english tv shows

19 Addictive English TV Shows to Binge-Watch Now (and Where to Find Them)

Good English TV shows can be incredibly addicting.

At FluentU, we’ve been specializing in language learning and curating interesting media from all over the world since 2011. 

And here, we’ve got our favorite English TV shows that will appeal to diverse audiences (while exposing you to British pop culture).

With the 19 captivating TV shows we have below, you can start watching top-rated British dramas, comedy and thriller series with tons of fans globally. 

Contents

1. “Doctor Who” (1963-present)

What it’s about: An alien known as The Doctor travels around the universe and goes on many adventures with a lovely assistant in his spaceship.

Where to watch: iTunesGoogle PlayAmazon Prime

“Doctor Who” is probably the most famous British TV science-fiction series. It has been running since 1963 when it was first produced by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and has gone through 13 different Doctors (played by different actors).

Here is a fun game to play: Ask two “Doctor Who” fans who their favorite Doctor is and watch them discuss it passionately for the rest of the day.

Seriously, though, “Doctor Who” has a very strong following and dedicated fanbase who are sometimes known by the informal noun “Whovians.”

Catch a couple of episodes from any season and you can join the debate over which actor played him best!

2. “Sherlock” (2010-2017)

What it’s about: “Sherlock” follows the mystery-solving adventures of the world-famous British detective, Sherlock Holmes, in modern-day Britain.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | BBC iPlayer

In this series, Sherlock Holmes is constantly going up against his arch-nemesis, James Moriarty, in a battle of the mind and intelligence. He has his friend, the army doctor veteran Dr. John Watson, to help him. Sherlock’s main strength is his inductive reasoning, where he can come to an accurate conclusion just by observing details that most people don’t notice. 

If you’re learning English, you can actually watch short clips of British TV series like “Sherlock” and other English videos on FluentU. All of the clips have interactive subtitles for learners on top of transcripts and a video dictionary: 

english tv shows,

There are also personalized quizzes based on each video, with exercises such as listening comprehension and speaking, plus vocabulary flashcards.  

FluentU is available on both web and mobile (Android or iOS).  

3. “Black Mirror” (2011-present)

What it’s about: “Black Mirror” features stories about a dystopian future where technology goes too far.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Netflix

“Black Mirror” is a creative and often unsettling show, with every episode having a separate and different story focusing on unique characters and ideas. All of the stories are connected by one theme: a future where technology has twisted consequences for people.

Although the show does not take place in our current society, every episode will make you think about the current state of humanity. How will technology affect our lives in the future? What would people be willing to do to become famous or defend their beliefs?

You will come away from each episode with many new things to think about, often feeling a little uncomfortable from it.

4. “Sex Education” (2019-present)

What it’s about: “Sex Education” follows the misadventures and love lives of teenagers who are grappling with their sexuality. 

Where to watch: Netflix

This hilarious British comedy follows an awkward teenager named Otis who is doing his best to fit in at high school. He faces all of the typical challenges of a young man, such as finding a girlfriend and, basically, not being awkward.

What doesn’t help is that his mom is a famous sex therapist!

Luckily, he has his best friend Eric to help him sort out his problems. Eric struggles with his own issues, as he is openly gay and curious about cross-dressing, but he comes from a traditional family.

Otis and a new friend start giving out sexual advice to his fellow classmates—for a price, of course.

5. “Line of Duty” (2012-2021)

What it’s about: A team of police officers is tasked with catching bent coppers, which are corrupt police officers who do illegal things for their own benefit.

Where to watch: Netflix | HuluBBC iPlayer (VPN needed if outside of the UK)

This series is very popular with both British and overseas audiences. It’s also one of the highest rated dramas ever, and it’s a personal favorite TV show of mine.

Most police dramas before focused on the police as the good guys who try to catch criminals, but Line of Duty was among the first to turn that formula around: what if there’s a lot of corruption within the police too?

The series is great because every season focuses on a different story. Because of this, you will learn why some police officers turn bad and how difficult it is to catch them!

6. “Dracula” (2020)

What it’s about: “Dracula” is a retelling of the original vampire story—what if he appeared in modern-day Britain?

Where to watch: Netflix

“Dracula” is a mini-series that’s only three episodes long.

