Years before Downton Abbey became a massive, multiple award-winning worldwide hit, before Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman became the Sherlock and Watson for the Internet age, and before Doctor Who turned 50+, there have been legions of British TV fans on this side of the pond.
If you’re among them, it’s understandable. (And if you’re not, what are you waiting for?) British television programs are some of the most entertaining ones around, and Brit TV enthusiasts are watching everything from Britcoms and mysteries, to crime and costume dramas, on telly, online, and on mobile devices.
To help longtime and newbie fans find something British to watch day or night in the US, The British TV Place has put together this list of sources for series, specials, and made-for-TV movies from the UK, as well as the British Commonwealth territories of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, plus the Republic of Ireland. Check them out, watch something fabulous, and remember to bookmark, share, and visit this page regularly for updated information.
BROADCAST AND CABLE
Before there was Acorn TV, BBC America, or Netflix, there was PBS for British programs. For more than 45 years, the public television network has been the home of Masterpiece in all of its incarnations, starting with Masterpiece Theatre, which brought us I, Claudius, the original Poldark, and The Jewel in the Crown (decades before Indian Summers), amongst other memorable programs.
Today, PBS brings us…
Masterpiece Classic period dramas, such as Poldark and Victoria. Coming soon are the US premieres of Home Fires: Series 2 (final) and To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters. Recent hits include Downton Abbey (which looks to return as a feature film), The Durrells in Corfu (whose second season should debut in the States in late 2017), Mr. Selfridge, and Wolf Hall.
Masterpiece Contemporary dramas, such as political thriller Endgame, starring William Hurt and Chiwetel Ejiofor; romantic drama Framed, starring Trevor Eve and Eve Myles; Lennon Naked, starring Christopher Eccleston; and The Song of Lunch, starring Emma Thompson and the late, great Alan Rickman. Additional Masterpiece Contemporary programs include these thrillers:
And, of course, Masterpiece Mystery whodunits, including the entire series of Inspector Lewis, Inspector Lynley, Wallander, and Zen (which stars the delicious Rufus Sewell, who plays Lord Melbourne in Victoria), and what might be the entire series of Sherlock (if the stars’ busy schedules can’t accommodate a fifth season). The new serial killer drama Dark Angel, starring Downton Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt, will premiere in the US in 2017, as will Season 4 of Endeavour, Season 3 of Grantchester, and Season 2 of The Tunnel (called The Tunnel: Sabotage), the British-French crime thriller adapted from the (excellent) Swedish-Danish series The Bridge.
PBS also offers exceptional British theatre and adapted works under its Great Performances banner, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet (starring David Tennant), Macbeth (starring Patrick Stewart), The Hollow Crown, which includes Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II, and Henry V (starring Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, and Tom Hiddleston), and The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, which includes Henry VI: Parts 1 & 2 and Richard III (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Okonedo).
Last but certainly not least are the British programs that are independent of both Masterpiece and Great Performances. They include Call the Midwife, which returns to PBS with its sixth season in 2017, Last Tango in Halifax, whose fourth and final season will also premiere in the US on PBS in 2017, and these titles:
As for streaming, new episodes of British programs are usually available for a limited time (and for free) at the PBS Video Portal, starting the day after they are broadcast. Select programs and episodes are also available with the PBS app or channel for Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, and Xbox 360, as well as Android and iOS digital devices.
Streaming PBS shows is also available through PBS Passport, which is one of the benefits of being a member of a PBS affiliate station that offers Passport; not all of them do. Contact the station that serves your area to find out if yours does. If yes, you get access to all of the PBS shows available on Passport by contributing $60/year (minimum) or by becoming a sustaining member for $5 or more per month (this is what I do). This level of membership lets you stream the titles on Passport, which at the moment include 186 full episodes of Masterpiece shows, 45 full episodes of a particular UK TV food competition show, and 13 full episodes of a recent Britcom starring two legends of film, TV, and theatre.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on PBS this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Local PBS Member Stations and Independent Public TV Stations
There are 300+ PBS member stations in the US and its territories that broadcast the British programs provided by PBS. Many of them, plus independent public TV stations, also air additional British TV shows that they purchase on their own, thanks to viewer donations that make these program purchases possible. (Hint, hint.)
Shows vary from market to market and station to station, but longtime favorites, from Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances, to Ballykissangel and Monarch of the Glen, tend to show up regularly across many of the stations.
Many British TV shows also premiere in the US exclusively on public TV stations on a local-only basis. This means they are not PBS shows, but simply air on select PBS member stations.
