Skip to main content

Best BBC dramas — all the must-see shows on iPlayer

Deborah Findlay, Annabel Scholey, Nicola Walker and Fiona Button in The Split
(Image credit: (C) Sister)

Peaky Blinders, The Split, Killing Eve, Gentleman Jack, Rules of the Game, The Tourist, Vigil, The Responder, A Very British Scandal, Silent Witness, Line of Duty, Call the Midwife and Death in Paradise are just some of the very best BBC dramas available to watch right now on BBC iPlayer.

If you're trying to find another great show to watch, here's our guide to a string of the best BBC dramas you can enjoy, how many episodes there are, and what the critics said about each and every show.

What are the best BBC dramas to stream right now?

Gentleman Jack

Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack

Gentleman Jack stars Suranne Jones. (Image credit: BBC)

Gentleman Jack is a BBC period drama based on the coded diaries of the lesbian landowner, Anne Lister. The first season followed Anne's blossoming relationship with Ann Walker (Peaky Blinders' Sophie Rundle) and ended with their marriage.

After a three-year wait, the second season has finally arrived. This season will see Anne and Ann's relationship evolve as the couple moves into Shibden Hall together and begin to try and combine their estates. As you might expect, their relationship continues to cause controversy in 1830s Yorkshire. 

Number of seasons: 2, season 2 is airing now. 

Episodes: 13 currently available

Average episode length: 58 mins

We say: "After a three-year wait, we’re thrilled to have Anne Lister (the brilliant Suranne Jones) back in all her top-hatted glory for a second run of TV’s most energetic period drama."

The Split

Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan in The Split.

The Split stars Nicola Walker and Stephen Mangan. (Image credit: (C) Sister)

The Split has recently aired on the Beeb for its third and final season, and all six episodes are now available to stream over on BBC iPlayer now. 

In this dramatic divorce drama, we follow divorce lawyer Hannah Stern and her partner, Nathan (Stephen Mangan) as she navigates the complicated world of high-end divorce in London.

Hannah tackles plenty of complex cases in her day job, but her own relationship is also put to the test in Abi Morgan's show. Teasing the final installment, Nicola Walker said: "I don't think it's going to go where you might imagine it will... it's beautifully complicated and [creator and writer] Abi Morgan doesn't shy away from how messy this will get."

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 6 per season

Average episode length: 58 mins

We say about the series 3 opener "The brilliantly overwrought Stern-Defoe clan are back for an explosive third and final series, and it was worth the wait!"

Peaky Blinders

Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders season 6

Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby. (Image credit: BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire)

Peaky Blinders season 6 has recently aired and it was the last installment of this massively popular drama series. If you've not caught it before, all the previous series are available right now to enjoy on iPlayer. 

Cillian Murphy is engrossing as gangster Thomas Shelby, who runs his growing empire from Birmingham. The fantastic cast over the series included the likes of Jurassic Park star Sam Neill, Tom Hardy and the late Helen McCrory, who received a moving tribute in the opening episode of the latest series.

If you've not started watching, it's time to sign up... by order of the Peaky Blinders!

Number of seasons: 6

Episodes: 6 per season

Average episode length: 56 minutes

We say about the series 6 opener: "We rejoin the story in 1933, with Prohibition ending and fascism on the rise, but it’s the lucrative US opium market that has caught Tommy’s attention. Grab your flat caps and settle down for an intriguing opener, which includes a fitting farewell to Aunt Polly, played by the late Helen McCrory." 

Life After Life

Life After Life stars Thomasin McKenzie as Ursula.

Life After Life features Last Night In Soho star Thomasin McKenzie. (Image credit: BBC)

Life After Life is a new adaptation of Kate Atkinson's bestselling novel of the same name. The series is currently airing weekly on BBC Two, but the whole series has been made available to stream on iPlayer.

Set against the backdrop of the two World Wars, the show follows Ursula Todd (Thomasin McKenzie) who lives and dies in countless circumstances after passing away the night she is born.

From that point, she continues to be reborn throughout critical periods in recent history, and her journey sees her probing whether one person can ever truly live a perfect life.

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 4

Average episode length: 54 minutes

We say: "This gorgeous four-part adaptation of Kate Atkinson’s award-winning novel offers a fresh spin on the period drama genre."

Noughts and Crosses

Key art for Noughts and Crosses season 2.

Noughts and Crosses follows forbidden couple Callum and Sephy. (Image credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen/ Ilze Kitshoff)

Noughts and Crosses is a BBC adaptation of Malorie Blackman's critically acclaimed series of YA novels. set in a dystopian London where Sephy (Masali Baduza) and Callum (Jack Rowan) fall in love despite the odds. Can they breach the divide between the black elite and white underclass? 

There are two glorious seasons to watch right now on iPlayer, with Noughts and Crosses season 2 taking us back to the alternative version of present-day London and following the controversial, Romeo & Juliet-style love affair between Sephy, a member of the elite, black 'Cross' people and Callum, who is a white 'Nought'.

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 10

Average episode length: 50 minutes

We say: "Noughts and Crosses season 2 sees viewers taken back to the dangerous, alternate world of Albion, expect surprises, suspense and of course, plenty of forbidden love."

Chloe

Key art for BBC Drama Chloe featuring the title, Becky (played by Erin Doherty), and a mobile phone screen showing Chloe (Poppy Gilbert).

Erin Doherty stars in this social media-fuelled psychological thriller. (Image credit: BBC/Mam Tor Productions/Luke Varley)

Chloe is a quirky psychological thriller that follows Becky Green (Erin Doherty) as she investigates the mysterious death of her social media idol, Chloe (Poppy Gilbert).

After a call from her former friend Chloe in the middle of the night, Becky decides to find a way to insert herself into the lives of Chloe's inner circle by assuming a false identity. 

