I would definitely self–identify as a TV fanatic—I’m constantly on the hunt for new shows. During quarantine last spring, I nearly exhausted all the options on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and all other streaming services known to man.
Though that’s a slight exaggeration, through my hunt I discovered a variety of British shows that offer a different type of subtle dark humor that American shows often lack. I’ve found that the characters in each series are well–developed, multi–dimensional, and highly relatable with a typical dry British humor. Without further ado, here are my favorites!
I listed this show as number one for a reason. Fleabag is a dark comedy that manages to add a tinge of humor to even the worst situations. Phoebe Waller–Bridge created, wrote, and starred in the show. The fact that an immensely talented woman was able to achieve such a feat should be convincing enough to make you start the pilot.
The story follows a woman only referred to as Fleabag as she navigates romantic relationships and chaotic family drama while slowly discovering herself. Although Waller–Bridge’s character is hilariously unorganized and attracts trouble wherever she goes, she’s also an outspoken and sexually–liberated woman who struggles to be emotionally vulnerable with both the audience and the people in her life.
I watched this show with my mom, and each episode left us howling on the couch together—I highly recommend giving it a try. Just a heads up: it might take an episode or two to get into it, but it’s worth it because Fleabag is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
Similarly to Fleabag, This Way Up is also a comedy that follows a young female protagonist through the plights and perils of her romantic and familial situations. Aisling Bea, an Irish stand–up comedian, both wrote and starred in this hilariously relatable show, and I was happy to discover I was supporting another brilliant woman.
This Way Up follows Aine, an English teacher who attempts to rebuild her life after experiencing a not–so–little nervous breakdown due to her personal struggles. Her quirky personality makes it impossible not to empathize with her and her problems, which keeps the viewer engaged.
While the tone of the show remains light and funny, the authentic experience of the protagonist spotlights the importance of mental health care. Bea is a talented director and writer, and I highly recommend also checking out her stand–up show in The Comedy Lineup on Netflix.
If I were ever forced to pick one show to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this one. Not to be dramatic, but Killing Eve really is in its own league. Considered a black comedy–drama thriller, this show follows a highly intelligent, psychopathic Russian assassin named Villanelle played by Jodie Comer, with Sandra Oh (famous for her work in Grey’s Anatomy) playing a British intelligence investigator tasked with locating her.
If you’re still on the fence about watching this show, Phoebe Waller–Bridge, the same powerhouse behind Fleabag, was the original head writer and showrunner. Killing Eve always keeps you on the edge of your seat; every episode, I found myself standing up out of anticipation, unease, confusion, and laughter.
This show might not be for everyone, since it deals with heavy subject matter including child abuse and death. It’s a crime drama, so if you’re not into dark mysteries, I wouldn’t recommend this one. However, if you’re a crime junkie and already blew through shows like Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Chicago P.D., then definitely start this one.
Each of Broadchurch’s three seasons follow slightly different stories. The first season opens in a small coastal town with the mysterious death of a young boy named Danny. His murder prompts an ongoing police investigation, but the show doesn’t shy away from the way his death fractures his family and community in devastating ways. A lot of the narrative is about the dissection of this emotional fallout, and it doesn’t blow through the murder plot like many American crime dramas.
Each episode ends with intense and frustrating cliff–hangers, so once you start watching, you won’t be able to stop.
Happy Valley is a crime drama that follows police sergeant Catherine Cawood as she busts crime in Happy Valley, named for the prevalence of drug–related crimes. The show reveals the tragedy of Cawood’s personal life and career as she compartmentalizes her own trauma to face the job.
Sarah Lancashire’s acting as Cawood is so real it leaves me in tears after every dramatic scene. I highly encourage crime junkies to watch this one as well.