British TV is having a moment right now, with runaway success at the 2020 Golden Globes by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge and The Crown’s Olivia Colman now matched by a new round of funding from Netflix. The streaming giant has just announced that it will spend a further $1 billion on UK-made shows this year, following the elated response to hit original series such as Black Mirror and Sex Education.
In honour of the moment, here are just a few of our favourite British original productions by Netflix – from critically acclaimed period drama to tense thrillers, cutting-edge comedy and beyond.
This sumptuous retelling of Royal Family history is now in its fourth season, with drama and decadence aplenty. While the Peter Morgan-created series has many fictional embellishments, it also provides a captivating glimpse into the reign of the Queen and her closest consorts. Adultery, lies and political scandal all feature heavily, along with evocative cinematography and some truly show-stopping costumes. An all-star cast, including Olivia Colman as the Queen and Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher, is the cherry on the cake.
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This pared-back police drama is now in season two, and just as powerful as ever. A formidable line-up including Sophie Okonedo, Kit Harington and Sharon Horgan take the lead in four episodes, each dealing with a different case – from the mysterious disappearance of a student to a contested rape. All you, as the viewer, see is the police interview for each crime: a deceptively mundane setting for a riot of mind games, and whodunit twists and turns.
This frank comedy drama is the breath of fresh air we all need in our lives. Otis (Asa Butterfield) is the son of a sex therapist who decides to use his insider knowledge to set up a clinic at school with the help of his new friend Maeve (Emma Mackey). The show’s creator Laurie Nunn dives headfirst into issues such as female masturbation and revenge porn, in a laugh-out-loud series that will take you straight back to your teenage days.
Known as the Marmite of the Netflix world, this black comedy nevertheless has a growing fan base drawn to its unique take on bereavement and the process of loss. Tony (Ricky Gervais) is left distraught after the death of his wife Lisa, but his coping mechanism is to press self-destruct and lash out at everyone around him. Diane Morgan, Ashley Jensen and Mandeep Dhillon join Gervais in a moreish and surprisingly moving series.
Now in its fifth season, this dystopian series created by Charlie Brooker just keeps getting better and better. In its latest outing, Fleabag’s Andrew Scott stars as a taxi driver grappling with technology addiction, while Miley Cyrus plays a global pop star who releases an AI version of herself (as you do). Moments of subversive humour are woven in with an unsettling approach to the impact of tech-powered overload.
This addictive thriller is an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Harlan Coben, with a relocation from US to UK shores. Filmed in Manchester, the series follows the story of Adam Price (Richard Armitage), whose seemingly idyllic marriage to Corinne (Dervla Kirwan) is shattered one night by a secret told by a stranger in a bar. Jennifer Saunders also stars in her first dramatic performance for this dark and twisty series.
This semi-autobiographical sitcom from comedian Katherine Ryan challenges the stereotype of what it means to be a modern-day single mum. “Katherine”, a pottery maker, wears high fashion to do the school run, and is unapologetically abrasive: “I don’t think a woman has to be nice and warm to be likeable,” Ryan explains to Stylist. The series is loosely based on Ryan’s own experiences of raising her daughter alone, with high-paced humour and relatability throughout.
This eight-part series explores the “beauty and fragility” of our natural world, as narrated in the sonorous tones of Sir David Attenborough. Filmed in 50 countries over a period of four years, Our Planet features epic rainforest, desert and Arctic landscapes that are teeming with species under threat. It’s these close-up encounters with rare and spectacular wildlife that form the emotional pull of the show, providing an urgent rallying call for conservationism. A must-watch for anyone who cares about climate change.
Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.