As "Sasha", Becky steps into a far more exciting life than her current one. But as she moves closer to the truth, Becky finds herself becoming more and more intrigued by Sasha's more successful friends. 

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58 minutes

We say: "Erin Doherty was fabulous in the last two series of The Crown as Princess Anne, and she’s just as compelling in this thriller as lonely office temp Becky... with twists aplenty, and an unconventional heroine to follow, this is an addictive watch.".

This Is Going To Hurt

Ben Whishaw as Adam in 'This Is Going To Hurt'

Ben Whishaw stars in This Is Going To Hurt (Image credit: BBC)

This Is Going To Hurt is a seven-part comedy-drama adapted from Adam Kay's book of the same name

Like Kay's memoir, the show reveals the kind of pressure that NHS workers find themselves under day in, day out. It stars Ben Whishaw (No Time To Die, Paddington) as Adam himself, and sees the young doctor getting to grips with the many challenges that come with working in obstetrics and gynaecology.

It's equal parts honest and heartbreaking and manages to blend humor in with very difficult scenes; newcomer Ambika Mod's turn as junior doctor Shruti is not to be missed, either.

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 7

Average episode length: 45 minutes

We say: "Back-to-back shifts, hypochondriacs, and racist mothers-to-be – it’s all in a day’s work for junior doctor Adam (Ben Whishaw) in this adaptation of Adam Kay’s best-selling memoir. Working in a labour ward, Adam’s day involves getting drenched in blood, mentoring anxious trainee Shruti (Ambika Mod) and disappointing his friends when he has to work another shift. The creators have described this as a ‘love letter to the NHS’, but it’s also a reminder of the pressure we place on the people within it."

The Responder

TV tonight Martin Freeman stars.

Martin Freeman stars in The Responder. (Image credit: BBC)

Martin Freeman leads the cast of The Responder, starring as Chris Carson, a police officer who is trying to save his marriage and keep his head above water. While juggling his own complicated life, Chris takes on a new rookie partner named Rachel which adds a new layer of stress to his routine - but they soon discover that their survival depends on them either helping or destroying each other. Written by ex-police officer Tony Schumacher, this is his first original story for television and is drawn from his own real-life experiences as an urgent response officer. 

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 5

Average episode length: 56 minutes

We say: "Martin Freeman’s visceral performance in this edgy five-part series feels like a genuine departure for the much-loved actor. Full of dark comedy and painful tragedy, it’s a powerful portrait of life as a frontline police officer."

Rules of the Game

TV tonight Maxine Peake stars as Sam.

Rules of the Game stars Maxine Peake. (Image credit: BBC)

Rules of the Game is a four-part thriller about sexual politics in the modern workplace, starring Maxine Peake as Sam, a hard-headed manager at a family-run business in the North West. 

However, when Sam arrives at work one day to find a dead body in the office reception she is forced to reckon with not only murky behavior in the present, but murderous secrets from the past as well.

Meanwhile, Maya, a new HR director who’s intent on dismantling the "old-fashioned lad culture" within the company, begins investigating historic cases of misconduct in the organization, yet is met with resistance. Sam refutes the suggestion of institutional bias against women, believing such behavior is all in the past... 

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 4

Average episode length: 57 minutes

We say: "Plenty of dark secrets are teased and fans will have to stay focused to unravel the mysteries within Fly Dynamic."

Four Lives

Rufus Jones, Jaime Winstone, Sheridan Smith and Robert Emms as families of Port's victims

Four Lives stars Rufus Jones, Jaime Winstone, Sheridan Smith and Robert Emms as the families of Port's victims. (Image credit: BBC)

Four lives were taken in Barking, Essex, between June 2014 and September 2015, when serial killer Stephen Port (played by Stephen Merchant) drugged, raped and caused four innocent young men to die. Now the fight for justice by the families of Port's victims is being followed in the three-part drama Four Lives. It tells the story of four victims of Stephen Port — Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor — and how their families and friends have worked tirelessly to find out what happened to them. Four Lives also stars Sheridan Smith as Sarah Sak, the mother of Port's first victim Anthony.

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 3

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "Four Lives is a harrowing account of Stephen Port's horrendous crimes which might be a tough watch at times, but is perfectly portrayed by a brilliant cast." 

The Tourist

TV tonight Jamie Dornan plays a man trying to piece together the past

Jamie Dornan plays a man trying to piece together the past in The Tourist. (Image credit: BBC)

This twist-laden, action-packed, darkly comic drama follows The Man, a Brit, who has ended up Down Under and finds himself being chased by a massive truck, which is attempting to drive him off the road. 

After a breathtaking pursuit, The Man wakes up sometime later in hospital but has no idea of his name or identity. But as people from his past return to haunt him, he faces a race against time to get to the truth about who he once was and who he is now before he is discovered by those who want to silence him forever...

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "The Tourist will bring mystery and intrigue to viewers as they try and work out who this mysterious man is who faces huge danger in the Australian outback."

A Very British Scandal

Claire Foy in A Very British Scandal

Claire Foy stars in A Very British Scandal. (Image credit: BBC/Blueprint Pictures)

"Sex, secrets and shame," is how the BBC bills this drama based on a true story.

A Very British Scandal focuses on the life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll (Claire Foy, The Crown) after her public divorce from the Duke (Paul Bettany, WandaVision).

Margaret was blamed for the breakdown in their marriage by the press and those around her, and the case against her involved wild accusations including theft, violence, and drug abuse. The series explores their high-profile divorce and the legal case that came from it, whilst also examining the social and political climate of post-war Britain.

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 3

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "The three-part drama, which plunges you into the uber-privileged and party-packed aristocratic world, is compelling viewing, with outstanding performances by Claire and Paul."

