25 best British shows you can watch in the U.S.

Idris Elba getting out of a car in Luther
(Image credit: Des Willie/BBC)

While there is plenty of good TV in the U.S., the best British shows have a reputation across the pond when it comes to quality. While U.S. shows tend to go on for far more seasons than is necessary (networks don't care if showrunners don't have any good ideas left), British series often avoid that pitfall.

And fortunately a ton of fantastic British shows are available on American streaming services. This way you don't need to use one of the best VPN services to watch them, learn about what the BBC iPlayer is, or what a TV license does.

So, whether you want a show to tide you over until Ted Lasso season 3, or just enjoy the art of traveling without actually traveling, our list of the best British shows you can watch in the U.S. has you covered.

The IT Crowd (Netflix)

It's hard to overestimate the nerd-culture influence of this mid-2000s sitcom. Two socially awkward losers (Richard Ayoade and Chris O'Dowd) toil in a large company's basement IT department, overseen by a clueless but sympathetic boss (Katherine Parkinson) who got the job after lying that she knew a lot about computers. Put them in ridiculous situations that rival the best Seinfeld episodes, and you get an endless series of hilarious (and eventually meme-worthy) moments. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on Netflix

Line of Duty (Amazon Prime Video)

The opposite of the Masterpiece Mystery-style period-piece "cozy," this hit series about police corruption in an unnamed British city is bleak and harsh, but worth watching for the terrific performances by the actors playing the cops under investigation, including Thandie Newton (Westworld), Lennie James (The Walking Dead) and Keeley Hawes (Bodyguard, The Durrells in Corfu). The series keeps you guessing: You can never be sure who's on the up-and-up, and who's on the take. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on Amazon Prime Video and Britbox

Doctor Who (HBO Max)

You can’t discuss British sci-fi — or British TV in general, really — without discussing Doctor Who. On the off chance you’ve never seen an episode before, Doctor Who tells the story of the eponymous Doctor, who travels through space and time in a blue police box. As the show has been going on for more than 50 years, the Doctor occasionally “regenerates” into a new actor and picks up a new team of sidekicks. Part fantasy adventure and part character drama, Doctor Who has endured due in part to its optimistic attitude, and in part due to the sheer scope of the show. When you can go anywhere and anytime in the universe, no story is off-limits. To start, simply pick a Doctor and watch his or her first season. — Marshall Honorof

Stream it on HBO Max

Torchwood (HBO Max)

Torchwood is effectively Doctor Who for adults (though fans of each show aren't always fans of the other). This dark spin-off series has Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness and a group of alien-hunters doing their best to save the planet from hidden threats while also dealing with their own personal issues. The first two seasons (or series, as the British call them) employed the standard “monster of the week” formula but it was in the show’s third season where the proverbial stakes were raised exponentially. I won’t spoil things, but suffice it to say that “Children of Earth” (as the season is named) is one of the darkest and most heart-wrenching TV experiences you’ll have. Though Torchwood floundered in its fourth and final season (Miracle Day), the first three seasons are phenomenal, even if you’ve never watched Doctor Who. — Tony Polanco

Stream it on HBO Max

Britannia (Amazon Prime Video)

This fantastical recreation of the Roman conquest of Britain goes beyond "good" or "bad" — it's completely bonkers and campy fun. We get imperial generals possessed by Celtic spirits, scary Druids with filed teeth and blacked-out eyes, trippy drug-fueled dream sequences (or are they?) and, of course, lots of gore, nudity and betrayal. Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone, True Detective) is a British princess; Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine) is her father; the rest of the cast should be familiar to British TV viewers. If you wondered what Game of Thrones on acid would be like, here's your chance. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on Prime Video

The Thick of It (Hulu)

Before Peter Capaldi played the title character in Doctor Who, he was Malcolm Tucker: a violent, foul-mouthed spin doctor for the Prime Minister. The Thick of It is a dark political comedy, which doesn’t sand off any rough edges of working behind-the-scenes in the British government. Tucker oversees a crew of politicians and their assistants, often wrangling them into shape after they’ve committed some terrible press blunder. Watching Tucker’s unhinged rants is always a joy, but the show is so entertaining due to how believable each new disaster feels. (This is, after all, the show that invented the world “omnishambles.”) Be sure to also watch the tie-in movie, In the Loop, and the American spinoff, Veep. — Marshall Honorof

Stream it on Hulu

Good Omens (Amazon Prime Video)

Technically speaking, Good Omens is a half-British show. But since it’s adapted from a book by two British authors, we’ll let it slide. Amazon and the BBC collaborated to bring Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novel to life, telling a funny, weird and heartfelt story about the Biblical apocalypse. Michael Sheen and David Tennant star as Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively. The former is a prissy angel, the latter is a callous demon, and neither one of them particularly wants the world to end. As they plot to avert Armageddon, they encounter psychics, witches and even the Antichrist: a young boy who’d rather play with his dog than launch a holy war. — Marshall Honorof

Stream it on Prime Video

Starstruck (HBO Max)

