Best Of British TV Dramas (That Aren’t Downton Abbey)

Because there are alternatives to Downton Abbey…

Yes we get it, everyone loves Downton Abbey. It’s one of the rare British TV shows with the scale and grandeur of premium US drama, and it’s oh so very British. But, alas, all good things must come to an end, and Downton Abbey bows out with its final episode later this year, in news that crushed the hearts of middle aged women worldwide. But us Brits have more than just Downton Abbey to uphold the good name of British television. Here are four of the very best of British TV Drama – all beautifully written, shot and ready for your televisual pleasure.


Michael Gambon in Fortitude

Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude is a big deal. It’s big budget, all star TV the likes of which rarely gets made over in the UK. Starring Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), the hugely likeable Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games), and the excellent Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones), it’s a twisty whodunnit, set in a beautifully shot Arctic research facility, where polar bears roam close to home, and a mysterious spate of deaths threaten to tear down the community.

Episodes: 13

What the critics say: 

Fortitude’s fine cast, deliberate pacing, and chilling setting provide the show with more than enough of the titular quality.

The future of Fortitude: Season two has been confirmed, and will be winging its way to the small screen in 2016.


Utopia, Channel 4
Michael Gambon in Fortitude

Utopia is one pretty show. Vibrant, colourful, and distinctly visual, it’s a feast for the eyes. It follows an intrepid group of conspiracy theorists being hunted down by a secret group known as The Network, who are after a manuscript the group hold possession of. Layered with intrigue, fascinating characters and hard hitting violence, Utopia is a treat – and did I mention how pretty it is?

Episodes: 12

What the critics say:

Utopia was a massive step in the right direction for British TV: a stylish, intelligent and violent contemporary mystery that, hopefully, will now find the audience it deserves…

The future of UtopiaSadly, Utopia will not be back for a third season (boo), but there is a US adaption in the works (sigh) from HBO and David Fincher (hooray)!


Sherlock, BBC
Michael Gambon in Fortitude

Remember when Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) wasn’t linked to every single great role on offer in Hollywood? And when Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) was a British TV regular, rather than Bilbo Baggins himself. Times have changed, but the show that helped to nudge them both towards stardom remains as excellent as ever. With nine feature length episodes of crime solving goodness, it’s low commitment, but nonetheless essential television, featuring outstanding, pitch perfect performances from the two leads.

Episodes: 9

What the critics say:

Honouring the Holmes brand, Sherlock is splendidly acted and still pleases fans who are thirsty for stimulating, intelligently written story arcs.

The future of SherlockHe will return! Sherlock is back for a Christmas special later this year, with the titular hero and his trusty companion returning for a “bubble” episode, apparently to be set in the traditional Sherlock period of Victorian London. The show will then return for its fourth season in 2016.

Peaky Blinders:

Peaky Blinder
Michael Gambon in Fortitude

Think Boardwalk Empire, but set in 1919-1922 Birmingham, England – Peaky Blinders is a rip-roaring, fast paced, violent and sublimely acted view of the crime world. With fantastic production design, a top drawer cast (Cillian Murphy – Batman Begins, Sam Neill – Jurassic Park), and a superb soundtrack/score, Peaky Blinders is a must watch British drama following the Shelby family’s rise through the ranks of power.

Episodes: 12

What the critics say:

However familiar its building blocks, the U.K. gangster drama is positively bursting with irrepressible energy, and it’s proof that, whatever a show’s premise, capable execution is everything.

The future of Peaky BlindersSeason 3 has been confirmed, and the escapades of the Peaky Blinders will continue.


Share your thoughts on your favourite British dramas in the comments below!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ben says:

    You read this and realise how under-appreciated British telly really is. Some great choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luke Kent says:

      There is some great stuff being made in the UK, big fan of Peaky Blinders, great performances, beautifully shot!


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