Around the World in 80 Days

Phileas Fogg is accompanied by Passepartout and Abigail Fix

Phileas Fogg sets off on his epic journey. (Image credit: BBC)

Around the World in 80 Days sees David Tennant taking up the role of globetrotting adventurer, Phileas Fogg, alongside his newly-employed French valet Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma) and journalist Abigail "Fix" Fortescue (Leonie Benesch).

Like every other adaptation of Jules Verne's classic tale of adventure, this BBC series follows the intrepid trio as they journey across the globe, hoping to win an outlandish bet. 

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes:

Average episode length: 49 minutes

We say: "Jules Verne’s classic novel has been adapted for the screen many times, and this spectacular eight-part series brings the story to a new generation of viewers."

Ridley Road

Ridley Road

Ridley Road is a must-watch. (Image credit: BBC/Red Productions/Ben Blackall)

Set in 1962, Ridley Road follows Vivien Epstein (Agnes O’Casey), a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, who flees her overbearing parents and heads to London to search for her true love, Jack Morris (Tom Varey).

She visits Ridley Road, Jack’s last address, but is warned off by her uncle, the gruff Soly Malinovsky (Eddie Marsan) and Soly's wife Nancy (Tracy-Ann Oberman).

But Vivien stays in London and is horrified to discover Jack has gone missing while working undercover to infiltrate the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, led by Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear).

With the backing of the anti-fascist 62 Group led by Soly and Nancy, Vivien decides to go undercover to find Jack…

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 4 (all episodes are available to watch)

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "Inspired by real events, this stylish series set in 1960s London stars a wealth of British acting talent."

Vigil

Suranne Jones in Vigil.

Suranne Jones stars. (Image credit: BBC)

Love Line of Duty? Couldn't get enough of Bodyguard? Well, great news the makers of both series have made a new submarine thriller, Vigil! Gentleman Jack actress Suranne Jones stars as DCI Amy Silva. 

Silva is called in when there appears to be a link between the mysterious disappearance of a fishing boat and a death on a nuclear submarine. 

The two incidents lead to a clash between the Navy and the British security services. Silva begins an investigation at sea, while back on land, Amy's old colleague and flame DS Kirsten Longacre (The Good Fight's Rose Leslie) hunts for more clues. And what she discovers is a conspiracy that threatens Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Is her life in danger?

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 6 (all now available to watch)

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "It’s an outlandish setting, but a rollicking story nonetheless, and one overflowing with  intriguing subplots."

Showtrial

TV tonight Tracy Ifeachor and Celine Buckens as Cleo and Talitha

Celine Buckens and Tracy Ifeachor as Talitha and Cleo. (Image credit: BBC)

Showtrial, starring Celine Buckens and Tracy Ifeachor, is from the people behind Line of Duty and Bodyguard

The legal drama sees Talitha, the daughter of a famous billionaire (played by Buckens), go on trial for the murder of a Bristol student. 

Meanwhile, Ifeachor stars as lawyer Cleo, who’s tasked with defending Talitha. Is she simply a poor little rich girl who’s been used as a scapegoat? Or is Talitha a cold-blooded killer?

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 5 (all now available to watch)

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "A fascinating look at how attitudes towards class and gender can impact the legal process."

Silent Witness

TV tonight Adam, Nikki and Jack face a difficult case

Silent Witness has become a firm favourite with fans.  (Image credit: BBC)

Silent Witness Season 24 arrived in 2021, with fans hoping this would be the series that at last saw Nikki (Emilia Fox) and Jack (David Caves) get together.

Jason Wong (The GentlemanChimericaStrangers) also joined the team as pathologist Adam Yuen.

The opening episode sees Nikki and Jack visiting a high-security prison. As the pair look into the suspicious death of an inmate, Nikki finds herself dealing with disturbing memories. 

Meanwhile, if you've not seen Silent Witness before every series is amazingly currently available to watch on iPlayer, and Silent Witness season 25 is on the way: get stuck in!

Number of seasons: 24

Episodes: 222

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say about the opening episode: "Comedy star Kevin Eldon shows off his straight acting skills as DI Mason, and Harry Potter actor Evanna Lynch appears as Scott’s girlfriend."

You Don't Know Me

TV tonight Samuel Adewunmi plays a man accused of murder

Samuel Adewunmi plays a man accused of murder. (Image credit: BBC)

Tom Edge, the man who created Vigil, brings the best-selling novel of defense barrister Imran Mahmood, to the screen, and with an exciting raft of acting talent on show, You Don't Know Me is one to enjoy. 

The courtroom drama, starring Samuel Adewunmi, tells the tale of a young man standing trial for murder, who shares his story with the jury in a desperate bid to keep his freedom. 

A BBC synopsis reads: "At his trial, Hero tells an extraordinary story. It is about the woman he loves, Kyra, who got into dangerous trouble. It’s about how he risked everything to save her. He swears he’s innocent. But in the end, all that matters is this: do you believe him?"

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 4 (all now available on BBC iPlayer)

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We say: "It’s a deep and original tale, which is perfectly complemented by the tense storytelling of Vigil creator Tom Edge, who adapted it for TV."

Time

Time stars Sean Bean and Stephen Graham.

Time stars Sean Bean and Stephen Graham. (Image credit: BBC)

Sean Bean plays Mark Cobden, a guilt-ridden teacher whose life is destroyed when he accidentally kills an innocent man, in BBC1’s thrilling new three-part prison drama Time by acclaimed British TV writer Jimmy McGovern. 

Separated from his family, Mark is sentenced to four years in jail where he befriends prison officer Eric McNally (Stephen Graham), who does his best to protect the inmates from the dangers of life behind bars.

But when one of the most dangerous prisoners identifies Eric’s softer side as a weakness, Eric faces an impossible choice between his principles and protecting the ones he loves. With both Eric and Mark trapped by their pasts and unsure of their futures, can they find survive and find the strength to move forward?

