One thing English students always ask me is if I can recommend any TV shows to them to help support their studies. Well, I can! So without further ado, here are 82 pretty awesome British TV shows to help develop your English language skills. Not only that, but I’ve included some shows that are culturally relevant and referenced and chatted about in every day life. There’s lots of exposure to accents, slang, and other colloquialisms that will help to boost your English whilst finding your new favourite series.
I’ve tried to group the shows into rough categories to help you decide if it’s something you’d be interested in. If it’s something I personally enjoy then I’ve commented about it but if it’s one I’ve never really watched but still felt relevant, I’ve just listed the name. Enjoy!
Stuff You’ll Probably Know
Let’s get these out of the way first.
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Stuff that tickles me
My absolute favourite TV show of all time. Peep Show is pure comedy genius following the lives of Mark and Jeremy, who despite their differences have a pretty firm friendship. It’s filmed from their points of view and you also hear their thoughts, which makes for a different style of comedy.
Like a teenage Peep Show. Absolutely loaded with slang and every word for genitalia you could possibly imagine.
The IT Crowd
Working in the basement, the IT department, including Richard Ayoade, are often neglected but used to it. If you’re unsure, start with series 2 episode 1…
If you like The Inbetweeners, pretend that this is Simon having gone to university.
The Mighty Boosh
Just absolutely bizzare.
I’m so late to the game on The Office, and I’m even watching the American version first (now!) but I’m really enjoying checking back to the British version.
The Royale Family
Because it’s never been so funny to watch people watching TV.
That Peter Kay Thing
Peter Kay will make you laugh out loud. This one’s also a good insight to the north of England too.
After That Peter Kay Thing, Peter Kay went on to make Phoenix Nights, which is just as brilliant.
Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere
Another one of Peter Kay’s creations.
Follows a drunken book shop owner (an Irish man – another accent! Yay!) and his new assistant, Bill Bailey. Pretty funny.
Considered the predecessor to Shaun of the Dead, this is Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s earliest collaboration.
Ricky Gervais led Derek has been criticised for its portrayal of disability but I think it’s still a worthy mention.
I feel like a lot of shows have come off the back of The Inbetweeners. Drifters is kind of like a female version and features actresses from the first Inbetweeners movie.
Friday Night Dinner
Another Inbetweeners star is in this one. Friday Night Dinner follows a Jewish family, and their quirky neighbour, around their Friday night dinner tradition.
I haven’t seen the whole lot of Man Down but it also features Greg Davies from…yes…The Inbetweeners. The intro to the show is great.
Phone Shop is highly underrated. I love the characters in this one.
Current Affairs Stuff
Russell Howard’s Good News
This show will make you laugh. That’s pretty much all I need to say.
Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe
If you can cope with Brooker’s pessimistic slant then you might find this one quite enjoyable.
Have I Got News For You
This show has been going for YEARS. I remember watching this when I was younger and it still exists! A pretty timeless format.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks
Very similar to Have I Got News For You but about music.
8 Out of 10 Cats
Hosted by Jimmy Carr, this statistics based quiz panel show is generally quite funny.
Big Fat Quiz of The Year
Towards the end of December, we get this show on Channel 4 and it normally draws a worthwhile team of comedians discussing the highs and lows of the year that has just passed.
The Last Leg
I saw this show live! Created for the Paralympics in London in 2012, The Last Leg discusses goings on of the previous week with an open attitude to disability. There’s also an Australian presenter to help with your variety of accent understanding!
There’s a channel in the UK called Gold, and I’m pretty sure this is their regular schedule. Just these shows repeated every day. That gives you an idea as to how popular they are.
Last Of The Summer Wine
Only Fools and Horses
Birds of a Feather
The Vicar of Dibley
Teenagers with too much pocket money spend their days getting drugged up and then almost knocked up. I’ve never understood this one.
I’ve already mentioned Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe. Well this is created by the same guy! Also it’s pretty darn creepy. Definitely worth watching.
British people love soaps, and although I don’t watch any personally, I can understand most references to soaps in everyday life. For example, people may talk about the Rover’s Return or the Queen Vic – both pubs in two of the most popular soaps. Worth watching a bit because they’re also interesting for accents.
This is a relatively new genre and also useful for listening to different accents.
Made in Chelsea
Personally, the only one of this genre I watch. A bit of a guilty pleasure. Don’t tell anyone.
The Only Way Is Essex
Stuff People Reference
A classic show hosted by Tony Robinson, also in Blackadder, where folks travel the country digging stuff up.
This one has been around for a looong time. Fancy antiques people go to various spots in Britain and locals bring things from their attic to be priced up. Sounds as good as Time Team when you write it down, doesn’t it?
Every Brit at some point in their life will have watched Blue Peter. And probably made something from a toilet roll tube, hosted a bring and buy sale, or wished they were a presenter on this show.
The Great British Bake Off
This show gets bigger and bigger every year at the moment. Last year, it was all about #justiceforian after #dirtydiana took his baked alaska out of the #fridge. Ok, I made the last hashtag up. Whilst people were fighting across the world, those hashtags were trending on Twitter and making headlines in 2014. What can I say? Us Brits are pretty into this show.
