7 British TV Shows You’d Be Bonkers to Miss

American television is cool and all, but have you considered watching British TV instead?
May 24, 2018
8 mins read

The end of the semester is upon us and summer has arrived. For the students not traveling the world, learning from internships or taking classes, they have a lot of time on their hands.

A great way to spend that free time is to catch up on TV shows, but instead of watching American shows, how about British ones? There are tons of amazing shows from across the pond that many Americans don’t know exist. So, here’s a list of some of my favorite British TV shows to watch.

1. “Doctor Who”

A British classic that first premiered in 1963, “Doctor Who” is about a 100-year-old alien called The Doctor. He is a Time Lord, which means he can regenerate himself into a new form every time he dies (this involves changing the actors who play the character every few years).

The Doctor travels around time and space in his ship called the T.A.R.D.I.S., usually with a human friend to bring his ego down. They go on adventures and save the universe from evil, like the Daleks who want to kill everything that lives. No need to watch the original from 55 years ago, they rebooted the show in 2005. It seems like a weird show for sci-fi geeks, but it actually is a lot of fun and has emotion and heart.

2. “Broadchurch”

Premiering in 2013, “Broadchurch” is a crime drama about the death of an 11-year-old boy named Danny, in a sleepy unassuming town on the English coast. It follows detectives Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller as they search for the boy’s killer.

The show isn’t just about the murder mystery; it delves into the grief and hardships of Danny’s family and the secrets the citizens of the town conceal, which lead to Danny’s murder. “Broadchurch” is a character-driven show that was nominated for seven BAFTA’s (British Academy Film Awards) and kept the intrigue and drama going even after the murder was solved.

3. “Ambulance”

A documentary-style TV show, “Ambulance” looks into the world of emergency service, from the control room to the responders on the streets. It focuses on the West Midlands Ambulance Service, the second largest ambulance service in the U.K.

You watch as the control room has to prioritize ambulances for those who need it most, to the crews helping birth babies and respond to heart attacks and car crashes. There are in-person interviews with many of the paramedics as they describe the stresses and reality of their job, like tightening budgets and the deaths of patients, to the joys of helping others.

“Ambulance” is an emotional and heartfelt show everyone should take a look at. (Honorable mention: There’s a similar show called “999: What’s your Emergency,” which follows police, firefighters and paramedics.)

4. “Gogglebox”


This reality show is not the kind you would find in the U.S. It’s not about the lives of the rich and famous or the lives of societies outcasts. Instead, “Gogglebox” has regular families and friends of all ages reacting to shows on TV. It’s similar to the reaction genre of videos you can find on YouTube and there’s an American version called “The People’s Couch” (now canceled), which is more accessible for Americans to view.

The people on both shows give their unfiltered opinions on TV shows, news, movies and more. When you can’t discuss shows with your non-TV watching friends, “Gogglebox” lets you see if others had the same thoughts and reactions as you did.

5. “Victoria”

Everyone’s heard of the Victorian era, and this show tells the story of the queen who created it. “Victoria” begins with Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne at the age of 18 and explores her trying to rule Britain and its colonies as a woman in 1837. She faces challenges from the people of Britain and politicians in parliament, aiming to appease everyone and to prove that she’s not an immature girl who cannot lead a country.

The seasons continue with Victoria’s passionate and volatile relationship to her cousin/husband, Prince Albert, as a source of drama. It doesn’t focus solely on the royalty though. There’s also attention paid to the problems of the servants, from supporting poor relatives to secret relationships. It might seem like a dull historical show but its dramatic and will keep you coming back for more.

6. “Call the Midwife”

Another historical type show, “Call the Midwife” takes place in the 1950s and ’60s East London as a group of midwives deliver babies in the working-class neighborhood of Poplar.

Many historical events affect the day to day lives of the characters in the show such as the effects of thalidomide (a medication that causes disabilities in thousands of babies), the beginning of using nitrous oxide as pain relief for labor, the introduction of birth control pills and the possibilities of nuclear warfare.

“Call the Midwife” also tackle issues like illegal homosexuality in the ’50s and ’60s, stillbirths, abortion, sexism, racism, poverty and domestic violence. Other than the significant topics, it’s fun to watch the female nurses go on dates, confide in one another and try to help expecting mothers (and sometimes the whole family) with bigger worries than the baby on the way.

7. “Bad Education”

A hilarious show, which ran for 3 seasons and had its own movie, stars comedian Jack Whitehall as Alfie Wickers, a horrible high school history teacher who’s just as immature as the kids he teaches.

Students like the inappropriately flirty Chantelle, the awkwardly pathetic Joe and tough guy Mitchell, often insult their teacher (he insults them right back), but still help Alfie with his crazy shenanigans. “Bad Education” is a bit crude and stereotypical, but it’s a good laugh if you want to casually watch a show without having to invest all your time (*cough* “Game of Thrones” *cough*).

Isabelle Mencia, University of Florida

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Isabelle Mencia

University of Florida

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