The story loosely follows the original novel by Bram Stoker. The series begins in a spooky castle in Eastern Europe. However, Dracula makes his way through time and travels west toward the United Kingdom. You will have to watch it to see how this works!

Claes Bang, who plays Count Dracula in the series, gives an excellent performance. The character is charming and very clever. His foes in this story are the nun Sister Agatha Van Helsing and her descendant Dr. Zoe Van Helsing. If this sounds confusing, then don’t worry! It will all make sense when you watch it.

“Dracula” is a little bit gory but also includes lots of humor and fun moments. Plus, there is a big twist in the third episode that will have you saying what!?

7. “Downtown Abbey” (2010-2015)

What it’s about: “Downton Abbey” follows aristocratic families in the early 1900s and the drama that happens behind closed doors.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | PBS Passport

Downtown Abbey is a hugely popular, award-winning British historical drama. It is a very entertaining series that is focused on the characters and their development throughout the show.

The show spans more than ten years, following the lives of the residents of a country estate as they experience major historical events, from the sinking of the Titanic to World War I and even the outbreak of the Spanish Flu.    

Although this is a drama, it is appropriate for most audiences: The show is rated PG, which in the UK means it is only unsuitable for very young children.

8. “Peaky Blinders” (2013-2022)

What it’s about: “The Peaky Blinders” follows the rise and fall of gangster families in post-WWI Birmingham.

Where to watch: Netflix

Thomas Shelby, played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy, is the head of the Birmingham crime f amily, the Peaky Blinders. The Peaky Blinders are known for wearing typical working-class flat caps and hiding razor blades under them—providing a quick weapon to use in a street brawl. 

There’s a ton of action and intrigue in this show because the Peaky Blinders gang constantly ups their ambitions for more power. They start out as a small gang in Birmingham, and then eventually expand to all over the world.

However, a determined law officer keeps on trying to catch them in a mission to bring order to Birmingham.

9. “The Crown” (2016-present)

What it’s about: “The Crown” is a historical drama about the early years and reign of Queen Elizabeth II

Where to watch: Netflix

Packed full of political drama, this beloved series has won three Golden Globe awards. If you’re a fan of British royalty (or period dramas in general), you’ll enjoy how it goes over most of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, from when she was crowned Queen at 25 all the way to Princess Diana’s death in 1997.  

Although it follows plenty of historical events featuring important people like Winston Churchill, it is not 100% factually or historically accurate. In this way, the writers and producers have taken artistic license. This makes the show a good place to see some history but also enjoy a lot of great moments of drama!

10. “The IT Crowd” (2006-2013)

What it’s about: A mismatched IT team tries to deal with the struggles of office life, with hilarious results. 

Where to watch: Netflix

This sitcom gained a cult following in Britain.

First airing in 2006, this comedy followed the three IT (information technology) employees of the fictional Reynholm Industries.

Roy and Moss are the original IT staff, with Roy constantly trying to avoid work while Moss is brilliant at technology yet socially awkward. At the start of the series, they’re joined by Jen as their manager, who doesn’t know much about technology at all but who got the job through bluffing.

The show successfully showcases dry British humor as applied to the workplace, and later, this series was adapted into a German version.

11. “Top Gear” (UK) (2002-present)

What it’s about: Top Gear takes car reviews to a whole new level, with stunts, wild races and all sorts of creative tests.  

Where to watch: Amazon PrimeNetflix

Top Gear is a popular British TV series that showcases automobiles.

The original 1970s version of the show had a more traditional approach, focusing on explaining car features. The revamped 2000s series made its car reviews flashier testing out cars through all sorts of stunts. For example, they might race a car against another car or even invite celebrities to drive it around a specialized track made for the program.

The results can be unpredictable, such as when one driver ended up driving his car into a ditch. Episodes have also been held all over the world, with the scenery making it even more exciting to watch!

12. “The Great British Bake Off” (2010-present)

What it’s about: “The Great British Bake Off” is a baking competition for amateur bakers. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

In this well-loved show, the bakers participate in a variety of competitions that test their baking and decorating skills, and they get eliminated one by one until one person remains as the champion.