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 3

Average episode length: 59 minutes

We say: "We've loved watching Sean Bean and Stephen Graham in Time, despite the harrowing nature of some scenes. But let's face it a Jimmy McGovern drama about prison life wasn't going to be in any way gentle."

The Pursuit of Love

The Pursuit Of Love

Fanny (Emily Beecham) with Linda (Lily James) in The Pursuit of Love, which is adapted from the Nancy Mitford classic.

Set in Europe between the two World Wars, the romantic comedy-drama follows the adventures of fearless Linda Radlett (Cinderella and Downton star Lily James) and her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham).

Obsessed with love and marriage, the pair are on the hunt for their ideal husband. But their friendship is rocked as Fanny decides to go for a steady life while Linda opts to follow her heart. This leads Linda down an increasingly wild path.

Lily James says: “Linda has spark, passion, fire and curiosity, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Her father doesn’t let the girls have an education or leave the property. But she follows her heart and tries to find herself through the men she encounters — a communist, a conservative and a wild European.”

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes: 3 

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian says: "It is a treat for all. Mitfordians – please, do give it a chance."

Three Families

TV tonight Three Families

Amy James-Kelly and Colin Morgan star in Three Families.

All names have been changed in this compelling drama based on the true stories of three women. The need for anonymity is because Theresa (Sinéad Keenan), Hannah (Amy James-Kelly) and Rosie (Genevieve O’Reilly) are trapped in tragedy by Northern Ireland’s strict, divisive abortion laws.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 2

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: We said: "As subjects go, you can’t get much more serious, poignant or brave than this but it’s a triumph thanks to a respectful, balanced approach, coupled with thoughtful, heartfelt performances."

Line of Duty

Obsessed With... Line of Duty

What can Kate find out about Joanne Davidson?

Nearly 10 million tuned in for the first episode of Line of Duty Season 6, so if you’ve missed it, now’s the time to catch up! Penned again by Jed Mercurio, fan favorites Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston) all return. 

Fors the final season, Hastings has his eye on DCI Joanne Davidson, played by Trainspotting and Harry Potter star Kelly Macdonald. But is Joanne corrupt? And will we finally find out who H is? If H means nothing to you, the previous 5 seasons are available to watch on iPlayer, too!

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 38

Average episode length: 58 minutes

We say: "Line of Duty is cooking on gas once again with a belter of a first episode."

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife 2021

There's 11 seasons to enjoy of 'Call the Midwife'.

Call the Midwife recently delivered its eleventh series, along with the Call the Midwife 2021 Christmas special. Plus, there are ten past series available to watch!

Helen George (Trixie Franklin), Jenny Agutter (Sister Julienne), Leonie Elliott (Lucille Anderson), Linda Bassett (Phyllis Crane) were all back for Call the Midwife season 11.

Teasing the opening episode of series 11, the BBC says: "It’s Easter 1967, and celebrations are underway for a colorful Easter bonnet parade outside Nonnatus House. Sister Monica Joan and Reggie are excited about the Eurovision Song Contest, while Cyril and Lucille settle into blissful married life..."

Number of seasons: 11

Episodes: 96 (9 episodes a season, except seasons 1 and 11)

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

We say: "While the Christmas specials of Call the Midwife always whet our appetites at the start of each season, there is nothing better than a whole series to get our teeth into. Settle down and enjoy the heartwarming and heartbreaking drama from Nonnatus House.”

How to watch great dramas anywhere in the world

There is a handy way to watch your favorite TV shows from wherever you are in the world, and it is called VPN.

This lets you get around the usual digital barriers by changing your IP address, meaning you can watch your favorite TV shows even if you’re away from home.

But which VPN will suit your needs best?

Our favorite is ExpressVPN, which lets you change your IP address on whichever device you want to watch your new favorite TV show on.

From laptops to a Smart TV, Amazon Fire Stick and games consoles to a mobile phone, you can change the address to make your device think it is in a different location.

ExpressVPN is one of the best out there. Not only because it is straightforward and easy to use, but it also has great security and, best of all, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

This is the number one rated VPN in the world right now and as well as trying it out for free for a month, you can sign up for an annual plan and get 3 months absolutely free.

Danny Boy

Anthony Boyle as Brian Wood in Danny Boy

Danny Boy tells the true story of Brian Wood (played by Anthony Boyle) who went from hero to alleged war criminal. (Image credit: Gareth King (BBC).)

Danny Boy is an emotional, feature-length drama written by BAFTA-winner Robert Jones that tells the true story of Brian Wood. Brian (played by Anthony Boyle) returns from Iraq a war hero for his bravery at The Battle of Danny Boy, but is accused of war crimes upon his return, and is then pursued by unshakeable human rights lawyer, Phil Shiner (Toby Jones). 

Over the course of the Al-Sweady Inquiry, the investigation and the pressure from the inquiry, from his own family and what happened in Iraq begin to weigh heavily on him. Toby Jones said: “a story like this retrieves a moment in our history and - like all the best drama - asks some unanswerable questions about what we ask of our soldier and the armed forces, and where victory ultimately lies.”

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes: 1

Length: 84 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote: “The excellent script by Robert Jones keeps circling back to the moment of enemy engagement, adding more detail and different emphases each time, like a soldier sorting through his traumatised memories.”

Bloodlands

TV tonight Bloodlands

James Nesbitt as detective Tom Brannick.

James Nesbitt stars in this big new thriller. Set in Belfast, the six-part drama centers on DCI Tom Brannick (Nesbitt), a devoted dad to daughter Izzy and a detective of over 20 years.

As the series begins, Brannick and his trusty colleague DS Niamh McGovern (Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna) are called to investigate when a car is pulled from the river at Strangford Lough.

