (rising star Olivia Vinall) solve real crimes. Murder She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher would be drawn to the colorful cases and cozy vibe.
- Killing Eve (16 episodes) is today's must-see cat-and-mouse thriller. Premise: Eve (Sandra Oh, 47), a British MI6 agent, can't stop crushing on the scary, creatively crazy assassin (Jodie Comer) she's trailing — who has a thing for Eve, too.
- Luther (20 episodes) smolders, with Emmy nominee Idris Elba starring as London police detective John Luther. In the just-premiered four-episode Season 5, he comes up against a truly diabolical gangster. He also meets up again with his mysterious love, Alice (Ruth Wilson of The Affair), last seen in Season 3 and presumed dead.
- Absolutely Fabulous (39 episodes) still gets laughs nearly 25 years after its original run. Joanna Lumley, now 73, and Jennifer Saunders, now 60, are sublime as boozy, defiantly aging hipsters Patsy and Edina.
- Hold the Sunset (six episodes) lets Fawlty Towers veteran John Cleese, 79, shine as a 69-year-old widower romancing fellow retiree Edith (Alison Steadman), one amusing moment at a time.
- Mum (12 episodes) stars Phantom Thread Oscar nominee Lesley Manville, 63, as a woman rebooting her own life after her husband's death. The show's also funny, if heart-tugging. Look for Season 3 coming soon.
- There She Goes (5 episodes) is a poignant dramedy with Broadchurch's David Tennant playing an alcoholic pop to a stubborn 9-year-old girl with learning disabilities (she can't talk, for one). In real life, the show's creator, Shaun Pye — who played Ricky Gervais’ insufferable foil Greg Lindley-Jones on Extras — has his own special-needs child.
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- Downton Abbey (52 episodes) stands as the gold standard in opulent period dramas. Revisit the aristocratic, drama-prone Crawley family and their equally fascinating servants — and that gorgeous estate — ahead of September's film sequel.
- Endeavour (26 episodes) shows natty 30-something gent Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) solving crimes and tooling around in his red Jaguar in posh 1960s Oxford. Season 5 of the elegant mystery arrives June 16.
- Grantchester ( 25 episodes) is named for the quaint (and real) village that offers Detective Inspector Keating (Robson Green, 54) and his sleuthing buddy, young vicar Sidney (James Norton), plenty of crimes to solve. Note: Norton bows out during the coming season (premiering July 14), passing the torch to a new baddie-catching vicar.