American viewers are accustomed to hearing just how much better television audiences have it across the pond. Most British TV imports tend to be either comedies or BBC miniseries; who hasn’t plowed their way through The IT Crowd on Netflix or mooned over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy? But with the recent ascendancy of BBC America, the network behind critically acclaimed shows like Orphan Black, we’re reminded that there’s more to UK TV than laughs alone. Here’s our guide to the best British dramas on television both past and present, from science fiction to spying.
Any show that’s able to survive, on and off, for a half a century has got to be doing something right. And while Doctor Who is certainly prone to silliness, its ever-evolving protagonist and his revolving cast of companions have captivated generations of viewers, both the children the show is supposedly meant for and adults. In the time travel epic’s most recent incarnation, the show has seen fantastic work from David Tennant, Matt Smith, Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan, and a host of other talented actors; Sherlock‘s Stephen Moffat currently holds the reins as showrunner. Also worth a mention is Torchwood, Doctor Who‘s decidedly more adult spinoff series that’s at four seasons and counting.