There’s plenty of British TV on Hulu, but what’s the best?
Sure, you could enjoy Colin Firth striding gallantly out of a pond in Pride and Prejudice again — it’s a classic. Yes, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks are always there if you need them. Fine, if you feel the need to watch another bodice-ripping take on the story of Henry VIII you could check out The Tudors, if you want. But what about something a little more fresh, emblematic of all the incredible shows that are coming out of the UK?
We’ve gone through Hulu’s British TV shows to find the best series you should really add to your list. From Michaela Coel’s incredibly powerful I May Destroy You to everyone’s favourite cat-and-mouse game Killing Eve, these UK-produced shows are long-loved classics, provocative hidden gems, and newer showstoppers that everyone can’t stop talking about.
1. I May Destroy You
Credit: Natalie Seery / HBO
One of the best British TV shows of 2020, Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You earned her Emmy and BAFTA awards, and critical praise worldwide. The series follows Coel as Arabella, who takes a break from writing her book to meet up with friends for a night out. The next day, with limited recollection of what happened, she realises she has been raped by a stranger. The series is based on Coel’s own experience of sexual assault, and asks important questions about sexual violence and onscreen representation.
“The contents of I May Destroy You has the power to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about who rape happens to, and what sexual violence really looks like. That act of service could not be more necessary,” wrote Mashable’s Rachel Thompson in her review. “You won’t be able to shake I May Destroy You from your thoughts. After watching, you’ll close your laptop, or turn off your television, but I guarantee you this: it will stay with you.” — Shannon Connellan, UK Editor
2. Killing Eve
The ultimate game of cat and mouse, Killing Eve is a truly addictive thriller that will have you wanting to run about town in a fluffy pink tulle dress but hopefully not doing crimes in it. Created by Fleabag queen Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the series centres around meticulous MI5 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and intense assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) who find themselves relentlessly drawn toward one another. We’re on three seasons so far, each spinning a tangled web and keeping you on your toes with the actors’ incredible performances and Waller-Bridge’s signature sharp writing. — S.C.
If you haven’t joined DCI John Luther for a murder investigation, you should really get on it. Idris Elba stars in the titular role of this psychological crime thriller series, one that sees an overly dedicated detective chasing twisted criminals (sometimes too close to home) across London. An unsettlingly villainous Ruth Wilson and intense Indira Varma are highlights of the early days of the dark crime series, which was created by Neil Cross. The twists and turns of Luther are genuine pivots, so hold onto your butts. — S.C.
4. Normal People
Credit: Enda Bowe / Hulu
Yes, it’s Irish, but it was produced by BBC Three so we’re counting it in here (any excuse). Based on Sally Rooney’s novel, the BBC/Hulu’s tear-jerking adaptation of Normal People seemed to capture everybody’s hearts when it aired in spring 2020, and with good reason. Telling the years-long story of the romance between two troubled Irish teenagers, Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), the show spliced beautiful writing and cinematography with gut-wrenching performances.
“Before watching, know this: there will be feelings, and plenty of them,” wrote Mashable’s Rachel Thompson in her review. “You might cry (I certainly did). You might see your own experience in amongst the drama. You might remember past loves, past heartbreaks. You might, for a brief moment, remember what life and love was like before COVID-19. And for that, you will feel thankful, young again, alive, and no longer numb.”* — Sam Haysom, Deputy UK Editor
5. This Way Up
Credit: Channel 4
Created by and starring Aisling Bea, whipsmart, hilarious, and poignant Channel 4 series This Way Up is a song for the lonely, as Cher would put it. Bea stars as Aine, a London teacher who’s really going through it, while Sharon Horgan stars as her sister Shona, who has her back through any and all storms. Season 1 is “one of the few accurate portrayals of millennial loneliness that truly distills the reality of what it’s like to be lonely in a city packed with people,” while Season 2 “captures mental health issues and sisterly relationships with compassion.” — S.C.
6. Love Island
“I’ve got a text!” If these words mean nothing to you then chances are you’re missing out, hun. Love Island season marks the beginning of the horniest time of year in Britain, when the words “can I pull you for a chat” promise a world of opportunity for bevs, NVQs, and getting pied. ITV’s Love Island sees 11 islanders share a villa in Mallorca, Spain, where, upon arrival, they couple up with someone they fancy, and promptly have to share a bed with them until the producers announce a recoupling. As islanders get to know one another, loyalties change, and curveballs are thrown in when “bombshells” show up at the villa to make contestants question who they really want to be with — the person in their bed, or the new person standing before them? Will their decision lead to someone getting dumped from the island? Choices are made, some of them good, some terrible — but you’ll likely be unable to tear yourself away from the messy drama of it all. It is what it is, babes. — Rachel Thompson, Senior Culture Reporter
7. Absolutely Fabulous
Credit: Don Smith / Radio Times / Getty Images
Sweetie, darling, if you haven’t watched Absolutely Fabulous, grab a bottle of Bolly or Stoli or both, and let’s get bloody going, shall we? Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are simply everything as the iconic Edina and Patsy, Eddy and Pats, inseparable friends creating chaos in the high-flying London fashion world, spectacularly tumbling out of cabs and generally recovering face down on Eddy’s kitchen table. Offsetting the pair’s hilarious, booze-fuelled pandemonium is Edina’s long-suffering, haughty daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), her mischievous mother (June Whitfield), and her well-meaning but fairly useless assistant Bubble (Jane Horrocks). — S.C.
