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1988-1999, 2009-presentThe UK has often tackled sci-fi on the small screen, but the sci-fi comedy is a much rarer beast. Red Dwarf at its prime was one of our greatest examples: the budget may not have been intergalactic, but the characters pinged off each other and the vast majority of the jokes landed. Dave Lister (Craig Charles) is the last man left alive on the eponymous mining vessel, with just an uptight hologram (Chris Barrie's Rimmer, an all-time great comedy loser snob), an evolved cat-man (Danny John-Jules' ebullient, vain Cat), a nervy android (Robert Lewellyn's Kryten) and the ship's less-than able computer Holly (Norman Lovett) for company. The show expanded beyond its initial concept and enjoys a revival run on Dave, but those first three seasons remain the glory days.
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1993-1996, 2006In Edward 'Fitz' Fitzgerald, Robbie Coltrane concocted one of television's most memorable antiheroes. The gambling, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking, overweight psychologist may have incorporated almost every vice known to man, but viewers delighted in the ease with which he mercilessly beat lesser men to an intellectual pulp. Jimmy McGovern's tautly-written drama was never concerned with the whodunit aspect (the perpetrator was generally revealed in the first scenes) but rather built up to the moment Fitz got the suspect in an interview room. Assaulting them with cutting insight and outright provocation, the portly profiler bent them to his will and put the squeeze on until they finally cracked. One of the finest dramas Britain has produced.
Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark... Adapting the work of novelist James SA Corey (actually Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse has become one of the best science fiction shows on TV. Blending smart, humanistic science fiction with relatable human characters (and, as the series has expanded, a growing alien presence), it's grown a considerable following, which surely will have helped it find a new show at Amazon after being cancelled by the US SyFy network. Sometimes, good things do happen to good shows.UK & US: Stream on Amazon Prime Video
2012-presentAmerica might have brought us shows such as NYPD Blue and The Wire, but Britain remains the world's top exporter of police series. And Line Of Duty is just the latest example, the acronym-stuffed look at the efforts of a team of corruption-battling cops and the moles they just can't seem to squash. Jed Mercurio (who also whipped up Bodyguard) has Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar as the driven central trio of officers who must navigate twisty cases as they root-out wrongdoers from within and without. It'll keep you guessing as to who's really manipulating events behind the scenes, while the dialogue crackles in extended interrogation sequences, and the show looks as good as anything from across the pond.
1997-2003Long before Orange Is The New Black blended humour and pain behind bars, Oz took a much darker look at prison life, set in the Oswald State Correctional Facility. Bleak but brilliant, it gathers a group of characters from different walks of life and then subjects them to terrifying traumas on a weekly basis. If anyone you know shudders when they see the perfectly charming (and not at all psychopathic) J.K. Simmons in other roles, Oz is to blame. It comes highly recommended, but a word of advice if you go bingeing: have something lighthearted and fun to watch in between seasons. Trust us.
1981-2003The later Christmas specials may have tested our good will, but for most of its run, Only Fools And Horses was a sitcom that earned its status as a perennial national treasure. Del Boy and Rodney Trotter's doomed attempts to become millionaires kept the nation smiling for over 20 years and, thanks to constant repeats, they still manage to raise a giggle today. No matter how many times you watch the best bits (the chandelier scene, the yuppie bar fall, the Batman & Robin run), they never fail to raise a laugh.
2003-2019Now, the story of a groundbreaking sitcom that very nearly died a quiet, ignominious death at the hands of an indifferent network, before it was saved by an internet streaming site. When it first arrived in 2003, Arrested Development was so fiendishly clever, so densely plotted, so shrewdly ironic, that Fox barely knew what to do with it. Despite Fox's best efforts to bury the show in strange timeslots, the Bluth family earned a feverishly loyal cult audience, one that eventually conferred upon it a Netflix rebirth. The brain-melting ambition of Season 4 may have been a noble failure for some, and Season 5 didn't necessarily correct that, but its initial run remains one of the most innovative comedies ever produced.