One of the best shows of 2021 is this underrated gem of a rom-com. In recommending it to friends, I describe it as Notting Hill-meets-Fleabag, which only sort of gestures at what makes it so delightful. Rose Matafeo co-created the series and stars in it as Jessie, an aimless twentysomething New Zealander living in London. On New Year’s Eve, she has a one-night stand with Tom (Nikesh Patel), who turns out to be a big movie star! While he’s very famous and she’s very, uh, not, they share a magnetic chemistry that cannot be ignored. But chemistry equal a relationship and Jessie and Tom find themselves going in and out of each other’s orbit for months. — Kelly Woo

Stream it on HBO Max

We Are Lady Parts (Peacock)

The hilarious and sweet comedy follows the journey of the titular punk band, composed entirely of Muslim women. They’re searching for a lead guitarist and decide to recruit a total novice, a microbiology Ph.D student named Amina (Anjana Vasan). Amina figured she’d just find a husband and settle down, but when Lady Parts come calling, she finds herself dreaming of rocking out and achieving stardom. The show — which first aired on Channel 4 and is streaming now on Peacock — not only wonderfully depicts Muslim women as fully-fledged characters beyond their hijabs, but it features some truly fantastic bops. You may not be able to get these earworms out of your head! — Kelly Woo

Stream it on Peacock

Monty Python's Flying Circus (Netflix)

Perhaps the Ur-text for all modern TV comedies, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a uniquely British sketch show that’s shaped every aspect of Anglophone pop culture. In this bizarre series of non-sequiturs, you never quite know what the Pythons (the incomparable Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) will get up to next. Among other things, the characters attempt to return a dead parrot to a pet store, sing about cross-dressing lumberjacks, translate the world’s funniest joke into German, run the Ministry of Silly Walks, and learn that nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition. If nothing else, you’ll finally learn where “wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more” originated. — Marshall Honorof

Stream it on Netflix

Great British Bake-Off/Baking Show (Netflix)

Whoever would have thought that a competitive baking show would be such a huge hit? I know I didn’t, but then again there had never really been a show like the Great British Bake Off (or Baking Show, as it's known in the U.S.) before. What sets GBBO apart from other competitive shows is the fact that it’s so incredibly wholesome. The contestants may be working against each other, but it lacks the cut-throat attitude a lot of similar shows tend to have. It’s baking first, winning second. The outlandish (and occasionally hilarious) creations they come up with is just the icing on the proverbial cake. — Tom Pritchard

Stream it on Netflix

Life on Mars (BritBox)

Modern-day Manchester policeman Sam Tyler gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973 — with new clothes and a new ride but the same job. John Simm (the Master in Doctor Who) plays Tyler, yet the real star is Philip Glenister as Tyler's crude, violent but good-hearted supervisor. There's action, violence and a fair bit of humor as Tyler deals with old-fashioned attitudes toward sex, race and gender.while trying to get back to his own time. A sequel, Ashes to Ashes (also on Britbox), pairs up Glenister's character in 1980s London with another time-traveling cop played by Keeley Hawes. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on Britbox via Prime Channels

MI-5 (BritBox)

MI-5 (also known as Spooks) is long-running spy series about a counterterrorism unit in the UK's domestic spy agency features a who's who of British TV actors, including Matthew Macfadyen (Succession), David Oyelowo (Selma), Hugh Laurie (House) and Jenny Agutter (Call the Midwife). The rotating cast is reminiscent of Law and Order, but the show is a lot more dark and violent — you never know who's going to be killed off in the next round of terrorist attacks, hostage crises and personal (and national) betrayals. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on BritBox via Prime Channels

Black Mirror (Netflix)

Back before modern life became a walking, talking, NFT-filled dystopia, Black Mirror was a revolution in the world of sci-fi horror anthology TV. The product of creator Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror spends about 45 minutes to around an hour per episode painting a wild painting of a futuristic scenario. Think Marvel's What If…? but if the question was based around society's connection to technology getting even worse and weirder in a depressing way. While American audiences may think of Black Mirror as one of "ours" since it's on Netflix, it originally debuted on the British television network Channel 4. 

If you've somehow missed Black Mirror by this point, I dare not spoil any of the twists, but I can point out important episodes to watch. Hallmark episodes include Fifteen Million Merits (where civilians toil on stationary bikes to earn points to disable ads in their cells), Be Right Back (where AI is used to revive the dead) and USS Callister (where a video game becomes far too real). — Henry T. Casey

Stream it on Netflix

Fleabag (Amazon Prime Video)

We never learn the real name of Fleabag (played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge). But the more we learn about the main character of this dark comedy/drama, through her ribald fourth-wall breaking monologues and shocking personal revelations, the less we actually need to know her name. Whether Fleabag is dealing with the difficulties of dating men, trying to get along with her godmother (played by Olivia Colman) who is also her father's new girlfriend or trying to process a secret that destroyed her life, she is never low on drama. Adapted from Waller-Bridge's one-woman stage show, and produced for BBC Three in a co-production agreement with Amazon Studios. — Henry T. Casey

Stream it on Prime Video

Ghosts (HBO Max)