Series that made huge splashes when they debuted on this side of the pond, and have been massively popular in the markets where they have been screening, include DCI Banks (whose fifth and final season premiered on public television in 2016), Death in Paradise (which gets a new lead detective toward the end of Series 6, played by My Hero‘s Ardal O’Hanlon), Father Brown (whose fifth season should arrive on public TV stations in 2017), and Scott & Bailey, which completed its run in the US with a 3-part special in 2016.
Other fan favorites that have premiered stateside on public TV stations in recent years include the Australian The Doctor Blake Mysteries, British crime thriller The Fixer (read my interview with Andrew Buchan, star of The Fixer), and Scottish noir mystery/crime drama Shetland. (Read my interview with Ann Cleeves, bestselling author of the “Shetland” and “Vera Stanhope” novels that inspired both the Shetland and Vera TV series.)
Four brand-new programs that debuted in the States in 2016 on select public TV stations include the titles below. (Read “The RAF Red Arrows: Inside the Bubble” for details about this excellent, adrenaline-packed documentary.)
Speaking of documentaries, American Public Television brings some of the most interesting and fun British documentaries to public TV audiences, including Britain’s Poshest Nannies, The English Gentleman: An Illustrated Guide, Everyday Miracles, and The Wonder of Britain, amongst many others.
Two public TV stations worth noting are KCET and WETA.
KCET, the largest independent public TV station in the US, serves viewers in Southern and Central California, and airs a number of British TV programs. One that premiered in the US exclusively on KCET is the hit comedy Mr. Sloane, created and directed by Emmy® Award winner Robert B. Weide. (Read my interview with him here.)
WETA, which serves the Washington, DC viewing area, is the only public TV station in the US with a digital channel dedicated to British telly. It is WETA UK, and with it you can get your Brit TV on 24/7/365.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on local public television stations this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
BBC America gives US-based Anglophiles with cable TV many of British programming’s worldwide hits, such as the brilliant mystery/crime drama Broadchurch (returning with its third and final series in 2017) and gritty detective drama Luther, whose Season 4 special on New Year’s Day 2016 was like a cool drink of water after a two-year absence from telly.
As the home of Doctor Who in the US, BBC America is the place to see Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord (with a new companion when the series returns in 2017) before he exits the series (along with showrunner Steven Moffat) after the 2017 Christmas special. (Replacing Moffat is Broadchurch‘s Chris Chibnall, and the new Doctor will be played by… ? As of this writing, Oscar® winner Tilda Swinton of Michael Clayton is the bookies’ odds-on favorite.)
The US arm of the Beeb has co-produceed some awesome scripted TV drama series, too, such as The Musketeers, Orphan Black (returning in 2017 for its fifth and final season), and Ripper Street, and has screened several of my favorite 2014, 2015, and 2016 shows, including these:
To see which British TV programs are premiering on BBC America this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Other Broadcast, Cable, and Satellite Channels
Until relatively recently, British TV shows aired primarily on PBS and independent public TV stations, BBC America, and premium cable channels in the US. That has changed in a big way, as many basic cable channels, and even a couple of the big five broadcast networks, have jumped on the Brit TV bandwagon. (Read “The British TV Invasion Is Spreading to More US Channels” for a brief look back and ahead at UK TV in the US.)
In 2015 alone, British productions and co-productions premiered for the first time on AMC (Humans), the CW (Dates), Discovery Life (50 Ways to Kill Your Mother), E! (The Royals), Esquire Network (Spotless), FX (The Bastard Executioner), National Geographic Channel (Saints & Strangers), Pivot (Fortitude), and Spike (Tut). After a long absence, A&E re-entered the realm of British TV in October with The Enfield Haunting.
More series from the UK arrived on US broadcast and basic cable channels in 2016, including Beowulf (Esquire Network), Capital (Pivot), Doctor Foster (Lifetime), Houdini & Doyle (Fox), Versailles (Ovation), and You, Me and the Apocalypse (NBC), amongst several others (below). Brit TV premieres on broadcast/cable so far in 2017 include the must-watch Taboo.
A&E, which picked up the Sean Bean (Sean Bean!) period mystery-thriller series The Frankenstein Chronicles in 2015, has yet to screen the first season in the US (a second has been commissioned), so perhaps they will in 2017.