If you have an embarrassing body problem, and you’re too embarrassed to go to your doctor, where do you go? Well, a doctor on TV who will broadcast your problem to millions of viewers, logically.
Supersize vs Superskinny
This show has the same doctor presenter as Embarrassing Bodies, Dr Christian, and gives an overweight person and an underweight person each other’s diet. You’d think after watching one you’d seen it all but people seem to love this show!
Stephen Fry is a national treasure. QI has Stephen Fry in it. That’s all you need to know.
Any nature show narrated by David Attenborough ever
Another national treasure. Also he speaks very clearly – a good one for learners new to listening to extended passages. Although, there may be the odd biology word thrown in that you probably won’t need in daily life. Just enjoy his voice.
The presenters of Top Gear are always getting in trouble, and despite their international drives being cringeworthingly staged at times, it is worth watching from time to time.
Normally watched by pensioners and students, Countdown is possibly the most useful British TV show for English learners – check it out and see what I mean…
How To Look Good Naked
People love Gok Wan, who in this show boosts ladies confidence enough for them to get naked by the end of each hour long episode. When you put it like that….well, I don’t know what to think.
The Jeremy Kyle Show
Sigh. Brits aren’t all like the guests on this show. I promise. Please, remember this. Still, it’s referenced a lot in popular culture so worth a mention on the list.
Location, Location, Location
We seem to love watching people buy houses. That’s essentially what this show is.
Apparently there’s a Grand Designs drinking game. It gets better – the presenter recently admitted he created an episode to get people playing said drinking game as drunk as possible, although Channel 4 denies this is true.
This man is the reason we no longer have turkey twizzlers in school canteens. What’s a turkey twizzler? Well, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much turkey involved. He’s done some good for this country and most people love him for it.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has one of the best names of all time. That alone is reason enough to watch River Cottage.
Another chef with an amazing name, Heston Blumenthal makes things you could never dream of making in your own kitchen, often involving liquid nitrogen. He even has a range of foods sold in Waitrose, a fancy British supermarket. Lapsang souchong tea smoked salmon, anyone?
Deal or no Deal
You probably have your own version of this show in your country? Here in Britain, it’s hosted by Noel Edmunds who has created a weird cult surrounding the show – for example, calling the audience ‘pilgrims’…very odd.
People lose their minds over this show. I’ve not yet figured out why…
Ditto Pointless. I think they’re also on competing time slots. Fun fact: the presenter recently performed in my local pantomime. What’s a pantomime? Hmm…that’s another blog post in itself.
Come Dine With Me
Always on some channel somewhere. Always with at least one crazy contestant. Always with a brilliantly sarcastic narrator saying it like it is.
In this show two teams from different universities compete to win…something. In fact, I don’t even know if there’s a prize.
If you know lots about a very specific topic, you like spotlights, and big black chairs, then this could be just the show you’re looking for.
The X Factor
Undeniably huge. The show we have to thank for One Direction. Yay.
I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!
An amazing title for a show you would have thought had run its course. Celebrities get sent to Australia to eat kangaroo penises and get bitten by spiders.
In my opinion, past its best since moving from Channel 4 to Channel 5, Big Brother has been pretty influential on this country. Most notably, Jade Goody. Jade was a much loved contestant back in 2003 who sadly died of cervical cancer in 2009. Her public battle with cancer did a lot to encourage more women to get Pap tests, which can only be a good thing.
Strictly Come Dancing
I just don’t get this show. But other people do. So it’s only fair to list it here.
Lord Alan Sugar has hit the nail on the head here because people love watching people that think they’re better than they are get told “you’re fired!”. Mwah hah hah.
This is a relatively new show to Channel 4, which is basically people watching TV. I’ve never watched it for fear of it becoming ridiculously addictive.
This show sends a group of people on a coach trip around Europe and they gradually vote each couple off until there’s just one left. Think Big Brother on a bus.
Big Fat Gypsy Weddings
This one caused a lot of controversy but it shows an interesting side to a British community that often get a bad name. Worth watching once or twice.
Alan Carr Chatty Man
Alan Carr is from near me. Not many famous people are. So it’s quite exciting.
The Graham Norton Show
I was probably far too young to watch but I loved Graham Norton back in the day on channel 4. Now he’s on BBC and although I don’t watch much myself, I’m sure he’s just as funny.
The Jonathan Ross Show
Yeah, I’m detecting a slight lack of imagination with these titles too…
Piers Morgan’s Life Stories
Piers Morgan gets celebrities on to discuss their…life stories. Surprise! Thinking about it, this show might be good for practising past tenses…
And I think that’s about it. Phew. What a list! I’m sure if you’re looking to get some listening practise for British English then there’ll be something here worth a look. So pop the kettle on, grab yourself a custard cream or two, and enjoy!
What’s your favourite British TV show? Is it on the list? Let me know in the comments!