The vehicle belongs to Pat Keenan — a man with links to the IRA — who’s nowhere to be found but Brannick is clearly rattled when a postcard boasting an image of Belfast’s iconic Samson and Goliath cranes is found hidden in the wing mirror.

Brannick tells senior officer Jackie Twomey (Fortitude’s Lorcan Cranitch) that he fears legendary serial killer — codenamed Goliath — who evaded capture during The Troubles, has returned. It’s then revealed that one of Goliath’s victims was Brannick’s own wife, Emma…

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58 minutes

We say: “James Nesbitt brings strength and sincerity to Brannick, and with twists and an almighty cliffhanger at the end of episode one, this looks like another Sunday-night hit!”

The Syndicate

TV tonight The Syndicate

Gaynor Faye is one of the stars of the fourth series of The Syndicate.

Each season of The Syndicate follows a new story, and so far we’ve seen characters based in a Leeds supermarket, a public hospital in Bradford, and even a crumbly stately home near Scarborough.

In The Syndicate Season 4 we follow a group of kennel workers who discover their jobs are at risk before learning they’ve won the lottery.

But there is something shifty going on when a newsagent called Frank (Neil Morrissey) tells them they've won £500… only for the group to later suspect they have actually won the £27million jackpot.

However, there is just one problem… Frank is nowhere to be found and neither is their cash. Can they track him down?

“An opportunity arises and Frank takes it — and it changes his life and the lives of everyone around him,” teases Neil Morrissey.

Number of seasons: 4 [only series 4 is currently on iPlayer] 

Episodes: 6  

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: "While it is never too demanding, it is regularly satisfying," comments The Guardian.

Death in Paradise

Death in Paradise season 10 with Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker

Ralf Little as DI Neville Parker in Death in Paradise.

Death in Paradise season 11 is the latest series of this hugely popular drama. And if you've never caught this fab series before all the previous series are also available to watch. Death in Paradise season 11 sees Neville (Ralf Little) and his team aim to crack more cases. 

The show is much-loved for its outlandish murder mysteries. Can you crack the case?

Number of seasons: 11 (Death in Paradise season 12 is on its way)

Episodes: 8 per series 

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote:Death in Paradise (BBC1) has become the comfy jumper of British television. It is familiar, warm and dependable, and it continues to make a programme that revolves around murder seem cosy and comforting.”

Baptiste season 2

Tchéky Karyo and Fiona Shaw in Baptiste

Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) is on the trail of Emma Chambers' (Fiona Shaw) missing family... (Image credit: BBC)

Baptiste is back! Tchéky Karyo returns as retired French police investigator Julien Baptiste is at the heart of a brand new case. This time, he is helping British Ambassador Emma Chambers (played by Fiona Shaw) to track down her missing family, whilst also grappling with his own family tragedy.

Teasing what happens in the second series, Karyo said: “We have different time periods – the present day, then 14 months before. In the present day, we see Julien down and yelling at the world with his pain. His family’s a wreck. People love this character because you can rely on him but now he’s losing his temper and drinking. It’s a special journey for him this time. There are a lot of amazing surprises…”

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes: 6 per series [all episodes of Season 2 are available on iPlayer now]

Average episode length: 56 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian wrote: “The mystery of what happened between the Chambers family kidnapping more than a year ago and the present day slowly builds, with the show’s writers, brothers Harry and Jack Williams, cleverly skipping between past and present.” 

Pose Season 3

Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson) in Pose Season 3

Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson) in Pose Season 3 (Image credit: BBC/FX/Eric Liebowitz)

Pose is a powerful drama that celebrates New York city's drag and ballroom culture of the 80s and 90s and follows the lives of members of gay and trans people who, facing discrimination, moved into shared accommodation called "Houses" under a dominant Mother figure.

The final season of the much-loved LGBT drama finished airing in the US earlier this year. The series only just began airing in the UK on BBC Two in early August, but all 8 episodes of the final season are available to watch on BBC iPlayer right now! 

Season 3 takes place four years on from Season 2. As the AIDS epidemic continues, Blanca marshals forces within the LGBT community to demand better support for those living with AIDS, all while juggling motherhood and working as a nurse in an AIDS hospital ward.

Number of seasons: 3

Episodes: 26 (8 episodes in series 1 and 3, 10 in series 2)

Average episode length: 50 minutes

What the critics say: IndieWire wrote: " “Pose” has made its indelible mark on Hollywood, one that will not soon be forgotten. It earned the right to fantasize, dream big, and paint with broad and colorful brushstrokes."

What were the best new BBC dramas in 2020?

Roadkill

Hugh Laurie in Roadkill - how to watch Roadkill online

Hugh Laurie stars in Roadkill.

Roadkill stars Hugh Laurie as Peter Laurence, a charming politician who has his eye on the job of the Prime Minister (played by Peaky Blinders actress Helen McCrory). But in the thriller penned by Collateral writer David Hare, Laurence has a pile of enemies and his life is rapidly going out of control...

Hugh says: “Roadkill is a political drama about the price of success in the political realm and what it demands of the people who do it, and those around the person who does it. It’s pretty unforgiving.”

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58 minutes

What the critics say: The Daily Mail’s Christopher Stevens wrote: “With any actor less likeable than Hugh, this story would be unbearably cynical.”

Us

Us stars Tom Hollander

Douglas's world turns upside down in Us.

Adapted from the hit novel of the same name by Starter for Ten writer David Nicholls, Us stars Tom Hollander. Hollander plays Douglas Petersen, a man who’s stunned when his wife Connie (Saskia Reeves) tells him she’s not sure she wants to be married to him anymore.

As they go on their grand tour of Europe, Douglas makes it his mission to win back his wife’s love. And to repair his difficult relationship with their son Albie. The series takes in some beautiful locations including Paris, Amsterdam, and Venice.

