Top British TV shows on NOW TV
James R | On 18, Sep 2019
At a time when the country has rarely felt so divided, one thing we can all agree on is that despite the attention all the American shows get, Britain produces some truly brilliant TV. From old classic comedies to gripping new thrillers, Sky Box Sets has got you covered, with a collection of UK gems available to stream.
Don’t have Sky? Streaming service NOW gives you access to most of the same shows, all for £7.99 a month, with no contract. (Note: The price goes up to £8.99 a month from 9th October.) We go through and pick out the best of the bunch, from UK drama to Italian crime thrillers and US comedies. Click here to find out more or sign up
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Hold on to your (miniature) horses. Brassic, starring This is England’s Joe Gilgun, Our Girl’s Michelle Keegan and Being Human’s Damien Molony, is comedy that juggles edgy laughs with working-class gumption.
Mark Strong is a magnetic lead presence in this thrilling remake of Norwegian series Valkyrien. He plays Daniel, a surgeon who sets up an underground clinic beneath the titular Tube station to try and save his wife from an incurable condition – a clinic that is set up with doomsday prepper Lee (Daniel Mays). But as criminals use their service and their secret threatens to come to the surface, tensions keep rising and the stakes get higher and higher. The plot is as ridiculous as it gets, but the pacing is superbly quick and Strong and Mays ground everything with sincere, convincing performances, supported by Game of Thrones’ Carice van Houten as a former colleague faced with moral boundaries she had never considered crossing. Electric stuff.
Witty, wealthy, and carrying a litany of issues. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Patrick Melrose in this sumptuous, darkly hilarious adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s acclaimed novels.
After the misfire of Season 1, Blackadder II saw Rowan Atkinson’s miser arguably at his funniest. Take Episode 1, Bells, for example, which sees Edmund fall in love with a new servant girl; proof that Rowan can make you laugh just by saying the word “Bob”.
Blackadder’s title of Funniest TV Show Ever is rivalled strongly by this masterful piece of comedy from John Cleese. The Monty Python veteran is on flawless form as Basil Fawlty, the uptight manager of a rubbish hotel, while Prunella Scales is delightfully annoying as his wife, Sybil. Andrew Sachs as the clueless waiter, Manuel, brings the physical comedy, while Connie Booth quietly steals the show as the maid, Polly. Booth and Cleese wrote the show together, even returning for a second season after their off-screen relationship ended. Professional and precisely judged to the end, the result is perfect – and, at just two seasons, smart enough to know not to overstay its welcome. Worth checking in just for the Mrs. Richards episode alone.
“I’ve just gone to see me dad.” Those are the last words recorded by Jody, in a video to her mum, Claire (Suranne Jones). So when she disappears, her dad, Nelly (Lennie James), is naturally the first suspect. Estranged from the 13-year-old girl, he’s a loser, a barfly, the kind of man everyone on his South London housing estate knows. He’s also been receiving messages from her, and got a phone call from her just before she went missing. But Nelly, while far from the best guy in the world, is innocent – and so he sets off on his own investigation to find the person who’s abducted, or possibly even killed, his daughter.
It’s a premise that might sound familiar, but Save Me proves wonderfully unique at every turn. A large part of that comes down to the script, which is written by James himself. After impressing repeatedly with his sincere turn as Morgan in The Walking Dead, he brings that same authenticity to his screenplay, which twists and turns with the best detective dramas, but never lets plot get in the way of character.
The Trip to Spain
Reuniting Coogan and Rob Brydon for yet another culinary tour of foreign climes, The Trip to Spain sees the pair embark on a trek across, well, Spain, sampling restaurants, writing and waxing lyrical about every topic under the sun – as long as that topic involves Michael Caine. They’re like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and, just like Quixote, they undertake a third quest across 1,000 miles of Spanish terrain. Repeating itself over and over, this is an endless cycle of shallow, strangely philosophical nonsense that gets more delectable with every course.
Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt star in Channel 4’s medical comedy set in a (thankfully) fictional hospital. Fast-paced, occasionally in slow-motion, this is a silly, surreal, side-splitting sitcom.
Inside No. 9
Nothing says winter like a spooky horror story, and who better to inject chills directly into your spine than Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton? The pair are kings of creepy, a status that has been reinforced over multiple seasons of their superb series Inside No. 9. Alongside Black Mirror, the show has inspired the return of anthology programmes to our screens, serving up a collection of short tales, which range from funny to frightening. These impeccably crafted one-act plays are thrillingly varied, increasingly imaginative and consistently excellent; previous chapters (each one set in a different nine-themed location) have included silent comedy, Shakespearean farce and even 70s-style retro scares, complete with old-fashioned video cameras.
The League of Gentlemen
“Welcome to Royston Vasey, you’ll never leave!” once proclaimed the sign on the edge of The League of Gentlemen’s creepy rural hamlet, a nightmarish place of unknown terrors and terrifyingly recognisable eccentrics. Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith created something genuinely special in this dark, twisted comedy-horror, which balanced sketch-like jokes with unnervingly believable characters.
The classic sci-fi sitcom, created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, remains one of the great British comedies, thanks to excellent chemistry between its cast, including Craig Charles as engineering slob Lister and uptight hologram Rimmer (Chris Barrie), the last two survivors of a mining spacecraft.
Julia Davis’ exquisitely horrible comedy follows Sally (Catherine Shepherd), who falls into an unexpected affair with Emma (Davis), an actress and singer. And a poet. And also an author. Oh, and a songwriter. The result is howlingly funny – and seriously depraved.
“History is just one thing after another,” Alan Bennett once wrote. He could well have been talking about Britannia, Sky’s lavish new epic that has about as much to do with history as Breaking Bad does with CBeebies. Set in 43AD, it takes us back to a time when men were men, women were women, giant squids were giant squids and druids were possessing people and chatting to their disembodied heads. The History Channel, this ain’t. Our guide to this strange, sceptred isle is General Aulus (David Morrissey), an armed leader determined to invade and conquer Britain, 100 years after Julius Caesar rocked up on our shores, saw what the locals looked like and promptly ran away again. It doesn’t take long to see why: Britannia imagines the UK as a weird, remote realm, one where nonsense reigns, people believe in age-old traditions and war is just waiting to erupt. It could almost be a glimpse of the country after Brexit.
Within an hour, we’ve seen Aulus bully his troops, shout about going to toilet and chickens without heads and seen one of his troops fall foul of dark magic – the trippy opening credits, accompanied by 60s pop track Hurdy Gurdy Man, is only the start of it. The script, meanwhile, trades convincing speech for modern, sweary outbursts at every opportunity – and, after an hour of sipping this insane cocktail, you won’t want it any other way. A swords-and-sandals adventure sporting a hoodie and sneakers, Britannia is gory, scary, and immensely fun. It’s one thing after another. You’ll devour the whole lot.