And, of course, premium cable channels Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and SundanceTV continue to bring some of the finest UK productions and US/UK co-pros to the US, including these:
By the way, you can try Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Sundance Now without going through your cable company. Members of Amazon Prime can add these and other premium channels through Amazon Channels, which gives you a 7-day free trial before the premium channel’s monthly subscription fee kicks in.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on broadcast, cable, and satellite channels this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
SVOD/VOD STREAMING & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD PLATFORMS
(With the explosive growth in popularity of English-subtitled non-English-language programs, Acorn TV has been adding more of these shows, too.)
Its curated content currently covers 250+ titles and 1000+ hours of programming available at any given time to subscribers in the US and Canada, and includes several British TV series for which Acorn TV has the exclusive US premiere rights, including Doc Martin (which is returning with Series 8) and Vera (which author Ann Cleeves has confirmed is returning with Series 7).
Acorn TV debuted the last three episodes of the thirteenth and final season of Agatha Christie’s Poirot in 2014, and in 2015 the eighth and final season of Foyle’s War and the seventh and final season of George Gently. In 2016 Acorn TV had six titles on my list of the 20 best program premieres of the year, including 19-2, 800 Words, Cradle to Grave, Janet King, Nothing Trivial, and Raised by Wolves.
Some of Acorn TV’s most popular series are:
New subscribers get a free 7-day trial to Acorn TV, after which the subscription price is $4.99/month or $49.99/year for on-demand streaming. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can add an Acorn TV subscription through Amazon Channels and watch the SVOD service’s shows through the Amazon Video interface.
Acorn TV also offers some of its titles as pay-per-view (PPV) offerings on Amazon Video, so if the free trial hasn’t tempted you to sign up for the SVOD service, you can still get in on some of its top-notch offerings, including:
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Acorn TV this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Amazon Instant Video & Amazon Prime Video
As the competition between US streaming services continues to amp up, Amazon finally decided to give its customers two MONTHLY subscription options for Prime Video, one of which pits the SVOD service directly against Netflix and Hulu. (You can read all the details in this article.)
And with the name of the streaming game being exclusive content, Amazon has also upped the ante in this area by increasing the number of program acquisitions and productions for its Amazon Original series. Within the former are shows such as the hilarious British rom-com Catastrophe, the fabulous dramedy Fleabag, the highly-addictive Irish soap opera Red Rock, and The Collection, Amazon’s very first UK drama commission. Another is Doctor Thorne, Julian Fellowes’ first post-Downton Abbey TV drama.
Much of what makes up Prime Video‘s exclusive content — which, by the way, can be downloaded — comes from the deals Amazon has made with BBC Worldwide and PBS, amongst other distributors. For many viewers, titles from one or both of them, including Doctor Who and Downton Abbey, are reason enough to spend $8.99 per month on a Prime Video-only subscription. (If you were one of the millions who wondered why Doctor Who disappeared from both Netflix and Hulu, this is why.)
For folks who’d like to watch shows from select premium cable channels and SVOD streaming services through Amazon Video, Prime Video members can add one or more Amazon Channels to do that.
Of course, you can stream loads of TV shows from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada without a Prime membership. Amazon Instant Video lets you watch…
- Select Prime Video programs on a PPV basis.
- Regular season and special episodes of select shows the day after they premiere in the US on national broadcast and basic cable channels.
- British and other international series that haven’t aired in the US (ever or in a long time), or that screened in a limited geography (like the shows that premiere on public TV stations on a local-only basis).
To see which British TV programs have been added to Amazon Instant Video and/or Prime Video this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
This new US SVOD service from BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the Beeb, and ITV, the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, is due to launch in spring 2017, and many stateside Brit TV fans cannot be more excited. Access to its ad-free content, including exclusive titles (of course), will be available on multiple platforms via subscription. For further details, read “The British Are Coming… with BritBox, Giving Brit TV Fans More UK Shows to Stream in the US” and “BritBox: Update About the New BBC-ITV British TV SVOD Service for US.” This section will be updated as new information becomes available and after BritBox goes live.
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DramaFever, best known for streaming Asian-language programs (with or without English subtitles), added several BBC period dramas to its library in 2015, and has increased the number of its British TV offerings since then.
While DramaFever has both free/ad-supported and paid/no-ads versions of its VOD/SVOD service, viewers must be members of DramaFever Premium in order to access the British titles. The cost of entry is lower than other services; subscriptions start at $1/month.
With Eurochannel‘s move off of the Dish Network, you can now watch its rotated British and Irish content on the Eurochannel channel on Dailymotion, with Sling International, and on Android devices with the Eurochannel app. Visit the company’s website for information about which series are currently available.
