Another year has gone by and a couple hundred more British, Irish, and Canadian shows premiered in the US — a list whittled down to my favorites of 2018.
When you add up the number of programs from the UK, Ireland, and Canada that premiered in the US in 2018 on linear TV and AVOD, SVOD, and TVOD channels — whether they were announced or added to offerings under the radar (all of which you can find in the 2018 archives) — there were about 250 titles in total, give or take. Some of them were brand-spanking new to the States, others were new seasons of returning shows, and the rest were older programs that finally screened on this side of the pond / south of the border.
As always, there were great shows, good shows, shows that were fair to middling, godawful shows, and shows that were utter disappointments after all the hoopla about them. Of the brand new series, a number of them were fabulous — McMafia and Patrick Melrose amongst them — given their compelling storylines, fine acting, and binge-worthy sum totals.
Yet not every critics’ darling made it to my list of favorites, nor is every title on the list an all-around superior production. And folks might argue that some of the shows are rubbish; fair enough. But for me, the 18 programs below merit “favorite” status, because like a restaurant where I’ve become a regular diner, they are shows that I recommend, gush over, and rave about ’til the cows come home.
(Some of the videos contain scenes and language that are not suitable for all viewers.)
Bad Blood (Canada)
The first season of this gripping, Sopranos-like true crime drama is based on the book Business or Blood by Antonio Nicaso. In it Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) delivers an impressive performance as Declan Gardiner, acting boss while Montreal mob head Vito Rizzuto (Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace) is in prison. Hell hath no fury like a ruthless criminal who’s been disrespected. Where to watch in the US: Netflix
A close second for the best new series of the year is this heart-pounding, can’t-miss thriller starring Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) as PTSD-suffering David Budd, the new bodyguard for Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes, The Durrells in Corfu). Budd protects her, saves her, spies on her, and sleeps with her while terrorists have each of them in their sights. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Netflix
Born to Kill (UK)
Two psychopathic teens feature on this list, and this disturbing psychological thriller has one of them. He’s Sam (Jack Rowan, Peaky Blinders), a seemingly average high-schooler who begins to act on his murderous tendencies. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Amazon Video, iTunes, Shudder, Shudder on Amazon, Sundance Now, Sundance Now on Amazon
C.B. Strike (UK)
Adapted from Robert Galbraith‘s best-selling crime novels, this excellent mystery series stars Tom Burke (The Musketeers) and Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), who are perfect as private eye Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. In Season 1’s three stories, Strike investigates a suspicious death, a missing person, and a smear campaign — against him. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Amazon Video, Cinemax, Cinemax on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu
Derry Girls (UK)
A sort of mashup between The Inbetweeners and Moone Boy, this Northern Irish comedy series is a freaking hilarious bit of craic. Set in the ’90s against the backdrop of the Troubles, it follows five teen friends — four Irish gals and a male English cousin — as they navigate life in Derry, where praying to a weeping Virgin Mary statue, cleaning the local chippie, and driving an IRA member across the border is practically par for the course. Where to watch in the US: Netflix
The End of the F***ing World (UK)
This fantabulous dark comedy-drama, based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman, features the other teen psycho on this list: James (Alex Lawther, Howard’s End), a high-schooler who’s graduating from to killing animals to humans. Alyssa (Jessica Barden, Penny Dreadful), his foul-mouthed, anti-establishment classmate, is his intended first victim. That is, until he falls for her during their misadventure-filled road trip to nowhere. Where to watch in the US: Netflix
The über-talented Sean Bean (Sean Bean! Broken) stars in this riveting fantasy-crime drama, a riff on the Frankenstein story and one of my favorite UK TV premieres from 2015. In it he plays John Marlott, a policeman who finds a “corpse” by the River Thames and is tasked with finding the madman who created the monstrous amalgam of children’s body parts. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Netflix
Hidden (Craith) (UK)
