From old classics to culture-shifting works of art, these are the best dramas from the BBC to keep you going all year round.
While the world outside our doorstep remains an overwhelming place to be, there is one way to get through it: nestling on the sofa and getting thoroughly lost in a BBC drama. But with so much to choose from, where do we start? Well, we’ve curated the ultimate selection of the best BBC dramas available to binge right now.
From the criminal goings on in Luther
Go forth and binge-watch to your heart’s content.
I May Destroy You, 2020
The brainchild of actor, writer and producer Michaela Coel, this groundbreaking show follows Arabella, a woman who was sexually assaulted in a nightclub and is grappling with the after effects.
Based on Coel’s own experience, it’s a clever, powerful exploration into consent in the modern age. “What I’m doing is shining a torch on the grey areas and suddenly they’re not that grey,” she told
Helen Bownass . “Somebody took the condom off in the middle of having sex with you. When you talk about it as an idea: why did they do it? Oh they said they felt uncomfortable… But when you actually see it, that’s different. That is transparency.”
As nominations for the Golden Globes were announced earlier this month, those in and out of the industry were horrified when the show didn’t receive any. At all.
Adele is also a fan. She took to Instagram saying it’s “the best thing I’ve seen on British TV for yeaaaarssss!! It’s wholesome, uncomfortable, hilarious but terribly sad and then awkward…and then it makes you cough a bit for no reason and also makes you go put the kettle on, for no reason.” You’ll want to put this one at the top of your to watch list.
Normal People, 2020
Set in Sligo and later in Dublin, Ireland, Normal People explore the passionate, complex, and at times awkward relationship between Marianne (played by Daisy Edgar Jones) and Connell Waldron (played by Paul Mescal) from secondary school through to their university years. Based on the book by Sally Rooney, it’s the show that got us through the first lockdown.
And for the super fans, let us introduce you to Connell’s Chain – the Instagram fan page created by Stylist’s very own
fashion features editor, Billie Bhatia, that you’ll want to follow alongside your Normal People journey.
Small Axe, 2020
Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen brings us five beautiful hour-length films intended as love letters to Black resilience and triumph in London’s West Indian community from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Each film centres on a different story. There’s Mangrove
, starring Letitia Wright, the true story of the clash between the Mangrove Nine and the police which led to a landmark trial at the Old Bailey. While Education is inspired by McQueen’s own secondary school experience, where he realised that the educational structure was fraught with racial bias.
Killing Eve, 2018-2020
Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Killing Eve
follows the tumultuous relationship between MI5 agent Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh) and trained assassin Villanelle (played by Jodie Comer). Throughout the show, Eve is constantly on the hunt for Villanelle and her journey takes her all over Europe. Packed with stunning fashion from the likes of Molly Goddard, Halpern and Gucci, it’s a treat for the eyes.
They were due to start filming the fourth season, however it has been delayed due to Covid-19. We aren’t the only ones who think it’s great by the way; it’s won countless BAFTA and Emmy awards too.
Line of Duty, 2012-2021
Line of Duty is one of the BBC’s biggest dramas with nine million viewers watching the finale of series six. Written by Jed Mercurio, it’s all about the inner workings of an intra-police anti-corruption unit, AC-12, led by DS Steve Arnott (played by Martin Compston) with Vicky McClure starring as Detective Inspector Kate Fleming. The show’s sixth series is coming to our screens very soon, so here is your chance to catch up now.
Noughts + Crosses, 2020
An adaptation of the original Malorie Blackman books, we follow a developing romance between teenagers Callum McGregor (played by Jack Rowan) and Persephone Hadley (played by Masali Baduza) in a world where their different races cause constant threat. It’s a tale of families clashing, wider social fragmentation and ultimately how love wins. Set in a dystopian London, it’s a world that’s very different from the one we know.
Set to the background of London’s booze-filled, sexually-charged finance scene, Industry
tracks the lives of five young graduates as they compete for permanent positions at an investment bank; Harper Stern (played by Myha’la Herrold) is trying to keep a secret that got her this graduate job from getting out, Yasmin Kara-Hanani (Marisa Abela) is the resident ‘coffee getting’ graduate looking to prove herself, Robert Spearing (played by Harry Lawtey) is trying to shake his working class roots to fit into this world and Gus Sackey (played by David Jonsson) is made for this world, but his laser focus for a permanent position is shifted after a tragic accident.
The show’s been praised for the way it represents female desire so it’s a pretty empowering watch. “It’s important for viewers, especially women, to feel comforted and to know how important female desire is, and really going after what it is that you want,” Marissa Abela who plays Yasmin told
Helen Bownass .
