British Telly Par Excellence

by Joan_Ikwig | created - 30 Jan 2017 | updated - 4 weeks ago | Public

I am sometimes tempted to make this list more inclusive, by withdrawing the "par excellence" part and just listing the series that are interesting, even in a bad way. Watching old British shows seems like an intelligent pastime, but in fact it can quickly turn into a nausea fest, exploding with weirdness like Monty Python's penguin. It will take a lot of Parks and Rec marathons to relieve the shock of The Mushroom Picker, so overwhelmingly bizarre it will scare (scar?) even those who love all things bizarre as an entry point to the unconscious. Same goes for several Screen Two productions, notably Bliss (1995), notorious for the most pathetic sex scene ever filmed (and I've seen HBO's Girls, mind you). So after a long consideration I've decided to list only the shows I really like. Some of them are dark, a few are borderline trashy, but each and every one is dear to my heart.

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1. The Beiderbecke Affair (1985)

320 min | Drama

Trevor Chaplin teaches woodwork and likes to listen to jazz. Jill Swinburne teaches English and wants to help save the planet. Trevor tries to buy some jazz records but this leads to ... See full summary »

Stars: James Bolam, Barbara Flynn, Dominic Jephcott, Terence Rigby

Votes: 473

2. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ (1985)

26 min | Comedy, Family

The misadventures of a nerdish teenage boy as recorded in his personal diary.

Stars: Gian Sammarco, Stephen Moore, Bill Fraser, Lindsey Stagg

Votes: 393

3. The Singing Detective (1986)

415 min | Drama, Musical, Mystery

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

Stars: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley, David Ryall

Votes: 4,024

4. The Corridor People (1966– )

60 min | Thriller, Adventure

A short-lived surreal detective adventure centred around the exploits of security agents Scrotty & Kronk and their battles with the evil but seductive Syrie Van Epp.

Stars: Elizabeth Shepherd, John Sharp, Gary Cockrell, Alan Curtis

Votes: 21

5. The Tyrant King (1968– )

30 min | Drama

A strange phone call and a wallet found in an old dark house lead 3 teenagers and their dog to follow a mysterious character across London.

Stars: Philip Madoc, Murray Melvin, Kim Fortune, Candace Glendenning

Votes: 40

6. Ace of Wands (1970–1972)

30 min | Family, Fantasy

Telepathic stage magician, Tarot, and his two assistants solve mysteries and crimes of a bizarre or magical nature, and battle against villains with various powers.

Stars: Michael MacKenzie, Tony Selby, Judy Loe, Roy Holder

Votes: 88

I have to admit this one is borderline tacky but Tarot is so humane and warm that all is forgiven. Besides, I kinda dig tacky new-agey extravaganza.

7. Blade on the Feather (1980 TV Movie)

82 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A reclusive, elderly author is visited by a young admirer...but both men are more than they claim to be.

Director: Richard Loncraine | Stars: Kika Markham, Phoebe Nicholls, Donald Pleasence, Tom Conti

Votes: 200

8. Oliver's Travels (1995– )

250 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

After his job is terminated, a humanities professor and puzzle addict joins forces with a woman PC to travel the country while solving a cold case murder.

Stars: Alan Bates, Sinéad Cusack, Bill Paterson, Morgan Jones

Votes: 303

9. BBC2 Playhouse (1973–1983)
Episode: Caught on a Train (1980)

80 min | Drama

Peter boards a train to attend an important business meeting across Europe. His train trip is made more complicated by two women also assigned to his train compartment. One is an ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Duffell | Stars: Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Kitchen, Wendy Raebeck, Michael Sheard

Votes: 331

10. Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)

TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy

Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away.

Stars: John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs, Connie Booth

Votes: 82,103

11. The Ice House (1997– )

TV-MA | 172 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

The peaceful, secluded, country hideaway of three diverse, lonely, supposedly lesbian, women is suddenly shattered when their gardener discovers a partially decomposed corpse in the old Ice... See full summary »

Stars: Frances Barber, Kitty Aldridge, Corin Redgrave, Penny Downie

Votes: 714

12. Luther (2010–2019)

TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

DCI John Luther is a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.

Stars: Idris Elba, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Warren Brown

Votes: 115,927

13. Prime Suspect (1991)

207 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A female police detective investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades.

Stars: Helen Mirren, John Benfield, Tom Bell, Jack Ellis

Votes: 6,357

Series 1-3.

14. The Prisoner (1967–1968)

TV-PG | 50 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

After resigning, a secret agent is abducted and taken to what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. His warders demand information. He gives them nothing, but only tries to escape.

Stars: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat, Peter Swanwick, Peter Brace

Votes: 12,042

Number Six aficionados could also check out The Laughing Prisoner, a funny spoof of the series.

15. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985)

TV-PG | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson solve the mysteries of copper beeches, a Greek interpreter, the Norwood builder, a resident patient, the red-headed league, and one final problem.

Stars: Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Rosalie Williams, Eric Porter

Votes: 19,142

I could just watch Brett read a newspaper for hours. He is mesmerizing.

16. No Offence (2015– )

TV-MA | 42 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Follows a group of police officers on the front line wondering what they did to end up where they are now, on the ugly side of Manchester.

Stars: Joanna Scanlan, Elaine Cassidy, Will Mellor, Paul Ritter

Votes: 3,995

Go Viv!

17. Posh Nosh (2003– )

10 min | Comedy

A post-modern comedy series that spoofs the world of upper-class food.

Stars: Arabella Weir, Richard E. Grant, Joanna Lumley, David Tennant

Votes: 460

18. This Country (2017– )

21 min | Comedy

Comedy exploring the lives of young people in modern rural Britain, focusing on cousins Kerry and Kurtan and their lives in the Cotswolds.

Stars: Daisy May Cooper, Charlie Cooper, Paul Chahidi, Ivy Woodcock

Votes: 3,316

19. Travel Man: 48 Hours in... (2015– )

Not Rated | 24 min | Documentary, Adventure, Comedy

British comedian Richard Ayoade and a celebrity guest, usually from the comedy world, spend 48 hours in a popular city to discover the must see tourist attractions.

Stars: Richard Ayoade, Joe Lycett, Greg Davies, Noel Fielding

Votes: 1,549



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