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

What the critics say:Occasionally the middle-class, massive-kitchen-ness of Us can teeter just on the edge of smug, but in the end I was charmed”: The Guardian

Life

Life BBC1 Victoria Hamilton as Belle

Life stars Victoria Hamilton as Belle.

This is a spin-off from the incredibly successful drama Doctor Foster. It’s by the same writer, Mike Bartlett, although neither Suranne Jones or Jodie Comer reprise their roles. However, Victoria Hamilton does return as Gemma’s neighbour from Doctor Foster.

But in a twist, her character, Anna Baker, is now going under the name of Belle and seeking to rebuild her life after her divorce. Life tells the story of the residents of a large house divided into four flats. Belle’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of her chaotic 15-year-old niece Maya (Erin Kellyman). There are further complications when her ex-husband Neil (Adam James) turns up in the series.

Other key cast include Alison Steadman, Peter Davison and Adrian Lester.

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58 minutes 

What the critics say:The new BBC1 series is truly a mixed bag: poignant one moment, damningly cliched the next, before upending expectations again with an emotional gut-punch.” - The Independent.

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You. (Image credit: BBC/Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Natalie Seery)

This drama, which is an uncomfortable watch at times, led to much wider discussions about issues around sexual assualt, consent and racial identity when it was shown on BBC1.

It is written, co-directed and executive produced by Michaela Coel, who previously wrote and starred in E4’s comedy, Chewing Gum.

Michaela plays novelist, Arabella who, through flashbacks, realises she was raped during a night out in London.

I May Destroy You follows Arabella and her friends, Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), as she struggles to come to terms with what has happened and seeks justice for her and other victims of sexual assault.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 12 

Average episode length: 28-35 minutes 

What the critics say: “Could this be the best drama of the year?” - The Guardian

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings

The Salisbury Poisonings was one of the best BBC dramas in 2020. (Image credit: BBC/Dancing Ledge/James Pardon/Ray Burmiston)

Rafe Spall, Anne-Marie Duff and MyAnna Buring (BBC One’s Ripper Street) star in this torn-from-the-newspaper-headlines drama.

It’s based on real-life events in which a former Russian military officer, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yula were poisoned in the city of Salisbury in 2018. Two Russian nationals were suspected of the attack, using a chemical nerve agent.

In this TV dramatization, DS Nick Bailey (Rafe Spall) is caught up in the chemical chaos, which also involves a local couple, Dawn Sturgess (MyAnna Buring) and Charlie Rowley (Johnny Harris).

Tracy Daskiewicz (Anne-Marie Duff), Director of Public Health, races against time to stop the spread of the deadly nerve agent, Novichok.

Watch The Salisbury Poisonings on iPlayer now!

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes:

Average episode length: 56-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “Like watching a Crimewatch reconstruction” - The Independent

A Suitable Boy

TV tonight A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy was adapted from a hit novel. (Image credit: BBC/Lookout Point)

This adaptation of the bestselling book by Vikram Seth is reportedly one of the most expensive BBC series ever made.

Filmed on location in Indian cities including Lucknow, Maheshwar and Kanpur, it’s a coming-of-age story about university student, Lata (Tanya Maniktala) who is expected to be the next in her family to marry.

But Lata’s traditional Hindu family may not approve when she meets and falls for Kabir, who comes from a Muslim family.

A Suitable Boy was adapted for TV by Andrew Davies, the writer behind such TV hits as Mr Selfridge and Bleak House.

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 58-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “Settle down for an Indian summer of love with this ambitious adaptation” - The Evening Standard

Strike

Strike in Strike: Lethal White

Strike is in danger in his latest case. (Image credit: BBC/Bronte Films/Steffan Hill)

After her worldwide success with the Harry Potter books, author J.K. Rowling wrote a series of novels featuring detective Cormoran Strike, under the pen name, Robert Galbraith.

It didn’t take long for the mystery to be solved who really wrote the books!

Tom Burke (from The Musketeers) plays the detective in the BBC adaptation series, alongside Holliday Grainger as Strike’s partner-in-crime, Robin Ellacott.

The first series includes adaptations of the books, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm and Career Of Evil.

The guest cast includes Martin Shaw, Tara Fitzgerald, Sian Phillips and Kierston Wareing (who played Kirsty Branning on EastEnders).

A fourth adaptation, Strike: Lethal White is also now available to watch on iPlayer.

Number of seasons: 4 

Episodes: 11 

Average episode length: 60 minutes 

What the critics say: “It’s impossible to not wonder if the TV adaptation of the book series would have been greenlighted were it not for Rowling’s name” - The Hollywood Reporter

Trigonometry

Trigonometry

Trigonometry. (Image credit: BBC/House Productions/Mark Johnson)

Three’s a crowd? Or three’s company?

In this BBC Two drama, London chef, Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira, BBC’s The Musketeers) and her paramedic boyfriend, Kieran (Gary Carr, Death In Paradise) are struggling to make ends meet.

So the pair decide to take in a lodger in the shape of the mysterious Ray (Ariane Labed), a former world-class synchronized swimmer.

But things begin to get complicated when both Gemma and Kieran find themselves attracted to Ray.

Could this be the start of an unexpected three-way relationship?

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 42-44 minutes 

What the critics say: “Trigonometry is certainly different and that can only be welcomed at the moment” - The Irish News

The Luminaries

TV tonight The Luminaries

Ex James Bond star Eva Green in The Luminaries. (Image credit: BBC/The Luminaries Production Ltd 2018/Kirsty Griffin)

Ex-EastEnders star Himesh Patel (who played Tamwar Masood) has a role in this period drama, which is based on the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Eleanor Catton.

Set in 1865, it follows a young woman, Anna Wetherell (played by Eve Hewson) who leaves the UK to start a new life in New Zealand and seek her fortune in a gold-rush town on the coast.

