Best BritBox Shows

Anglophiles, Here’s How To Get Started on BritBox

Best BritBox Shows
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Over the past century, the BBC has become a cornerstone of the world’s broadcasting, bringing global viewers joys like King Charles III’s coronation ceremony (Game of Thrones edition) and the longest-running science fiction series in history, Doctor Who. Along with the UK’s other terrestrial network, ITV, the BBC launched BritBox, an online digital video subscription service, in 2017.

BritBox focuses on British television series and films, mainly supplied by the two networks, but also features original programming. It is said to be the largest collection of British programming available in one place, which can make it difficult to navigate for those new to the service. So, here at The Mary Sue, we’ve rounded up the 10 best BritBox shows to get you started!

Toast of London

Steven Toast and Clem Fandango of Toast of London
(Objective Media Group)

Matt Berry’s popularity with American audiences is largely thanks to his oversized antics and hilarious musical numbers as Lazlo the vampire on What We Do in the Shadows. But before jumping into his coffin and heading to America, the actor, comedian, and singer already had an illustrious career in Britain, the opposite of Steven Toast. 

In Toast of London, a series Berry also co-created, he plays the role of the vainglorious Steven Toast, an actor who starts at the bottom and goes down from there. After appearing in the worst play in London and being relegated to voiceover work for degrading gigs Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif) and Danny Bear (Tim Downie), like reading the entire Bible and cigarette aid campaigns, he tries to claw his way back to being considered a respectable actor. However, even a gig at the historic Globe Theater can’t save him.

For his role as Toast, Berry earned a 2015 BAFTA Award for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme. That same year, Berry and Toast of London co-writer Arthur Mathews published Toast on Toast: Cautionary Tales and Candid Advice, a spoof autobiography of Steven Toast. Even better, the autobiography was released as an audiobook and read by Berry.


Idris Elba as DCI Luther

There are many Sherlock Holmes-inspired shows on BritBox. Luther is one of the best. Idris Elba stars as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, who is consumed by guilt and shame for letting pedophilic serial killer Henry Madsen die when the series begins. Yes, as a DCI, Luther serves the law. However, from the very first episode of the first season he shows that he’s willing to bend the law how he sees fit to solve a case. You almost can’t blame murderer-turned-confidant Alice Morgan, played by Ruth Wilson, for thinking Luther might have let Madsen die on purpose.

Keeping Up Appearances

Dame Patricia Routledge in Keeping Up Appearances

Written by Roy Clarke, the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, about snobbish middle-class social climber Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “Bouquet”), played by physical comedy genius Dame Patricia Routledge, was my introduction to one of Britain’s greatest imports: its comedy, at least when transphobes don’t taint it. Hyacinth’s snobbishness always makes for funny situations, like when she wants to host an indoor-outdoor luxury barbecue with a finger buffet. However, the character’s upper-class pretensions are regularly punctuated by interactions with her resolutely lower and middle-class friends, much to her horror and their amusement.

Pride and Prejudice

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Jane Austen’s masterpiece Pride and Prejudice has sold over 20 million copies and remains one of Britain’s favorite novels, billed as “the first to ask whether a woman could have it all.” That is, all of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Britain’s first thirst trap. Let’s be real: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre is much more feminist, whereas Pride & Prejudice is all about Elizabeth Bennet wanting to have sex with Mr. Darcy. But that’s okay; if the novel didn’t have as much romance as it does, people everywhere would have been deprived of seeing a young Colin Firth in Regency Period-style dress. In fact, The Guardian called the scene where Firth climbs out of the lake in a dripping wet shirt “one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history.”

Fun facts (maybe you will find these interesting, too): Written by Michael Barry, the first television adaptation of the novel aired on the BBC in 1938! Unfortunately, it’s a lost television broadcast. A year later, there was an Academy Award-winning film adaptation starring Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy, based on the novel’s first stage adaptation by Helen Jerome in 1935.

The Eleventh Hour

Sir Patrick Stewart as Ian Hood in The Eleventh Hour
(Granada Television)

With veteran actor Sir Patrick Stewart, can you ever go wrong? In The Eleventh Hour, Stewart plays Professor Ian Hood, a special advisor to the Joint Sciences Committee and the one man who can save humanity from science gone wrong, like deadly virus outbreaks, human cloning, and more. Of course, playing a man of science is no stretch for Stewart, known for his roles as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor X in The X-Men. He is joined by the redoubtable Special Branch operative DS Rachel Young, played by Ashley Jensen, who serves as Hood’s bodyguard. The real star of the series, though, is the writing by Stephen Gallagher, best known for his work on Doctor Who, for which he wrote two serials, “Warriors’ Gate” (1981) and “Terminus” (1983). 

Dirk Gently

Dirk Gently

Based on the unfinished Douglas Adams storylines in the books Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and The Salmon of Doubt, the ITV series follows the titular holistic detective, played by Stephen Mangan, who solves crimes using “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” As the series has its origins in the incomplete 1979 Doctor Who television serial “Shada,” the oddball detective is perfect for Whovians looking for their next fix.

Doctor Who

Ncuti Gatwa as Doctor Who

Doctor Who has been on air since 1963. 1963! In November, the longest-running science fiction series celebrates its 60th anniversary, with Whovians pumped for a three-part special featuring David Tennant’s return, now as the 14th Doctor. As he previously played the 10th Doctor from 2005 to 2010, Tennant’s return marks the first time an actor has portrayed two incarnations of the Doctor.

Doctor Who follows the adventures of a rogue Time Lord who goes by the name “the Doctor,” traveling across space and time to prevent evil forces from harming innocent people. As a centuries-old being, the Doctor can regenerate whenever there is mortal damage to the body. This is why so many actors have played the character over the years, and that’s the beauty of the series: if you don’t like one doctor, you’ll like another. Especially now that Sex Education director Kate Heron has been announced as a writer, I’m excited for her reunion with Ncuti Gatwa, the 15th Doctor and the first Black actor to headline the series.

Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015)

Downton Abbey Gay Scene
(ITV Studios)

Set on an English country estate known as “Downton Abbey” between 1912 and 1926, the award-winning series Downton Abbey, written by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), is a historical drama centering on the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants, as well as the impact of the events in the post-Edwardian era on their way of life.


Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Staged
(Rainmaker Content)

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a surge of creativity as creators sought new ways to share the projects they had previously worked on. One such series to debut during that time was Staged, starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant as fictionalized versions of themselves trying to rehearse a performance of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author during lockdown via video-conferencing technology. Meanwhile, Simon Evans, playing an under-confident director, struggles to maintain control of the production. In the same vein as Toast of London, Staged is an extremely watchable portrait of egotistical, petulant artists.

The series was popular enough to produce several spinoffs, including a Christmas special that premiered on BritBox.

Life of Crime

Hayley Atwell in Life of Crime
(ITV Studios)

Hayley Atwell stars as WPC Denise Woods in a gritty crime series about a detective trying to solve three seemingly connected murders across three decades. While it follows the story beats of a procedural cop drama fairly faithfully, Life of Crime follows Woods’ attempt at solving a single interconnected case over the course of her police career, allowing viewers to become invested in both the central case and the figures responsible for investigating it. Set in the 1980s, the series commits to a faithful depiction of what it would be like for a woman like Woods to solve crimes during that era with all its accompanying sexism while still giving viewers a seductively gritty series. However, despite critical acclaim, the series was canceled too soon due to declining viewership numbers.

(featured image: BBC / Objective Media Group)

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Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics,, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.