2016-2019Phoebe Waller-Bridge scored a pack of Emmys for her second run of Fleabag episodes, and rightly so. Having turned an insightful, frank and frequently filthy one-woman show into a TV series that allowed her to explore the emotional waters to a much greater degree. Writing and starring, Waller-Bridge brought to life a young woman trying to reconcile her worldview and actions with the impact it has on those around her. The show will make you giggle, but Waller-Bridge doesn't shy away from going dark when need be. Stellar turns from Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford have anchored the show through both seasons, while Andrew Scott was a highlight of the second, playing the character that will forever be known by fans as Hot Priest.
2013-2015Bryan Fuller is acknowledged as the Quirk King of TV, and while many of his shows have burned brightly but briefly, his style was perfectly suited to the world of Hannibal Lecter. Mads Mikkelsen played a slinky, stylish version of the eponymous serial killer with no time for the rude and selfish, and Hugh Dancy brought haunted passion to Will Graham, in a show that played out over three seasons before the plug was pulled. Fuller and his co-creators at least got to indulge in beautiful, traumatic crime scene creations, superb gourmet cannibalism and a hero who was more complicated than most, all served up in the most baroque fashion. We'd have liked more, of course, but we're grateful for what we got.
After the twin successes of Buffy and Angel, Joss Whedon headed to space for this wonderful and deeply-missed mix of Western tropes, Chinese swearing, big damn heroes, and a future dystopia. Set in a time when mankind has explored a new frontier as Earth's resources ran out, Firefly follows a group of rebels and mercenaries who work under the radar of an all-encompassing government formed after a brutal civil war. Whedon recruited an ensemble cast that gelled perfectly, led by Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk and Summer Glau. They banter, they struggle, they fend off the space-maddened Reavers, and they make us care along the way. The ratings may have been low, but the show will not be forgotten.UK:Stream on AmazonBuy now on AmazonUS:Stream on Hulu
2005-presentFor a show about such utterly reprehensible people, Always Sunny has connected with a huge fan base. Following in the tradition of shows such as Seinfeld, the dodgy dealings of Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney) Dee (Kaitlin Olsen), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Frank (Danny DeVito, who joined in the second season after US network FX demanded a name to boost the show's ratings) make for excellent comedy value. They may not (usually) be people we can root for, but it's fun to see them scheme, squabble and, more often than not, fail in their attempts to break out of their regular lives. Musicals, mayhem and no little misbehavior have become a winning combo.
2008-2014Kurt Sutter, a veteran of The Shield, brought a similar attention to detail and gritty plotting to this story of a motorcycle gang that cruise the small Californian town of Charming. The Shakespearean tale of a son (Charlie Hunnam's Jax Teller) dealing with the legacy of his dead father, conflicting with his surrogate father-figure (Ron Perlman's Clay Morrow), and facing the moral struggles of outlaw life, Sons Of Anarchy sees crime, ambition and violence all bleeding together. Under Sutter's guidance, the show steered through leadership challenges, rival gang attacks and trouble from corrupt (and crusading) cops, telling a compelling, often brutal tale that pulls no punches. Jax's story may have felt like the foot came off the throttle slightly as the show neared its end, but it kept up the pace and has since spawned a spin-off show in Mayans MC.
2010-presentLike Dracula (which, fittingly, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss moved on to), Sherlock Holmes is one of those evergreen characters that is endlessly reinvented, either with a period-appropriate take or adapted for the present day of whoever tackles him. The creative duo plumped for the latter, bringing the great grouse detective bang up to date with texting, sexual innuendo, bromance and gusto. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have long since entered the canon of great Sherlocks and Watsons, and their every move is charted by a massive, enthusiastic fan base. A BBC classic, Moffat and Gatiss' take on the great detective is both witty and wonderful.
2019 The story of one of the worst real-life disasters in history might not sound like the most entertaining miniseries, but Craig Mazin and his team delivered something emotionally affecting that packs a real punch. Unafraid to show the true impact of the reactor's meltdown, Chernobyl explores the tragedy's effect on the people in the area, those called in to help and the political squabbling over who's to blame and how to deal with the fallout (literally, in this case). A fine cast boasting the talents of Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagatis and Sam Troughton give what could have been a dry history lesson a very human set of faces, and the miniseries was justly rewarded at the Emmys for its trouble. 041b061a72