8. Years and Years
Credit: BBC / Red Productions / Guy Farrow
Years and Years, a six-episode series co-produced by the BBC and HBO, is the show all Black Mirror fans need to watch. “If you’re partial to shows that fill you with a deep-rooted sense of terror about the direction our society’s headed, you’ll almost certainly love it,” Mashable’s Sam Haysom writes in his review. Written by Queer as Folk creator Russell T. Davies (also responsible for the resurrection of Doctor Who and the incredible It’s A Sin), the series focuses on the Lyons family (Rory Kinnear, Russell Tovey, Jessica Hynes, Ruth Madeley, and Anne Reid) over 15 years from 2019. “It starts in the present day and immediately lulls us into a false sense of realism,” Haysom writes, “as one of the main characters drives along listening to a BBC Radio 4 news bulletin about real-life 2019 issues. Theresa May. Brexit. The death of Doris Day. The show makes it clear that it’s set in the same world we inhabit — and then it swiftly pulls the rug out from under us.” Emma Thompson also stars as the far-right, Trump-like politician Vivienne Rook and it’s a little too real. — S.C.
Credit: Channel 4
Unlike fellow show about sixth form students The Inbetweeners, Skins isn’t just an out-and-out comedy — it also contains a fair bit of drama and darkness. One of the interesting things about Skins is its structure — every two seasons we get a new group of characters, following them on their two-year journey through college in the city of Bristol, and injecting the show with a batch of fresh faces. The same issues and themes crop up throughout, though, with the show refusing to shy away from topics like bereavement, mental illness and suicide. Does it get slightly far-fetched every now and then? Yes. But at its best (as it is in the first two seasons), it’s an engaging and poignant study of complex characters navigating a difficult chapter in life.* – S.H.
10. His Dark Materials
It’s one that polarised people, but the sheer ambition, stunning visuals, and frankly terrifying performance from Ruth Wilson make His Dark Materials a banger in my book. Based on author Philip Pullman’s beloved novel trilogy of the same name, His Dark Materials centres around young Lyra (Dafne Keen), who lives in a world where humans enjoy the company of their own souls in animal form, referred to as daemons. When Lyra’s friend goes missing amid a string of child kidnappings, she discovers a magical secret to do with her uncle Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and her mysterious new guardian Mrs Coulter (Wilson). So, we’re off on an adventure that spans worlds and realities, where Lyra will meet allies like Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and more. Truth be told, it’s the first season of the show we’re really championing here. As Brooke Bajgrowicz writes for Mashable, “His Dark Materials already had all the building blocks it needed to churn out a swift second season. With a determined protagonist, a well-developed magical story world, and a cliff-hanger finale marking the end of the first season, its potential was massive. The series just had to find a way to speed up its pace and add in some excitement. Unfortunately, while Season 2 remains somewhat entertaining, it makes few attempts to expand upon the greatest features of the first season.” — S.C.
11. Peep Show
Shot in an instantly-recognisable POV style with the main characters’ voiceovers revealing their every thought, Peep Show is pretty much a British cult classic at this point. Following two mismatched housemates, Mark (David Mitchell) and Jeremy (Robert Webb), the show delights in awkward social interactions and the British stereotype — embodied perfectly by Mitchell — of being hopelessly over-apologetic and nowhere near assertive enough. This one’s also worth watching for a pre-Oscar Olivia Colman as Mark’s on-again-off-again partner Sophie, and Matt King as the wildly unpredictable Super Hans. Just brace yourself before you go in, though — it’s a bit of a cringe-fest. — S.H.
12. Line of Duty
Credit: BBC / World Productions / Steffan Hill
Bent coppers beware, as Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) are here to bring the might of Anti-Corruption Unit 12 (AC-12) down on you. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the wee donkey, Line of Duty is all anyone can talk about in the UK. When the sixth season of Jed Mercurio’s beloved police corruption drama landed on BBC in March 2021, Twitter exploded over the awaited “bent coppers” line delivered by Hastings.
Although the final episode polarised fans, Season 6 of Line of Duty was undeniably one of the shows that had people glued to their sets during yet another lockdown in the UK (but as it does every season, really). There are excellent performances across the seasons too from some of Britain’s best actors, including Thandiwe Newton as DCI Roseanne Huntley, Keeley Hawes as DI Lindsay Denton, Lennie James as DCI Tony Gates, and Kelly Macdonald as DCI Joanne Davidson.* — S.C.
If there was a show that embodied the feelings of being at home during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic more than Staged, I’ll eat my hat. Good Omens buddies David Tennant and Michael Sheen teamed up to create a show filmed entirely over video call, and it hit the experience of working from home during this anxious time on the head.
The premise is simple: Tennant and Sheen basically play themselves, as two actors whose West End play has been paused due to COVID-19. Their wildly intimidated, long-suffering director has them continue rehearsing online, which leads to constant down-the-camera bickering and some relatable awkward moments with the exceptional support cast — mainly the ever-excellent Nina Sosanya, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson also make hilarious appearances. But among all the at-home jokes, the show deliberately catches you in lighthearted moments with subtle reminders of the severity of the situation we all continue to inhabit — a silly row with a neighbour over invaded recycling bins becomes chillingly real in an instant with one line of dialogue.* — S.C.
* Asterisks indicate the writeup is adapted from another article.