Google Play is the online search and advertising giant’s store. Ever since Google attended its first BBC Showcase in 2014, its library of British TV titles has been growing, although none of them are exclusive. The best way to find the shows you’re looking for is to browse through the network pages for BBC America, HBO, PBS, and Showtime.
In 2013 Hulu acquired thousands of additional episodes from the BBC. Most of them have since vanished, but new ones have been added as Hulu continues to bring British (including Scottish and Welsh), Australian and New Zealander, Canadian, and Irish titles to its subscribers, including exclusives such as Drifters, My Mad Fat Diary, Spy, and Stella.
Hulu premiered the first three seasons of the utterly brilliant crime drama Line of Duty in the US, and there’s no reason to think it won’t do the same with the upcoming fourth season. And since the demise of Pivot, Hulu is the only place where you can watch the fourth and final season of the award-winning Aussie dramedy Please Like Me.
In March 2017 Hulu brings stateside Brit TV fans the drama National Treasure, starring Harry Potter alums Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters (read “National Treasure: Ripped-from-the-UK-Headlines Miniseries Premiering in the US” for details), and Harlots, a racy, ensemble-cast period drama starring Samantha Morton (The Last Panthers), Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), and Lesley Manville (River).
A Hulu subscription costs $7.99/month for the limited-commercials plan and $11.99/month for the commercial-free plan. Both include shows in HD and access on mobile devices and through media streaming gadgets and game consoles.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Hulu/Hulu Plus this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
iTunes has a wealth of Brit TV program seasons and episodes available for purchase/download. Most are available on (S)VOD services, but a few are exclusive to iTunes (at least for now). For Whovians, several multi-episode stories from the Classic Doctor Who series are currently exclusive to iTunes, including Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World starring Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord starring Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, and Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis starring Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy.
Netflix is the largest SVOD service on the planet, with more than 93 million subscribers worldwide as of January 2017, inclusive of the 49 million subscribers in the US.
“The world’s leading Internet television network” has a ridiculous amount of money, and with it Netflix can acquire or commission whichever programs founder Reed Hastings and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos want. And what they want are shows that appeal to viewers in pretty much every demographic and psychographic segment, including young and old fans of niche genres like British TV. Equally as important, if not more so, they want shows they can stream in all (or most of) their territories.
That means as much exclusive content as possible, whether acquired or commissioned, which is why the number of Netflix Original titles continues to grow, as does its list of award winners, including the excellent British historical drama The Crown.
Speaking of niche and exclusive shows, if it’s Scottish comedies you want to watch, Netflix is the place to do it in the US. These are my four favorites:
And speaking of what subscribers want, you can now download many of Netflix’s titles. (Here’s a list of 100 British+ Netflix shows you can download right now.) After years of not allowing downloads, despite the growing use of mobile devices to watch Netflix programs, the SVOD service finally relented. (That Amazon has been allowing Prime members to download titles for a few years probably contributed to their decision.)
Anyhoo, Netflix has been bringing some of the best UK shows to the US for a while, especially the past few years. In 2014 the streaming giant premiered the critically-acclaimed crime drama Happy Valley, Welsh noir detective drama Hinterland, period gangster drama Peaky Blinders, and multiple-killer drama Southcliffe — all of which made my 2014 list of favorites. More exclusives followed in 2015, including Series 2 of the Belfast-set psychological crime thriller The Fall, the third and final series of the hit Aussie mystery drama Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and the mystery miniseries River, the best new UK drama premiere in the US of that year.
And in 2016 Netflix premiered four of my top 20 UK TV premieres in the US, including The Crown, the Australian sci-fi drama Glitch, the Italy/UK/France-produced historical drama Medici: Masters of Florence, and the Canadian/American sci-fi drama Travelers. Other exclusives included mystery/crime dramas Marcella and Paranoid, as well as these highly-anticipated returning series:
Lastly, often overlooked in our streaming society is the Netflix DVD subscription service. (Yes, it still exists.) Many UK programs in Netflix’s library aren’t streaming anywhere in the US, not even on Netflix. They are, though, available to rent on DVD, such as these titles:
Netflix subscription prices for both streaming and DVDs vary depending on how many users are affiliated with the account, whether a subscriber wants more than one screen and shows in HD or Ultra HD, how many DVDs a subscriber can have at one time, etc.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Netflix this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Seeso is the ad-free, comedy-only SVOD streaming service from NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises. Content includes classic and recent British comedies, such as Flowers, starring Olivia Colman (Broadchurch, The Night Manager), which made its US premiere exclusively on Seeso.
