Six Of The Best: Binge-Worthy British Box Sets
– 14 Jun. 2019 –
These days, staying in is the new going out… and frankly, what sounds better than a lovely long weekend curled up on your leather sofa, with drinks and snacks aplenty and a box set or two to while away the hours?
If you’re in need of some inspiration for what to watch, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourite British television series of the last few years – from comedy to drama, we’ve got it covered. So now all you need to do is kick back (may we suggest using one of our super-comfy footstools?), relax (a generously-sized corner sofa would be ideal) and press play.
Pride And Prejudice
An oldie but a goodie, this six-part BBC series from 1995 is responsible for introducing the world to Colin Firth in a wet shirt – reason enough to warrant its status as an all-time classic! Forget the many other filmed versions; this is the definitive adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride And Prejudice, with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth starring as Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Telling the story of how the pair learn to overcome their pride and prejudice to fall in love, the series remains wonderfully faithful to Austen’s masterpiece, with screenwriter Andrew Davies perfectly capturing the author’s romance, wry humour and witty observations on class and society. The chemistry between Ehle’s intelligent, spirited Elizabeth and Firth’s brooding hero with hidden depths practically sizzles off the screen… and after all, who doesn’t love a happy ending?
The IT Crowd
If you’re in need of some all-out belly laughs, The IT Crowd is exactly the kind of gloriously silly sitcom that’s certain to put a smile on your face. Written by Graham Linehan (who also created highly bingeable comedies Father Ted and Black Books), this Bafta-winning show revolves around three members of a company’s IT department – computer geek Moss (Richard Ayoade), slacker Roy (Chris O’ Dowd) and department head Jen (Katherine Parkinson), who actually knows nothing about computers.
A goldmine of gags, The IT Crowd is simply very very funny, with too many highlights over the course of its 25 episodes to mention – although if we had to choose, Series 2’s work outing to the theatre and Series 4’s “Street Countdown” showdown are definitely up there. Altogether now… “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
Life On Mars
With a concept that sounds quite frankly bonkers on paper, Life On Mars was a true television one-off. Part police procedural, part science-fiction, this drama revolves around Sam Tyler (played by John Simm), a modern-day police detective who gets hit by a car and wakes up to find himself in 1973. The mystery deepens throughout the show, with viewers – and Tyler himself – never entirely sure if he’s dead, in a coma or has actually travelled back in time.
Whilst the plot is immediately captivating, it’s the character of DCI Gene Hunt – Sam’s boss in 1973 – that really sets the thing alight. Philip Glenister turns in a brilliantly charismatic performance as Hunt, whose forthright opinions and quick one-liners turned the character into a cult icon; suffice to say, Hunt’s 1970s copper and Tyler’s 21st-century detective have very different approaches to policing. Blending humour, crime, sci-fi and even a little bit of romance, alongside an excellent soundtrack and bags of nostalgic charm, Life On Mars never outstays its welcome, clocking in at just two eight-episode series – and finishes things off with a properly satisfying ending.
Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag started life as a one-woman show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival before becoming an award-winning two-season television series. Plot-wise, it follows Waller-Bridge’s protagonist – known only to the audience as Fleabag – through her turbulent life and relationships, in truly compelling fashion.
Bold, dark, sexy, funny, poignant and just about everything in-between, Waller-Bridge’s writing is razor-sharp, with Fleabag frequently breaking the fourth wall to deliver asides directly to viewers, whilst every character – including Oscar-winner Olivia Colman in a wicked stepmother role – is beautifully observed. Each six-episode season wraps up with a real bang… and we absolutely won’t blame you for getting a bit emotional about it all either.
Line Of Duty
Writer Jed Mercurio’s terrifically twisty drama about a police force’s anti-corruption unit will keep you on the edge of your seats for its entire five series. Each series revolves around the investigation of a different potentially-corrupt police officer, with each season’s stories unfolding into each other to gripping effect.
It’s impossible to single out standout performances amidst a cast list that comprises a veritable who’s who of brilliant British actors – including Vicky McClure, Thandie Newton, Keeley Hawes, Lennie James and Adrian Dunbar – whilst the sheer number of shocking moments and end-of-episode cliff-hangers will have you gasping out loud… and eagerly pressing play on the next instalment. With a sixth series already commissioned, now’s the ideal time to play catch-up.
A Very English Scandal
If you thought politics was boring, think again. Proof that truth really is stranger than fiction, A Very English Scandal tells the real-life story of Jeremy Thorpe, a British politician who was tried for conspiracy to murder – having allegedly ordered a hitman to kill his ex-boyfriend, Norman Scott.
Whilst that might not sound like an especially light-hearted watch, writer Russell T Davies keeps this three-episode miniseries zipping along at a roaring pace, in a compulsively watchable blend of comedy and drama… heightened by the fact you’ll have to keep pinching yourself to believe it all actually happened. Hugh Grant delivers a career-defining performance as Thorpe – you’ll never be able to look at him quite the same way – which is perfectly complemented by Ben Whishaw’s sensitive Scott. Smart, subversive and scandalous, a binge watch of this makes for a perfect night in.
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