DISCOVER--twenty British TV shows that are worth watching

So here's an eccentric jumble of odds and ends... I've stuck to fiction--sit-coms, dramas, and whatever the hell those puppets come under... Otherwise, I guess it's stand-up and comedy panel shows. Looking over the finished list, it occurs to me that the one thing they all have in common--even the Americanised puppets--is their very Britishness. No other country in the world would have made these shows. Still, not much to show for sixty years, eh?
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1.
The Avengers (1961 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A quirky spy show of the adventures of an eccentricly suave British agent and his predominately female partners. (60 mins.)
“ I'm thinking specifically of the two seasons with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel... ” - jonabbott56
 
2.
Black Books (2000 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Bernard Black runs his own bookshop even though he doesn't much like people who buy books and hates having customers... (25 mins.)
“ Surreal yet very truthful sit-com from Graham Linehan, who figures quite strongly in this list. ” - jonabbott56
 
3.
Bottom (1991 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Edward and Richard are best buddies living off the government doing nothing more than having a good time and breaking stuff. (30 mins.)
“ My dirty little secret. This is the exact opposite of what I usually find funny. It's puerile, infantile, vulgar, and carelessly scripted, and very British, whereas usually I like clever, witty, sophisticated, and American. This is about as far from Seinfeld and Frasier as you can get, so why does it never get old? Guaranteed to raise my spirits and have me cackling like a granny. Very embarrassing. ” - jonabbott56
 
4.
Department S (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
An elite department within Interpol, Department S inherited those cases which the other member groups had failed to solve... (60 mins.)
“ Clever mysteries, although the foppish Jason King character hasn't dated well. The '70s seem like another planet sometimes... ” - jonabbott56
 
5.
Doctor Who (1963 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Time and Space traveling adventures of a Gallifreyan Time Lord only known as the Doctor and his companions, traveling through time and space. (45 mins.)
“ For William Hartnell and the Daleks. ” - jonabbott56
 
6.
Father Ted (1995 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Crazy sitcom about 3 priests and their housekeeper who live on Craggy Island, not the peaceful and quiet part of Ireland it seems! (25 mins.)
“ Graham Linehan's sit-com debut. Who'd have thought three priests on a near-deserted island would be funny? ” - jonabbott56
 
7.
Fawlty Towers (1975 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away. (30 mins.)
“ Still the best sit-com ever made. Shame about the crappy cartoon as the image. ” - jonabbott56
 
8.
Fireball XL5 (1962 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Fireball XL5 was part of the fleet of interplanetary rockets protecting Sector 25 of the Solar System... (30 mins.)
“ Monochrome madness. Weird and wonderful. ” - jonabbott56
 
9.
The IT Crowd (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
The comedic adventures of a rag-tag group of technical support workers at a large corporation. (25 mins.)
“ Could be Linehan's best, although the fourth season was nowhere near as good as the first three. ” - jonabbott56
 
10.
The Inbetweeners (2008 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Follows four friends and their antics during their final years of school. (25 mins.)
“ If any one of the things that happen to the kids in his series took place in real life, they would have to kill themselves. Favourite character, Mr. Gilbert. Frightening fact: the actor playing him was a real teacher. ” - jonabbott56
 
11.
Lead Balloon (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Rick Spleen is a world-weary comedian who ends up doing far too many corporate jobs to pay the bills.
“ Funny, dry, dour stuff, avoiding the traditional sit-com traps, yet very much in the same silly man/sensible wife tradition. The wife's only got two expressions (and why is she even with him?), but the way stand-up Jack Dee as mirror-world failure Rick Spleen twists things to suit his fantasy world is brilliant. I particularly like the miserable home help and the writers' attitude toward clever and witty world-wise sit-com kids. These two dimwits are real. ” - jonabbott56
 
12.
Man About the House (1973 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Finally the house that Robin, Chris and Jo share a flat in is demolished an two spin offs are made - Robin's Nest and George & Minded (Mr & Mrs Roper). (30 mins.)
“ If you don't mind the fluffed lines and no retakes policy, this is an above average slice of the '70s, the only decent sit-com ITV ever had other than Rising Damp. A likeable cast and some clever lines. ” - jonabbott56
 
13.
Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe. (30 mins.)
“ Okay, it's dated now, but back in the day... ” - jonabbott56
 
14.
The Prisoner (1967 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
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. (50 mins.)
“ A remarkable sci-fi satire on the way British society works. You're free... as long as you obey the rules and do as you're told. I love the fact that the last episode literally labelled everything, and people are still arguing over "what it meant". ” - jonabbott56
 
15.
My Partner the Ghost (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk are private detectives who specialize in divorce cases. Their long-running... (60 mins.)
“ Great fun with the only ghost who casts a shadow. Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk are detectives, but whoops, one gets killed in the first episode and comes back as a ghost. Never really gets past the central flaw that Marty could just ask the ghosts of the victims who murdered them... ” - jonabbott56
 
16.
Stingray (1964 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Gerry Anderson's third SF supermarionation saga told the adventures of the WASPs (the World Aquanaut... (30 mins.)
“ Best kids show ever. Love it to bits. Let's have a decent picture on the left, please! ” - jonabbott56
 
17.
The Sweeney (1975 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
British police TV series which revolutionized the genre on UK television in the mid-1970s starring John Thaw as a hard-edged detective in the Flying Squad of London's Metropolitan Police. (60 mins.)
“ Best cop show ever... and it's British! Great cast, great stories, smashing dialogue, excellent fights, and the right attitude to almost everything. ” - jonabbott56
 
18.
Thunderbirds (1965 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In the 21st century, the Tracy family operate a unique private mechanized emergency response service. (50 mins.)
“ "Get the car Parker. We're going for a little drive..." ” - jonabbott56
 
19.
Timeslip (1970 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Simon and Liz were teenage friends who fell into a time hole and found themselves trapped in various periods of the 20th century... (30 mins.)
“ There's actually more to it than that. The two kids met their parents back in wartime, and more pointedly, their future selves in different projected timelines. And they didn't always like what they'd become. Could have been ITV's Doctor Who. Amazing it got on the air in the first place, really. Clever stuff. ” - jonabbott56
 
20.
The Trip (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Steve is asked to review restaurants for the UK's Observer who is joined on a working road trip by his friend Rob who fills in at the last minute when Coogan's romantic relationship falls apart. (172 mins.)
“ Superb. Who'd have thought it? A well kept secret, if you haven't discovered this yet, give it a go...


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Obsessed with the popular culture of the 1960s and surrounding decades, Jon Abbott has been writing about film and TV for over thirty years in around two dozen different publications, trade, populist, and specialist. He is the author of several books, including

Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964-1970,
Stephen J. Cannell Television Productions: A History of All Series and Pilots,
The Elvis Films,
Cool TV of the 1960s: Three Shows That Changed the World, and Strange New World: Sex Films of the 1970s.

See his Amazon author's page, and his other lists on the IMDB, all under the pre-fix DISCOVER. ” - jonabbott56