While some of its British titles, such as A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and The Office (UK), are available on other streaming services, Seeso does have exclusives, including:
You can sample Seeso’s offerings through its daily, rotating roster of free episodes, including those under the British section. To watch entire seasons requires getting the $3.99/month subscription, which you can get on its website or through Amazon Channels.
Vibrant TV‘s English-language programming hails chiefly from Australia and New Zealand, followed by the UK, and includes a number of titles that are exclusive to the network. You can access its content on demand via an SVOD subscription ($4.99/month), or go the free, appointment-viewing route by tuning into the over-the-air broadcasts on telly (available in limited geographies) or watching the ad-supported live stream simulcast. For further details, read “Where to Watch British TV in the US: Updates Include Vibrant TV Network.”
(Brit TV fans who also enjoy English-subtitled, foreign-language Euro TV shows should check out Vibrant TV’s Euro TV offerings. Read more about them in “Vibrant TV Network Brings Exclusive Euro TV Shows to US Audiences.”)
Vudu is Walmart’s video service. Since it launched, it has been constantly adding content, including Brit hits and new British programs, from Atlantis to Pride and Prejudice (yes, the one with Colin Firth).
Similar to Amazon Instant Video, you pay for programs on a per-episode or -season basis on Vudu. The pricing is comparable, and there are often sales on select shows and films. One difference is that, with Vudu, you can purchase multi-season bundles at a reduced price. (You save even more when the bundles go on sale.)
Bundles aren’t limited to television seasons, either. For example, there are themed Doctor Who bundles for the Cybermen, the Daleks, the Master, and the Weeping Angels. There are movie bundles, too, including a handful for British films.
How does one watch programs from Vudu? On the Vudu website, on telly (with any number of streaming media players, Bluray players, HDTVs, and game consoles), on iOS and Android devices, and on your desktop/laptop (via download).
FREE STREAMING SITES & CHANNELS ON ROKU, FIRE STICK, CHROMECAST
Some of the British TV shows on the following free, ad-supported websites and Roku / Fire Stick / Chromecast channels are available elsewhere, either for a fee or for free. Note that program offerings on a service’s website (where applicable) and its streaming device channel may differ, and that the listings of shows below are accurate as of this writing.
Crackle — Crackle‘s TV program offerings are decidedly non-British, but as that’s about to change. In March 2017 it premieres Snatch, a new TV series based on the awesome film of the same name that starred Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, and Brad Pitt. Snatch the TV series will star Rupert Grint (Harry Potter), Luke Pasqualino (The Musketeers), Dougray Scott (Hemlock Grove), and Marc Warren (Hustle), amongst others in the ensemble cast.
EndemolShineInternational — This Roku channel lets you stream a number of British and Aussie TV shows, including Britcom Plus One, dramas Eternal Law, The Shire, and The Smoke, and several reality series.
Popcornflix — Shows available for streaming on the Popcornflix website and Roku channel include Canadian sci-fi drama ReGenesis, British sitcom Outnumbered, and a few reality shows from Down Under.
Tubi TV — Tubi TV is one of my favorite sources for streaming shows from across the pond, north of the border, and Down Under for free. (The other is Yahoo View; see below for details.) Most of its titles are available elsewhere (with or without ads), but Tubi TV does have a few exclusives, including the Irish drama Raw and these shows:
For more details, read “Tubi TV: 7 Reasons to Use This Streaming Service for British TV.”
Viewster — Viewster, based in Zurich, Switzerland, used to have many more Brit and related TV series. As of February 2017, the streaming service has the Canadian series Charlie Jade, Haphead, and Space Janitors.
WatchFreeFlix — The British programs on this Roku channel are mostly in the documentary, travel, and reality genres.
Yahoo View — For all intents and purposes, Yahoo View is what used to be Hulu’s free, ad-supported streaming service. So if you’d like to watch certain Hulu shows, aren’t up for paying the subscription fee, and are willing to deal with the ads, then Yahoo View is for you. Note that not all of Hulu’s subscription titles are available on Yahoo View, but there are still plenty of them.
YouTube — There are also plenty of British TV programs on YouTube, whether full episodes are captured in single or multi-part videos. That they are all copyright protected, that DCMA Takedown Notices are issued daily, and that many YouTube accounts are suspended for copyright infringement, hasn’t stopped people from uploading or watching them. Just pop a keyword into the search and have at it.
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