The great British sitcom used to rule the comedy world, but good examples are thin on the ground these days. So give thanks for Ghosts, an endearingly old-fashioned show that doesn’t take a mockumentary format or mess around with comedy conventions, but instead sticks to the tried-and-tested of larger-than-life characters, awkward situations and plenty of gags. Created by the ensemble team behind the Horrible Histories kids show (which is well worth a watch at any age), it follows a young couple who move into a country mansion haunted by some rather annoying but not particularly scary ghosts. It's great family viewing, too. — Marc McLaren

Stream it on HBO Max

The Detectorists (The Roku Channel)

You might not think there’s much comedy gold to be found in a show about two metal detecting enthusiasts ambling about Essex in search of buried treasures, but The Detectorists proves otherwise. Stars Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook (who also writes and directs the show) play Lance and Andy, two friends with a passion for metal detecting who seek fortune, fame and romance in the fictional village of Danebury. With help from a remarkable cast of supporting talent (many of whom play recurring roles as members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club) The Detectorists serves up a smorgasbord of dry humor, charming characters and compelling drama. And with three series (Editor's Note: that's U.K. for 'season') plus a special to dig through, there’s hours of entertainment lying in wait for you. — Alex Wawro

Stream it for free on The Roku Channel

Downton Abbey (Netflix)

This period piece was a smash hit on PBS in the States, but in case you haven't seen it, Downton Abbey is a Yorkshire manor house inhabited by the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. As the series opens, the designated heir dies on the Titanic, forcing a search for the next in line — because the family patriarch has only daughters, none can inherit the estate. It sounds terribly stuffy, but the interpersonal drama and intrigue both upstairs and downstairs, leavened with a surprising amount of humor, sucks you in. Maggie Smith steals the show as the  sharp-tongued grandmother who gets all the best lines. — Paul Wagenseil

Stream it on Netflix

The Crown (Netflix)

All hail the exquisite casting of The Crown. The royal drama chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who has been played to perfection by Claire Foy and Olivia Colman (they both won Emmys). Imelda Staunton is next in line, and we fully expect her to rule as an older version of the queen dealing with personal scandals and political problems in the 1990s. At the top of the list of her headaches is the acrimonious and much-publicized divorce between her son, Prince Charles (Dominic West), and his wife, Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki). When it comes to great British actors chewing scenery, you don’t find much better than The Crown. — Kelly Woo

Stream it on Netflix

Luther (HBO Max)

The Brits can do the whole genius-cop-who-lives-life-on-the-edge thing just as well as the Americans, and Luther is proof of that. Idris Elba is Detective John Luther, a troubled soul who causes his bosses no end of problems — but by god he gets results! So no, it’s not exactly original. But don’t worry about that, because Elba is fantastic in the lead role, taking on London’s dark underbelly as he battles his own demons. Ruth Wilson is an able foil as the psychopathic Alice Morgan, and as 21st-century British detective dramas go it’s right up there at the top. — Marc McLaren

Stream it on HBO Max

Catastrophe (Amazon Prime Video)

What happens when an international one-night stand results in a pregnancy? This limited series, which ran from 2015 to 2019, follows Rob (Rob Delaney) and Sharon (Sharon Horgan) as they decide to make a life together, both literally and figuratively. It’s both hilarious and tragic, and takes a hard look at the difficulties in making a relationship last. All the performances are generally strong, and you even get the bittersweet treat of seeing Carrie Fisher in one of her final roles. — Mike Prospero

Stream it on Prime Video

All Creatures Great and Small (PBS)

This quaint series, which originally aired in the UK, is based on the works of James Herriot, the nom de plume of a real-life British vet in midcentury England. If you like pastoral scenes of rolling hills crisscrossed with stone walls and dotted with livestock, then you’ll love this show. It follows Herriot as he starts out on his career as a veterinarian, and learns how to deal with people as much as their animals. — Mike Prospero

PBS is on DirecTV Stream and in select markets for YouTube TV

Sherlock (Digital purchase)

This wildly imaginative reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories is a triumph from start to finish, thanks largely to the fact that it captures the spirit of the books without trying too hard to ape them. The superb cast doesn’t hurt, led by Benedict Cumberbatch in his breakout role as the titular consulting detective and Martin Freeman as his sidekick, John Watson; yes, that’s Smaug and Bilbo Baggins in their first on-screen pairing. The plots are dizzyingly complex at times and it has a tendency to wallow in its own cleverness, but it’s such great fun that you won’t care one jot. — Marc McLaren

Buy it from Amazon, Apple and others

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (Digital purchase)

Based on Susanna Clarke’s book of the same name, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is, in this writer’s opinion, the finest fantasy story since The Lord of the Rings. In the early 19th century, two sorcerous scholars collaborate to bring magic back to England. The only issue is that one of them, Mr Norrell, is a buttoned-up academic, while the other, Jonathan Strange, is a freewheeling savant. Their tumultuous relationship forms the backbone of this affable adventure, which pits them against a malicious faerie who has designs on Strange’s wife. Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan as Strange and Norrell, respectively, provide a solid backbone, but it’s Marc Warren as the delightfully evil Gentleman who steals the show. — Marshall Honorof

Buy it from Apple TV or YouTube

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.