When the woman who I will soon call my wife stepped into my life, I was suddenly introduced to a plethora of television programming I would have otherwise let fly under my radar and I’m glad I didn’t. 2011 was the year I discovered “Jekyll” and “Sherlock.” While I never truly became a huge “Doctor Who” fan, my fiancee showed me “Torchwood,” which was pretty decent (let’s just forget Miracle Day happened).
Cut to 2014: Season 4 of “Downton Abbey” is in full swing and “Sherlock Series 3” has just finished its run on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery. What is there to watch now? “Sherlock” won’t be back for another couple of years!
Thankfully, my British TV guru of a girlfriend sat down with me and together we marked down 10 British shows you definitely should be watching. Brilliant!
If Britain has a Discovery Channel of their own, “Gadget Man” would definitely be on their lineup. Season 1 of the science show was hosted by Stephen Fry and Richard Ayoade picked up where Fry left off. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Ayoade, he played Dean Learner in “Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place” and more notably portrayed Maurice Moss in “The IT Crowd.” If that’s not enough, Ayoade was John Oliver’s writing partner when the two attended Cambridge together. Much like Bill Nye before him, “Gadget Man” delivers the educational goods while being humorous and entertaining.
Like most of you, I first discovered “Misfits” on Hulu. The program is about a bunch of…well…misfits who have to do community service at a community center in South East London. One day, there’s a strange storm that causes them all to get struck by lightning. The results find these kids having strange powers. What ends up transpiring is more Chronicle than “Heroes.” Leave it to the British to take a tired concept and make it interesting to watch again.
And leave it to America to piggy back on these ideas. Word is, Josh Schwartz (“The O.C”, “Gossip Girl”) is working on making an American version of the show. You’ve been warned.
What I can only describe as a cross between “Mad Men” and “The Newsroom,” “The Hour” is a drama set in the world of journalism at a 1950s news magazine in Britain. Starring Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Dominic West (“The Wire”), and Romola Garai (Atonement), the program features the drama you’d expect from either “Mad Men” or “The Newsroom” along with the quality you’d expect from BBC shows. There’s intrigue and suspense to boot. And if that doesn’t sell you, Peter Capaldi (the new Doctor) guest starred last season as war correspondent Lix Storm. His performance alone is well worth a watch.
Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, “The IT Crowd”) not only stars in “Moone Boy,” but the series is also created and co-written by the multi-talented actor. The story of the program is an adaptation of a comedy short O’Dowd wrote which was inspired by the experiences he had while growing up with an imaginary friend in the small Irish town Roscommon. It’s also worth noting, the program contains animated drawings which may or may not be reminiscent of the early work of Savage Steve Holland. Who knows? I guess it’s best to watch and find out.
“The Wrong Mans”
It was late last year when the advertisements for “The Wrong Mans” started popping up all around Los Angeles. Advertised as a new series on Hulu, I gave the show a shot and was immediately hooked. The story here follows two ordinary co-workers Sam Pinkett (Mathew Baynton) and Phil Bourne (James Corden) who become involved an ever-evolving crime conspiracy that begins after Sam innocently answers a ringing cell phone that he finds at the site of a violent car crash. Talk about a case of mistaken identity!
Here’s a show I should be watching – I just discovered this as I began writing this article! “Peaky Blinders” is a gangster family epic set in Birmingham, England in the year 1919. Inspired by historic events, the story follows the Peaky Blinders gang who were notorious for sewing razor blades in their caps. Cillian Murphy stars as the extremely dangerous boss of the group, Tommy Shelby. Sam Neill also stars as Inspector Chester Campbell. The first six-episode season (or series, as the Brits call them) was given a renewal back in October, so y’all better get caught up now because a second series is coming later this year!
One of the things we are lacking in our current TV landscape in America is a sci-fi/horror anthology series. I’m speaking of the likes of a good modern day “Twilight Zone” (rumor is one is being developed) or a continuation of the tried and true classic “Tales From The Crypt.” The BBC has a show that looks to quench that specific type of thirst in their sci-fi anthology series “Black Mirror.” The allegories expressed in each episode seem reminiscent of Rod Serling’s original TV masterpiece, yet way more on the level of events that could happen in our reality.
The clip below is from the third episode “The Entire History Of You,” which Robert Downey Jr. has received the film rights to. So, you better get on this now before everyone is comparing this episode to the eventual movie.
Did you love “The Killing,” yet hate the constant cancellations/non cancellations of the show? Well, The BBC has a similar whodunnit mystery (drama) that killed it during its first season. The series begins with the death of a kid, just like “The Killing” (and “Twin Peaks” before it), except here it’s a young boy. Soon, detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) step into the picture to investigate the murder. What makes this story unique is they, along with the rest of the town, are also victims of the crime. Not only is a second series set to air sometimes this year in Britain, but Fox is planning an American version to hit the air sometime in the near future. The title of the American version is “Gracepoint” and David Tennant will star alongside “Breaking Bad’s” Anna Gunn.
Stringer Bell! Stringer Bell! Stringer Bell!
Look, anything that has Idris Elba in it is worth all of our time. I don’t care what you say! And you thought he was amazing in “The Wire”? Wait until you get a load of “Luther”! On the program, Elba stars as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther in the Serious Crimes Unit at London’s Metropolitan Police. Given his job and the gruesome sights he has seen, Luther is a damaged man who lives his life in an ethically gray area. Think Vic Mackey from “The Shield,” but cooler.
With three seasons under its belt and the rumor of a possible movie in the near future, “Luther” is definitely worth a watch – if not for the great writing and spot on dialogue, then for the performance of Ruth Wilson as the sociopathic Alice Morgan.
Finally, the piece de resistance…”Orphan Black”!
This is one of those programs that caught my interest roughly around this time last year due to a few of the ads I saw. Let me tell you, the ads did not do this show justice. The strength of “Orphan Black,” aside from the writing, performances, and overall production value, is centered on one person: Tatiana Maslany. The actress is simply brilliant in her multiple roles on screen.
The story revolves around multiple identical women who are soon revealed to be clones. The series’ focus is on Sarah Manning who takes on the identity of her clone Elizabeth Childs after witnessing her suicide. “Orphan Black” explores the moral and ethical implications of human cloning, the concept of personal identity and how this effects the character’s every day relationships. Throw in a bit of intrigue, action, and gruesome story twists and you’ve got one hell of a kick ass show.
Oh, and the first season is now available on Netflix Instant, so you have no reason not to catch up! “Orphan Black” is set to return for a 10 episode 2nd season on April 19th. Be excited. I am!
I’ve really only cracked the surface here – there are tons of other amazing TV shows being created by the BBC. My fiancee is a big fan of programs like “Downton Abbey,” “Mr. Selfridge,” and “Call The Midwife.” What are some of your favorites? Inquiring minds want to know!
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