At the center of this addictive and disturbing (in that skin-crawling, paranoid-inducing kind of way) Welsh psychological crime thriller is Dylan Harris (Rhodri Meilir, My Family). The dude is unhinged, women who cross his path are would-be and actual victims, and DCI Cadi John (Sian Reese-William, Requiem) is the cop investigating his crimes. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Acorn TV, Acorn TV on Amazon, Amazon Video, iTunes
An Inspector Calls (UK)
Another UK favorite from 2015 is this engrossing TV movie adapted from the play of the same name by J. B. Priestley. Set in 1912, it stars David Thewlis (“Harry Potter” films) as the mysterious Inspector Goole, who visits the home of the wealthy Birling family to interrogate and accuse them in the matter of a young woman’s suicide. Where to watch in the US: Amazon Video, iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu
Killing Eve (UK-US)
Arguably the best new series of the year, this brilliant, addictive, and humor-filled thriller centers on the cat-and-mouse game played by MI5 security officer-turned-unofficial MI6 operative Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy) and psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer, Thirteen) — both of whom are obsessed with each other. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Amazon Video, Hulu, iTunes
Another cracking good comedy series that left me breathless from laughing so hard is this one, created by and starring Jared Keeso (19-2). It revolves around tough guy Wayne (Keeso), his sister and close friends, and their interactions with other Letterkenny locals. The show can veer into the vulgar and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. Read more about it here. Where to watch in the US: Hulu
The love story of the year goes not to Outlander or Victoria but to this beautiful, deeply-moving drama. Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Mr. Selfridge) plays the titular character in the show’s two stories, which are set 60 years apart and connected by one woman (Vanessa Redgrave, Julia). The first story left me in tears and my heart aching for the post-WWII lovers while the second gave me hope for the contemporary lovers. Where to watch in the US: Amazon Video, iTunes, PBS Masterpiece on Amazon, PBS Passport, Vudu
No Offence (UK)
Police procedural dramas don’t get much better or more humorous than this primo one starring Joanna Scanlan (The Thick of It) as DI Vivienne Deering, who in certain scenes left me howling in laughter. Anyhoo, the arc in Season 1 is the investigation by Deering and her team at Friday Street in Manchester to catch a serial killer. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Acorn TV, Acorn TV on Amazon, Amazon Video, iTunes
Our Girl (UK)
Military dramas aren’t really my thing, but the pilot and first season of this one — in which Lacey Turner (EastEnders) delivers a stellar performance as Molly Dawes — were so good, I binged them over two evenings. After realizing the miserable state of her life, Molly alters the trajectory of her future by enlisting in the army after her 18th birthday, then serving as an army medic on her first deployment, a six-month tour of Afghanistan. Where to watch in the US: BritBox, BritBox on Amazon
This series of four made-for-TV movies, which aired in the UK between 2011 and 2014, are satisfying, good old-fashioned mystery stories. In them Paddy Considine (Informer) plays the real-life Jack Whicher, one of Scotland Yard’s first detectives in the mid-19th century, whose damaged reputation as a cop pushed him to become a private detective. Read more about the movies here. Where to watch in the US: Prime Video
One of the most excellent mystery series on telly today, this drama stars Nicola Walker (The Split) and Sanjeev Bhaskar (The Indian Doctor) as DCI Cassie Stuart and DS Sunny Khan, detectives who investigate cold cases after human remains are found in and around London. What makes the show so enthralling are the backstories of the people connected to the victims. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: iTunes, PBS Passport, Prime Video, Vudu
Both Hugh Grant (About a Boy) and Ben Whishaw (London Spy) are truly outstanding in this limited series full of laugh-out-loud moments. The historical dramedy is about the real-life affair between British MP Jeremy Thorpe and stable hand-turned-model Norman Scott, and Thorpe’s attempts to have Scott killed when the latter threatens his career. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Prime Video
X Company (Canada)
This heart-pounding, nail-biting spy thriller set during World War II follows operatives trained at the top-secret Camp X in Canada — played by Jack Laskey (Endeavour), Evelyne Brochu (Orphan Black), and Warren Brown (Luther) — as they conduct one risky mission after another in Europe to help Allied forces win the war. Read more about the show here. Where to watch in the US: Hulu
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