I spent the past semester in London (check out my study abroad blog here!), and one of my classes was called British Broadcasting Today. In it, we learned about how television is run in the UK, how the BBC has fared in the time of cable television and rival networks, and the content differences between US and UK TV.
An amazing feature that the UK has is almost unlimited online streaming for its three major networks: BBC, Channel 4, and ITV. Unlike the big American networks that may just post the past week’s new episodes and take them down after some time, the UK online archives will include full seasons, cancelled shows, and even old shows from the ’90s.
And the best part? It’s all free.
Throughout the semester, we were encouraged to explore this online content and take notes on what we watched. I would watch a British show even if I was just relaxing after a long day, and still keep up on certain shows now that I’m home (psst – you may or may not be able to access this full range of British TV by looking into this Chrome extension). Maybe it’s because I miss London life more every day, but I thought I’d share some of the British shows that I discovered over there with you today!
1. Dinner Date (ITV, 2010 – present)
A single man or woman consults five dinner menus crafted by prospective dates, and picks three of the menus to eat on a date with each meal’s creator. Balancing between genuine and ridiculous, Dinner Date has the snarkiest narrator I have ever heard on TV (British television is far more blunt and sarcastic than American TV, and has less censorship) and there are so many hilarious moments where you have a double-take and think, “Did she really just say that?!” Plus, who doesn’t love seeing food on their TV screen?
2. First Dates (Channel 4, 2013 – present)
Also seeking to help people find love, First Dates feels a little less gimmicky than Dinner Date and uses the old-school style of relying on face-to-face conversation to get to know each other. I wrote a paper about how British reality romance TV feels way more simple and dignified than what is seen in America, and I think you just have to watch a few minutes of First Dates to see this. Yes, there are still the common wacky conversations and people you find on reality TV, but there is a sense of sweet genuineness here that I like.
3. Teachers (Channel 4, 2001 – 2004)
I started watching this the week I came home and immediately became obsessed! This is a funny and realistic look into the everyday lives of young secondary school teachers, and it even has a whimsical, fantasy side at some points. It’s also full of actors you’re sure to recognize – look out for a baby-faced James Corden as one of the students and a younger Baxter from Downton Abbey as the psychology teacher Susan. The main character is played by Andrew Lincoln, known in the States for his roles in The Walking Dead and Love Actually.
4. The Graham Norton Show (BBC, 2007 – present)
Out of this list, this late-night talk show is probably the most known in the States because it also airs on BBC America. I went on a binge of the latest episodes one night in London, and this show featuring Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender, Julie Walters, and 50 Cent had me giggling so much that my roommate asked what I was watching. I really love this format in a chat show; it feels so much more relaxed and natural than some of the one-on-one interviews we have here. Brit James Corden does the all-guests-on-the-couch format, too, so I wonder if this is just common among the UK’s other talk shows?
5. Fresh Meat (Channel 4, 2011 – present)
This was the first show I watched after being assigned to start watching some British TV. Since then, I’ve only seen the first episode, but, seeing as it’s the story of university students living together, it’s very relatable and seems like a very fun show!
Have you seen any international TV lately? What are your favorites?