However, things don’t quite go as planned when Anna finds herself caught up in a murder mystery.

The cast of The Luminaries also includes Penny Dreadful’s Eva Green and The Cry’s Ewen Leslie.

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 56-59 minutes 

What the critics say: “One of the most visually arresting dramas of the year” - The Arts Desk

The Secrets She Keeps

TV tonight The Secrets She Keeps

Jessica De Gouw and Laura Carmichael star in The Secrets She Keeps. (Image credit: BBC / Lingo Pictures / John Platt)

This six-part Aussie psychological thriller is based on the novel of the same name by Michael Robotham.

Set in Sydney, it’s the story of yummy mummy Meghan (Jessica de Gouw) who appears to have it all.

Meghan, a successful online blogger, is pregnant with her third child and is married to a TV presenter, Jack (Michael Dorman, from the classic Aussie drama The Secret Life Of Us).

Meanwhile, there’s a pregnant supermarket employee, Agatha (Laura Carmichael, who played Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey) whose life couldn’t be more different. She appears to be estranged from her family. Plus the military man who got her pregnant isn't ready to be a dad.

One day, the two women come face-to-face and then… Well, NO SPOILERS! Except to say both characters are hiding some shady secrets that could turn lives upside down.

Listen out for the theme music, an alternate version of Kylie’s No.1 hit, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes:

Average episode length: 43 minutes 

What the critics say: “Yummy mummy thriller is a guilty, predictable pleasure” - The Guardian

Make Me Famous

Ex-EastEnders star Tilly Keeper (who played Louise Mitchell) is among the cast of this one-off BBC Three drama, written by TV presenter/DJ/actor, Reggie Yates.

It explores the downside of fame found through reality TV shows, and the effect it has on TV participants and their friends and family.

Tom Brittney, who plays Will Davenport in ITV detective drama, Grantchester, stars as Billy, a former contestant on a reality show called Love or Lust.

Billy thought he’d become an instant star. But a year after the show has finished, Billy is discovering that fame and life in the spotlight isn’t all he thought it would be…

Amanda Abbington stars as Billy’s mum, Amanda. While ex-Hollyoaks star, Emma Rigby has a role as a former contestant on Love or Lust.

Number of seasons:

Episodes:

Average episode length: 54 minutes 

What the critics say: “A reality TV fable without much of a moral” - The Independent

Sitting In Limbo

This feature-length factual drama is based on the real-life story of Anthony Bryan (played by one-time Casualty star, Patrick Robinson), a Jamaican-born man who legally immigrated to the UK when he was a child.

He has been living in Britain for 50 years when he was suddenly accused of being an illegal immigrant by the Home Office and threatened with deportation.

Anthony was among the “windrush generation”, folks who had arrived in the UK before 1973 from Caribbean countries.

But the political scandal documented in this drama saw Anthony and over 80 other black Britons wrongly detained and denied legal rights.

Sitting In Limbo is written by Bryan’s half-brother, novelist Stephen S Thompson and shows what happened when Bryan fought for the right to stay and the effect all of this had on Bryan’s family.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 1 

Average episode length: 86 minutes 

What the critics say: “UK Windrush scandal drama is vital viewing” - Den Of Geek

Normal People

Normal People

Normal People has been one of the biggest shows of 2020.

First released on BBC Three followed by weekly airings on BBC1, Normal People is one of those “event” TV series that everybody seemed to be talking about at the time.

It’s an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney, about the complicated bond between school friends, Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they become adults and find themselves both studying at Trinity College in Dublin.

The cast has since filmed some spoof comedy scenes for Comic Relief in Ireland, revealing what happens to Marianne and Connell in Normal Older People. Plus the characters confess all confessions to a priest played by Andrew Scott.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 12 

Average episode length: 23-34 minutes 

What the critics say: Normal People is an honest, absorbing love story” - Vulture

Small Axe

John Boyega Small Axe

John Boyega in 'Red, White and Blue', the third film in the Small Axe anthology. (Image credit: BBC)

Small Axe was a series of films that was created and directed by award-winning filmmaker, Steve McQueen (Widows, 12 Years A Slave). The anthology was set within London’s West Indian community from the late 1960s to the early 80s, the BBC described Small Axe as “a celebration of Black joy, beauty, love, friendship, family, music and even food.”

The five films are Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red, White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education, and featured some top-tier talent, including the likes of John Boyega, Letitia Wright, Shaun Parkes and Michael Ward, to name but a few. 

Every single film was highly praised by critics (especially Lovers Rock) and received plenty of attention during awards season this year, including leading the 2021 BAFTA TV Awards.

Number of seasons: 1

Number of films: 5

Average Length: 60-80 minutes (Mangrove is 127 minutes long)

What the critics say: “Over the course of one irresistible night, McQueen gives his audience a dizzying, sensuous escape, and his characters a rare chance to truly be themselves.” - Empire, on Lovers Rock 

Stateside series you don't want to miss!

Mrs. America

Mrs America Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett in Mrs. America. (Image credit: BBC/FX/Sabrina Lantos)

Cate Blanchett has been nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as real-life activist Phyllis Schlafly in this drama series about the rise of the women’s liberation movement during the 1970s.

Phyllis was actively against feminism and abortion and believed a woman’s place was in the home, dutifully supporting her husband. She actively campaigned to overturn the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s.

Her controversial views see Phyllis clash with feminists of the time including Gloria Steinem (played by Rose Byrne) and Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman).

Mrs. America was created by Dhavi Waller, a former writer for Mad Men.

Mad Men star Jon Slattery appears in the series as Phyllis’s wealthy lawyer husband, Fred.

