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10 Best TV Shows in UK | Critics’ Picks and Reviews (2023)

10 Best TV Shows in UK | Critics’ Picks and Reviews (2023)

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Astrid Tran 18 Sep 2023 7 min read

“British TV is rubbish!”, would you believe it? Don’t be panic, it is the famous humorous quote from fictional hotel owner Basil Fawlty in the sitcom “Fawlty Towers”. The truth is that British television has gifted the world with some of the most brilliant, groundbreaking, and binge-worthy shows ever made.

Here are the top 10 Best TV shows in UK to ever come out. We’ll be looking at factors like writing, acting, cultural impact, and more to determine which shows deserve the top spots of the best TV shows in UK ranking. Get ready for laughs, tears, shocks, and surprises as we review iconic British hits that have resonated with viewers nationally and globally. So, Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

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10 Best TV shows in UK

#1 – Downton Abbey

IMDb Rating8.7
Cultural Impact5/5 – Became a global pop culture phenomenon, sparking trends in fashion/decor and renewed interest in the era.
Writing Quality5/5 – Excellent dialogue, well-paced storylines, and memorable character development over 6 seasons.
Acting5/5 – The ensemble cast delivers outstanding performances, fully inhabiting their roles.
Where to watchAmazon Prime Video, Peacock

Easily securing the #1 spot on our list of the best British TV shows is the historical drama Downton Abbey. This wildly popular period piece charmed viewers for 6 seasons with its upstairs-downstairs glimpse into post-Edwardian aristocratic life. The glamorous costumes and gorgeous Highclere Castle filming location added to the appeal. There’s no question why it deserves the first place among the best TV shows in UK.

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#2 – The Office

IMDb Rating8.5
Cultural Impact5/5 – Influenced mockumentary sitcoms and cringe comedy for decades. Relatable workplace themes connected globally.
Writing Quality4/5 – Excellent cringe humor and everyday office satire. Characters and scenes feel real/nuanced.
Acting4/5 – Gervais and the supporting cast portray characters convincingly. Feel like a real documentary.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Peacock

The iconic mockumentary sitcom The Office definitely worthy of being #2 among the best TV shows in UK of all time. Created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this cringe-comedy changed the TV landscape with its brutal depiction of everyday office life. The Office stood out for abandoning laugh tracks and bringing painfully awkward comedy to the small screen.

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Best TV shows in UK- 90 TV shows UK

#3 – Doctor Who

IMDb Rating8.6
Cultural Impact5/5 – Guinness World Record for longest-running sci-fi show. Dedicated fandom, iconic elements (TARDIS, Daleks).
Writing Quality4/5 – Imaginative plots across decades. Good character development of The Doctor and companions.
Acting4/5 – Main/supporting actors portray The Doctor’s incarnations memorably.
Where to watchHBO Max

Rank #3 of best TV shows in UK is the beloved sci-fi series Doctor Who aired for more than 50 years, a cultural institution in the UK and abroad. The concept of an alien Time Lord known as The Doctor exploring space and time in the TARDIS time machine has enthralled generations. With its quirky British charm, Doctor Who has amassed a devoted fandom and cemented its place as one of the most creative, groundbreaking series on UK television.

#4 – The Great British Bake Off

IMDb Rating8.6
Cultural Impact4/5 – Boosted interest in baking as a hobby. Popularized hosts/judges as household names.
Writing Quality3/5 – Formulaic reality show structure, but appeals to a wide audience.
Acting4/5 – Judges have great on-screen chemistry. Hosts provide funny commentary.
Where to watchNetflix

This beloved reality series captures a range of amateur bakers competing to impress judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith with their baking skills. The passion of the contestants and mouth-watering desserts they perfect provide feel-good vibes. And the judges and hosts have fantastic chemistry. Through 10 seasons on air so far, the show has earned certain recognition among the best TV shows in UK today.

Best TV shows in UK – Popular Bristish Reality show

#5 – Sherlock

IMDb Rating9.1
Cultural Impact5/5 – Revitalized the classic Holmes stories for modern audiences. Inspired by strong fan culture.
Writing Quality5/5 – Clever plots with good modern twists on originals. Sharp, witty dialogue.
Acting5/5 – Cumberbatch and Freeman shine as the iconic Holmes and Watson duo.
Where to watchNetflix, Amazon Prime Video

At #5 on our ranking of the best TV shows in UK is the detective drama series Sherlock. It brilliantly modernized the original stories into thrilling adventures full of mystery, action, and suspense, that totally captivated today’s viewers. The superb writing and acting have made this one of the most popular TV shows in England in recent years.