Each episode has three challenges, from having to imitate a dessert from scratch to wowing the judges with a huge batch of baked goods under a tight time limit. The contestants also come from different walks of life all over Britain, and you’ll get to hear their stories throughout the show.

This is an award-winning show that is extremely popular in the U.K. In the U.S. and Canada, it is called “The Great British Baking Show.”

13. “Derry Girls” (2018)

What it’s about: “Derry Girls” is a story of four teenage girls and one boy, and their life at a Catholic high school in the 1900s. 

Where to watch: Netflix

Derry is a city in Northern Ireland famous for its beautiful walls, green fields and troubled political past. The series “Derry Girls” is set in the 1990s. At this time, Ireland and Britain were in a conflict known as The Troubles. 

Although it sounds quite serious, “Derry Girls” is actually a very lighthearted and funny series. There are moments that do reference this difficult time, but overall, “Derry Girls” features four friends who are a group of misfits. The characters get into many humorous situations but their friendship and support for each other remain strong.

14. “The Fall” (2013-2016)

What it’s about: A policewoman and detective struggles to catch a terrible killer who targets young professional women. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | BBC iPlayer (VPN needed if outside the UK) | Netflix

The series is a British-Irish drama. Stella Gibson, a detective, is brought in to investigate a mysterious murder case. She gets pitted against Paul Spector, a social worker who turns out to be a serial killer. Both of them get fascinated with each other as they engage in a battle of wits, with both of them keeping detailed diary entries as the crimes continue to escalate.  

In addition to the drama thriller aspect of the show, there is also a political subplot focused on the relationship between the police and government.

The show is rated 17+ due to the dark themes and confronting content.

15. “The Bodyguard” (2018)

What it’s about: A former Afghanistan war veteran has to guard a prominent political figure with his life, which leads to lots of action and gunfights. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Netflix

This exciting series is full of action and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It also looks at themes such as surveillance, terrorism and anti-war ideas, so it will get you thinking!

David Budd, a police officer who used to be a veteran, is tasked with being the bodyguard of the United Kingdom’s home secretary, the MP (Member of Parliament) Julia Montague.

As you might have guessed, things get complicated between the two as they become close. And when David discovers a government conspiracy (a secret plan to do something harmful) that puts them both at risk, he must decide who to trust and how far he will go to protect those he loves.

16. “The Office” (UK Version) (2001-2003)

What it’s about: A company boss believes he is well-liked and entertaining in the office—but not everyone shares his opinions. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (UK)

“The Office” is a British comedy in the style of a mockumentary. The boss of the office is played by famous comedian Ricky Gervais.

In classic British comedy style, it plays a lot on themes of embarrassment and ineptitude, and there are plenty of moments where you’ll feel embarrassed for the characters on screen. 

It is worth noting that there is an American version of “The Office,” where the boss is played by Steve Carell. If you watch both series, you’ll notice that the British and American versions have different comedy styles. 

17. “Gavin and Stacey” (2007-2019)

What it’s about: “Gavin and Stacey” portrays the romantic story of a young man from Essex named Gavin and his girlfriend from Wales, Stacey.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime (UK)

Many know comedian James Corden as the host of “The Late Late Show” and his viral carpool karaoke videos, but to many Brits, he was the lovable character “Smithy” and writer of widely popular romance drama “Gavin and Stacey.”

“Gavin and Stacey” is a classic series because its characters–and the regular dilemmas that they go through–are so relatable.

Gavin and Stacey first get to know each other over phone calls at work before meeting up and eventually getting married and going through the major relationship milestones. Along the way, their families also get to know each other, and their best friends, Smithy and Nessa, get dragged along into a complicated, love-hate relationship.   

18. “The Inbetweeners” (2008-2010)

What it’s about: The inbetweeners are a group of four high school friends struggling with all the difficulties of teenage life.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Inbetweeners sit between the different groups of “cool” and “uncool” groups of students.

This is an irreverent comedy-drama, and it deals with themes of sex and alcohol. Will, the protagonist, is a teenager who moves to a state school, and to adjust, he makes friends with three other classmates who all have different personalities. In the series, you follow four “coming-of-age” stories, so you get to watch the development of the characters in their personal lives through their teenage years.

“The Inbetweeners” is rated 15+ because it deals with mature themes.