Doctor Foster, 2015-2017
You’ll be on edge in the best way with this one, as we’re let into the life of Dr Gemma Foster (Suranne Jones). From the outside it looks like she has the perfect life with her handsome husband, beautiful house and great job but when she suspects her husband is having an affair with Kate (Jodie Comer) her life begins to unravel. Suranne Jones won a BAFTA for this compelling revenge drama that sadly finished after series two.
Dark psychological criminal drama Luther – which has racked up five series so far – is as suspenseful as it gets. Idris Elba plays self-destructive detective John Luther who’s more like those he’s trying to catch than he’d probably like to think. So much so, he ends up befriending murderer Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) in series one, with the aim of solving crimes together.
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In a story as old as time, detective Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) works with his right hand man, John H. Watson (Martin Freeman), to solve the most curious of crimes together. It’s a really refreshing and compelling take on a classic story. With four seasons to binge, each episode is guaranteed to make you want to figure out how these crimes happened and how the people committed them. If you’re feeling in a puzzle-solving mood, this one will keep your mind occupied.
The Split, 2018-2020
At its core, the slickly shot show is about the messy lives of sisters that work in divorce law. The eldest of the Defoe family, Hannah (Nicola Walker) left the firm founded by their parents – and headed by their mother, Ruth (Deborah Findlay) – while the others remained.
Packed with affairs and a few mysteries along the way, there’s a lot going on. For something that feels relatable, The Split
perfectly captures the highs and lows of family relationships.
Back in 18th century London, sex was the biggest commercial activity. Inspired by the stories of real women and inspired by Hallie Rubenhold’s book
, The Covent Garden Ladies, the series follows Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) trying to juggle being a brothel owner and mother to two daughters, Charlotte (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Lucy (played by Eloise Smyth), as they fight to protect their business being taken from a rising rival brothel.
Call The Midwife, 2012-2021
Expect laughter, tears and everything in between when you step into the lives of midwives living in the East End of London in the 1950s. Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, we follow a group of nurses from their first days as midwives to mastering it. With a 10th series on the way, there’s plenty to watch. Although it explores topics including racism and alcohol addiction, at the heart, it’s a show about sisterhood that’ll leave you with a warm feeling.
Pride and Prejudice, 1995
Everyone knows this regency romance and the 1995 TV adaptation is the best take on the beloved Jane Austen novel. It stars Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, a wealthy young man who develops a complex relationship with a strong-willed Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle). It’s perfect for those times where you’re in need of a little nostalgia.
Years and Years, 2019
The uncertainty of the future is on all our minds right now, and the other-worldly six-part series
released in 2019 explores this very idea. Created by Russel T Davies, we follow an ordinary British family – the Lyons – as they grapple with the future, who they’ll be and how they’ll change. Literally. They’re thrust 15 years into the future.
All the while, an MP by the name of Vivienne Rook (played by Emma Thompson) undergoes a transformation into one of the most controversial political figures in the UK. It’s fiction that feels all too real.
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Happy Valley, 2014-2021
In Happy Valley, life
is anything but happy. This brilliantly dark drama by Sally Wainwright is set in a small village in West Yorkshire, and centres on a strong-willed police sergeant, Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) eight years after her teenage daughter, Becky, was raped and killed.
Cawood is trying to come to terms with this just as her daughter’s rapist, Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), is released from prison after serving time for drug charges, leading to her obsessively trying to find and catch him. A third series is on the way.
The Missing, 2014-2016
This is a compelling mystery thriller focused on a missing boy. In 2006, Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) and wife Emily (played by Frances O’Connor) go on holiday to northern France with their son, Oliver. While they’re watching the world cup, Oliver goes missing.
The boy’s father enlists a French detective, Julien Baptiste, to work on finding his son after the police close the case. The journey to find Oliver is riddled with mystery after mystery that you’ll find yourself investing in with them.
Prime Suspect, 1991-2006
When this first came out in 1991, people couldn’t stop talking about the show. It became pretty revolutionary for being one of the first to centre a drama on a female senior detective. Dame Helen Mirren stars as detective chief inspector Jane Tennison working at the Metropolitan Police. We see her grapple with the weight of proving herself in a male-dominated police force, while of course doing what she does best: solving crimes.
With seven seasons, there’s enough to keep you occupied for a long while. If not to watch the masterful Mirren at work, the mysteries of each crime will leave you trying to piece the puzzles together at home.
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When 26-year-0ld Ivy Moxam (Jodie Comer) resurfaces after being captured and missing for 13 years, the police and her family have lot of questions. As she tries to adjust to her freedom, the police notice there’s something about her story that doesn’t seem to add up. Filled with intrigue, the six episodes will keep you guessing until the end.
The Fall, 2013-2016
Another dark psychological thriller – this time based in Belfast, Northern Ireland – The Fall lets us into the life and mental state of serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) and the female detective brought in to catch him, Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson). You’ll be mesmerised by the parallels between the two.
Images: Courtesy of BBC