Number of seasons: 1 

Episodes:

Average episode length: 43-54 minutes 

What the critics say: “Cate Blanchett is formidable as a 1970s anti-feminist” - The Independent

Katy Keene

This spin-off series from popular teen drama, Riverdale (available on Netflix) stars Lucy Hale (from Pretty Little Liars) as Katy Keene, an aspiring fashion designer living in New York.

Crossover characters from Riverdale include Josie McCoy (played by Ashleigh Murray), former lead singer with the girl group, Josie and The Pussycats. Plus Josie’s stepbrother, Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and super baddie businessman, Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos).

Despite plenty of publicity and its connection to Archie Comics, Katy Keene was canceled in the US after just one season.

But word is, the producers are looking for another channel to pick up the series.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 13 

Average episode length: 42 minutes 

What the critics say: “Escapist teen drama that doesn’t quite reach the heights of Riverdale.” - NME

Fort Salem

With everything that is going on in the world right now, we could do with some supernatural protection from three kick-ass witches!

This entertaining fantasy drama (also known as Motherland: Fort Salem in the US) follows the adventures of Raelle Collar (played by Taylor Hickson), Scylla Ramshorn (Amalia Holm) and Tally Craven (Jessica Sutton), three witches who join the US army!

The series is set in an alternate, present-day America where women now rule the world.

Raelle, Abigail and Tally must use their army training plus magical powers to protect the country from a terrorist group known as The Spree after a shock attack at a shopping mall.

Trivia: The ancient witch language heard spoken on the series was created by some of the folks who also worked on Game Of Thrones.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 10 

Average episode length: 41-51 minutes 

What the critics say: “Imagines an America defended by witches and things look spooky” - E!

Good Trouble

This US drama is actually a spin-off from The Fosters, which was about a diverse foster family living in San Diego, California.

But it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never seen the original series since Good Trouble is pretty much its own thing.

It follows grown-up foster children, Callie Adams Foster (Maia Mitchell) and her adopted sister, Mariana Adams Foster (Cierra Ramirez) as they begin new lives and careers in Los Angeles.

The sisters move into a funky living space in downtown LA called The Coterie.

Their new neighbors include graphic designer and artist, Gael (Tommy Martinez) and bartender and political activist, Malika (Zuri Adele). Plus Alice (Sherry Cola) manages the apartment complex.

If you enjoy it, there's good news: Good Trouble has been renewed for series 4.

Number of seasons: 4 (3 available on iPlayer)

Episodes: 31 

Average episode length: 42-50 minutes 

What the critics say: “Good Trouble is TV’s first good Gen Z drama” - Vox

Classic BBC dramas everyone should watch!

Waterloo Road

Waterloo Road has consistently remained popular ever since it was added to iPlayer as a box set in 2019, and it's easy to see why. Waterloo Road is anything but your typical Manchester comprehensive school; whilst it's full of troublesome teens, the teachers are drawn into just as many scandals as the pupils! 

It featured a huge range of actors including Bridgerton stars Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, Hollyoaks' Chelsee Healey, Victoria's Jenna Coleman and Emmerdale's Adam Thomas, to name but a few.

If you find yourself drawn in, there's good news; Waterloo Road season 11 is already in production and on its way later this year. Just like the original series, the next season will explore contemporary issues with a whole new set of staff and students.

Number of seasons: 10 (season 11 is coming this autumn)

Episodes: 200 

Average episode length: 59 minutes

What the critics say: 

Last Tango In Halifax

This Sally Wainwright-written comedy-drama centres around Celia Dawson (Anne Reid) and Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi), who discover a second chance for love 60 years since they last met.

The pair are reunited after their children convince them to join Facebook.

The rest of the main cast includes Sarah Lancashire as Celia’s daughter, Caroline, who begins an affair with a female work colleague after being cheated on by her husband, John (Tony Gardner).

Nicola Walker plays Alan’s daughter, Gillian, whose relationship with Paul (Sacha Dhawan) causes conflict with her son, Raff (Josh Bolt).

After a lengthy break due to writer Sally’s many other projects, Last Tango In Halifax returned for a fifth series in 2020 which was watched by over 7 million viewers on BBC One.

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 24 

Average episode length: 60 minutes 

What the critics say: “A brilliant, bittersweet Sunday comfort” - The Guardian

Killing Eve

Season 3 of this BAFTA-winning spy-drama mostly got the thumbs down from telly critics when it was released, while Killing Eve season 4 also has had its critics.

But the earlier episodes of Killing Eve are definitely still a wild watch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame was the head writer and executive producer for season 1.

If you haven’t seen the series before, it follows the international cat-and-mouse chase between MI5 agent, Eve Polastri (played by Sandra Oh of Grey’s Anatomy fame) and assassin, Villanelle (Jody Comer, who won a BAFTA for the role).

Supporting characters include Carolyn Martens (Fiona Shaw, who also won a BAFTA for the role), head of the Russian Section at MI6 who sends Eve off on various secret missions. Plus, Konstantin Vasilev (Kim Bodnia), who is Villanelle’s handler and a sort of father figure.

The series started life as the novel, Codename Villanelle by British author Luke Jennings. He has since written two sequels. 

Number of seasons:

Episodes: 32

Average episode length: 41-55 minutes 

What the critics say: “This once-thrilling comedy drama has grown stale and predictable” - The Independent

The Killing

Sofie Gråbøl shot to international stardom as Detective Inspector Sarah Lund in this Danish crime series. If you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance because all three seasons are available to watch on iPlayer. Fans were almost as captivated by Lund’s jumper collection as they were by the slow-burner cases.

Number of seasons: 3 

Episodes: 40 

Average episode length: 56 minutes

What the critics say: The Guardian on series two: "For the great and abiding pleasure remains Gråbøl's gloriously inscrutable expression in one of the finest ever demonstrations of undemonstrative acting."

See our best ITV dramas guide for shows on the ITV Hub.

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.


Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 


David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.


Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!