British Bit: The best of British TV

    “Have you seen Downton Abbey yet?”

    It’s a question that has started many conversations with friends over the last few months, and it was those conversations that prompted the idea for this column. If you’re like me, you’re very ready for this quarter to end so you can get your chill on during the summer holiday. And with the extra free time, summer is the perfect time to get caught up on awesome British series. Here are my recommendations:

    Downton Abbey – Available on Netflix Instant Play

    If you haven’t seen Downton Abbey yet, then you obviously need to. It is not about monks or nuns like the title might lead you to believe. It’s a period drama set at the stately home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham right after the sinking of the Titanic and in the years just before World War I. It follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants on their estate. It is both an engaging story about dynamic characters and a commentary on society and politics of the time. The all-star cast is also well worth your time with talent ranging from the extolled Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville to Dan Stevens from BBC’s 2008 Sense and Sensibility mini-series and newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay.

    Miranda – Available on YouTube

    Several of my favorite series didn’t make this list because they just aren’t easily available in the U.S. Luckily, sitcom Miranda made it onto the list because most (if not all) of the episodes are available on YouTube. Just be sure to check the Wikipedia page to make sure you watch them in the right order. Miranda is the semi-autobiographical brainchild of brilliant comedienne Miranda Hart. The protagonist is a clumsy and socially awkward woman more than six feet tall who gets mistaken for a man too many times. Between running a joke shop, trying to impress the guy she fancies and contending with her posh mother who is determined to marry her off, Miranda gets into plenty of hilarious scrapes… and only sometimes gets out of them.

    Sherlock – Available on Netflix Instant Play

    Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock is a modern version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories, complete with original plotlines. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch (the bad guy from Atonement) as a texting-savvy Holmes and Martin Freeman (Love Actually’s sex scene stand-in, member of the British The Office and Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit) as Dr. Watson. If you like detective stories, dark comedy and excellent production à la Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking, you’ll love this series. Sadly, there are only three 90-minute episodes, but the good news is that a second series is due this fall.

    The IT Crowd – Available on Netflix Instant Play

    If you’re a fan of Chris O’Dowd — that lovable Irishman from recently-released Bridesmaids and gullible DJ Simple Simon from Pirate Radio/The Boat That Rocked — then The IT Crowd is a must-see. Roy (O’Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) play geeky technicians in the IT department of fictional London company Reynholm Industries, and Jen (Katherine Parkinson) is their “relationship manager.” She knows nothing about computers, and they know nothing about people, so they’re a good match. One warning: if anyone around you has a technology problem after you watch this sitcom, it will be very difficult not to use Roy’s signature phrase and annoyingly ask them, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

    There are lots of other series I could recommend, but these are good starting points for fans of various genres. Besides, I want to hear what some of your favorite British telly shows are. Do you have a passion for period dramas and adaptations of classic literature? Do you watch all the Doctor Who spin-offs? Is Graham Norton the highlight of your week? What do you love and what would you add to this list?


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