19. “Chewing Gum” (2015-2017)

What it’s about: A repressed young woman tries to lose her virginity while grappling with her religious upbringing. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Netflix

This quirky series follows the story of Tracey Gordon, a 20-something virgin who wants to explore her sexuality.

Chewing Gum is a British sitcom that first aired in 2015. This quirky series follows the story of Tracey Gordon, a 20-something virgin who wants to explore her sexuality, and it’s set in modern London.

There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments throughout the show because Tracey gets into all sorts of awkward situations, including accidentally going to a sex party, doing a sketchy dog-sitting gig and getting a nosebleed when she’s attracted to someone. Other prominent characters include Joy, her strict mother and Cynthia, her equally repressed sister.  

How to Learn English with TV Shows

Simply watching the show is always a basic way to learn some English, but there are other ways that you can get even more out of these TV shows. For one, there’s a lot of interesting vocabulary that you can pick up just from watching top-rated British series:

Here are three ideas to get you started:

Make a family tree

One way to learn English from TV shows, especially dramas, is to make a family tree of your show. A family tree is a diagram that shows the relationships between people. For example, here is a family tree of “The Peaky Blinders.”

If someone is married to another person, you can draw a horizontal line connecting the two characters with a heart. To separate generations, children should appear below their parents.

In this case, though, we want to show the relationships between characters in the show. But not all of these TV shows involve full families. So you could also draw out work relationships (boss, coworkers, departments, etc.), show who are friends and enemies or any other connections that you think are important.

In “Downton Abbey,” there are a ton of characters and family connections to keep track of. Writing these down in a clear chart/diagram will make the show easier to understand and also helps you pay more attention to details.

As you watch more episodes, you can even add character details to your diagram. These could be visual traits (i.e. glasses, blue eyes), personality traits (i.e. shy, powerful) or any other details about the character.

Look up fan theories

The second way that you can learn from TV shows is by looking up fan theories online. Fan theories are predictions (guesses) about what will happen next in the series and discussions about things that have already happened. These ideas are written by fans (people who love the show) in online communities. They look at small clues in the show to try to predict what will happen or find the true meaning behind some scenes.

Reading fan theories is a great way to learn more about not only the show but other fans. You can find these theories by searching on Google for “[TV show name] fan theory,” or by searching Tumblr or Reddit under the name of your show or a character from it. The more complex and popular the show is, the more theories there will be for you to read.

After catching up with the newest episodes, challenge yourself to create a fan theory of your own!

Watch interviews

You can watch behind-the-scenes videos and interviews with the cast members to learn more about the show and the actors. Many talk shows have actors on as guests, and you can simply use a search engine to look for “[Actor/show name] interview” and enjoy.

Many of these interviews go into detail about the characters’ personalities or small things that the director hid on the set. You can use this information in your family tree or charts, to write down any fun facts or secrets about the show to look out for as well.

Using these new ideas, as well as writing down and looking up new words and phrases that you hear, can help you get the most out of your dramas.

Why Learn English with British TV Shows?

Finally, here’s why British TV shows are a great resource for learning English: 

  • They add common slang terms to your English vocabulary. Since British TV shows are generally created for a British audience, the dialogue will include common British slang terms. By watching these TV shows, you will hear casual language that you might miss in a language course.
  • Practice listening to and understanding British accents. British accents sound very different than Australian or American accents. As you watch British TV shows, you will become more and more comfortable with understanding British accents. 
  • Learn more about British culture and history. Sure, learning British English phrases might be your main goal. But as you watch British TV, you will also learn more about British culture and history.
  • Lots of people watch them. There are plenty of top-notch British shows that are widely known, even across different English-speaking countries and even globally. When you watch shows that many people like, you can talk about the show with more people.
  • Achieve fluency in a fun and enjoyable way. Who does not love watching TV? This is a fun and relaxed way to learn a language.

Host a viewing party or simply put on Netflix for a night in. Either way, watching British TV series is an enjoyable way to work towards English fluency.

There are many genres available, so choose one that you think you will like best. If you choose a drama show, just remember that most dramas are for more mature viewers because of the serious themes that they include.

Now that you have several English TV shows to get you started, you can make some popcorn and begin binge-watching. Pick one of the shows from above and don’t forget your pen and paper!

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