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Best TV shows in UK | Image: bbc

#6 – Blackadder

IMDb Rating8.9
Cultural Impact5/5 – Considered one of the greats of British comedy. Influenced other satires.
Writing Quality5/5 – Clever dialogue and gags. Great satire of different historical eras.
Acting4/5 – Rowan Atkinson shines as the conniving Blackadder.
Where to watchBritBox, Amazon Prime

A clever historical sitcom Blackadder is one of the best TV shows in UK, known for its biting wit, hilarious gags, and physical comedy. Blackadder satirized each era it portrayed, from the Middle Ages to WWI. Intelligent, fast-paced, and wildly funny, Blackadder has stood the test of time as one of the UK’s most successful sitcoms ever made.

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Best TV shows in UK

#7 – Peaky Blinders

IMDb Rating8.8
Cultural Impact4/5 – Inspired fashion/music trends. Boosted Birmingham tourism.
Writing Quality4/5 – Intense crime family drama. Excellent period details.
Acting5/5 – Murphy is outstanding as Tommy Shelby. Great ensemble cast.
Where to watchNetflix

This gritty crime drama takes 7th place in the best TV Shows in UK for good reasons. Set in 1919 Birmingham, With themes of family, loyalty, ambition, and morality, Peaky Blinders is an addictive period crime saga that grabs viewers instantly.

#8 – Fleabag

IMDb Rating8.7
Cultural Impact4/5 – Critically acclaimed hit that resonated with female viewers.
Writing Quality5/5 – Fresh, witty dialogue and poignant moments. Well-crafted Dark comedy.
Acting5/5 – Phoebe Waller-Bridge shines as the dynamic title character.
Where to watchAmazon Prime Video

Fleabag is a 30-something woman struggling to cope with the death of her best friend and the dysfunction of her family. Throughout the series, Fleabag frequently looks directly at the camera and addresses the viewer, sharing her thoughts and feelings, often in a humorous and self-deprecating way.

Best TV shows in UK

#9 – The IT Crowd

IMDb Rating8.5
Cultural Impact4/5 – A cult favorite comedy with relatable tech satire.
Writing Quality4/5 – Absurd storylines and geeky humor appeal to many.
Acting4/5 – Ayoade and O’Dowd have great comedic chemistry.
Where to watchNetflix

Among many best TV shows in UK, the IT Crowd earned a good reputation for its twisting plot and touching scences. Set in the dingy London basement IT department of a fictional corporation, it follows the geeky duo as they hilariously muddle through assisting clueless staff with tech problems and office hijinks.

#10 – Luther

IMDb Rating8.5
Cultural Impact4/5 – Acclaimed for its unique gritty style and portrayal of a complex lead.
Writing Quality4/5 – Dark, thrilling stories of psychological cat-and-mouse games.
Acting5/5 – Elba gives an intense, nuanced performance as Luther.
Where to watchHBO Max

Rounding out the top 10 best TV shows in UK is the gritty crime thriller Luther starring Idris Elba. Luther provided a gripping look at the toll and madness of Luther’s cases tracking down the UK’s worst killers. Elba’s powerful performance drove the show, earning widespread acclaim. As one of the most well-crafted crime dramas of the 2010s, Luther clearly deserves a top 10 of the best British television series.

 best TV shows in UK
Best TV shows in UK

Key Takeaways

From historical dramas to crime thrillers to brilliant comedies, the UK has truly gifted television with some of its very best shows over the decades. This top 10 list is just a few of the amazing programs produced in Britain that have resonated locally and globally.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best TV show in England?

Downton Abbey is considered one of the greatest English TV shows for its critical acclaim, cultural impact, and popularity among UK viewers. Other top contenders include Doctor Who, The Office, Sherlock, and more.

What should I watch on British TV?

For comedy, critically acclaimed series like Fleabag, The IT Crowd, Blackadder, and The Office are must-sees. Riveting dramas like Luther, Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, and Doctor Who also top the list. The Great British Bake Off provides lighthearted entertainment.

What is the number 1 rated TV show?

Many consider the iconic period drama Downton Abbey to be the 1st number-rated and critically acclaimed TV show from the UK, praised for its excellent writing, acting, and broad appeal. Other top UK shows include Doctor Who, Sherlock, Blackadder, and The Office.

What’s new on TV for 2023 UK?

Anticipated new shows include The Fagin File, Red Pen, Zayn & Roma, and The Swimmers. For comedy, new shows Mammals and Worst Roommate Ever. Fans also await new seasons of hits like The Crown, Bridgerton, and The Great British Bake Off.

Ref: IMDb