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Mining For Gold on the British Airwaves

Ten shows making waves in the UK today. Is the US their next stop?
  • If past is prologue, it won't be long before new British shows starring Mary Berry, David Schwimmer and David Tennant find their way stateside.
    If past is prologue, it won't be long before new British shows starring Mary Berry, David Schwimmer and David Tennant find their way stateside.

    Whether we're importing shows like Fleabag and The Crown or adapting reality formats like The Circle and Love Island, what's hot today in the UK is often what's coming to the US tomorrow. We asked our resident British correspondent Emma Fraser to list the shows that have tongues wagging these days across the pond. Some are decidedly British fare, while others have high import potential.

    Peak TV is the gift that keeps on giving, both in the UK and the US, as more outlets for more diverse programming inevitably lead to yet more diverse programming. Predicting which series will be the next global phenomenon is a fool’s errand, but there are a good number of new and upcoming shows in the UK right now that have the potential to catch on in the states. Here are ten show to be on the lookout for:

    The Trial of Christine Keeler

    If you ever wondered what the backstory behind the “British politician sex” line was referencing in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” then this recent BBC mini-series is here to answer all those questions. The Profumo affair is shorthand for the 1963 scandal that brought down the Secretary of State for War, which was covered briefly in Season 2 of The Crown. Rather than focusing on the man who gives this infamous event its title, John Profumo, The Trial of Christine Keeler instead reflects on the 19-year-old woman at the heart of the story. Vilified by the British press, Christine Keeler shouldered the burden of a landscape that was rapidly changing, becoming the face of the salacious story, and a tabloid sensation. Starring Kingsman’s Sophie Cookson in the lead role, and former hot priest James Norton (Granchester, Little Women) as the disgraced osteopath Stephen Ward, the series created by Amanda Coe gives Keeler a voice. The narrative delves far deeper than Keeler’s showgirl and model status, revealing the gender and class divide that still plays a role in the damaging British tabloid machine nearly 60 years later.

    Deadwater Fell

    Broadchurch was one of Britian’s biggest crime show imports of the last decade, with fans on both sides of the Atlantic obsessing over exactly whodunnit. In Deadwater Fell, Tennant returns to the gritty drama format, but this time he’s caught up in the crime as the only person in his family to survive a devastating house fire. Each person in the house was drugged, but who did it? The facade of happiness is shattered when it’s revealed that the seemingly perfect family was far different than the image they projected. Everyone has something to hide in this small Scottish town, which also stars The Good Fight’s Cush Jumbo. The series is set to be released by Acorn in the US this April.

    White House Farm

    Based on actual events, White House Farm is a dramatization of a seemingly open and closed 1985 murder-suicide case that turned into a media frenzy as more facts came to light. This miniseries ticks a lot of British drama boxes: dogged cops going against their superior’s orders, melancholy countryside scenery, several Game of Thrones actors, and more tabloid scrutiny. Not to mention the fact that Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas plays Shelia Caffell, the model accused of murdering her parents and her 6-year-old twin boys before turning the shotgun on herself. A history of mental health issues and alleged drug use turned her into a national villain before the truth came to light. As with The Trial of Christine Keeler, Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, and the podcast You’re Wrong About, this series shines a light on the injustices and mischaracterizations of the past. White House Farm is set to be released on HBO Max in the US later this year.

    Intelligence

    The Friends cast seems to be spending as much time in the UK as they are on Instagram these days. Matt LeBlanc took temporary residence on the long-running UK motoring series Top Gear, and Lisa Kudrow will be appearing in the forthcoming Channel 4/Netflix coproduction, Feel Good. David Schwimmer is also returning to his sitcom roots in the Sky comedy, Intelligence. Created by and co-starring Nick Mohammed as computer analyst Joseph Harries, the fish-out-of-water workplace comedy lets Schwimmer lean into American bluster as an NSA agent sent to work at GCHQ — an intelligence agency that handles more desk work than James Bond-style outings — to tackle cybercrime.

    The End

    Dame Harriet Walter was last seen playing an emotionally absent mother and passive-aggressive comment champion on Succession, and she'll soon be appearing in Season 3 of Killing Eve. Before that, she’s headlining the new drama The End, a multi-generational examination of death and the process of finding your place in the world. Walter stars as Edie Henley, a woman who is contemplating her mortality. Her daughter is a doctor working in palliative care in Australia, but who is less prepared when her mother moves across the world to a nearby retirement village. For your dose of dysfunctional family drama, look no further than this Sky co-production with Australia’s Foxtel.

    Baghdad Central

    Based on Elliott Colla’s noir thriller of the same name, Channel 4’s Baghdad Central takes place in 2003, six months after the US occupation of Iraq. The city is without its own army and police force, which has seen the increase of crime and paranoia levels. After discovering his eldest daughter Sawsan (Leem Lubany) is missing, ex Iraqi policeman Muhsin al-Khafaji (Waleed Zuaiter) sets out to find her in this dangerous setting. Placing Khafaji at the center of the action ensures this doesn’t feel like a rehash of every other drama set in this region, even with the presence of former-Homeland star Corey Stoll as American Military Police Captain John Parodi. British audiences love crime TV featuring magnetic leads from Inspector Morse, DCI John Luther, and Hercule Poirot to Nordic noirs like Forbrydelsen and Broen/Bron. Baghdad Central further expands the scope of both crime and military-based material with Khafaji as the lead investigator. Hulu plans to release the show stateside sometime this year.

    Win the Wilderness

    Like the US, the UK is no stranger to reality-based real estate shows. Win the Wilderness combines competition and real estate, giving contestants a unique chance to win an incredible Alaskan property. Six couples must brave the elements to prove to the owners that they should be the ones to receive this grand prize. Said elements include sub-zero temperatures and wild bears: this is far more hazardous than any open house event and requires much more than writing a cutesy letter to stand out among other potential homeowners.

    Crazy Delicious

    Taking culinary competition to the next level, Crazy Delicious tasks its contestants with making the wonderfully bizarre from the ingredients featured in the edible set. Part Hansel and Gretal, with a dash of Willy Wonka, the soil is made of chocolate and even the brook can be drunk from. British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal is renowned for experimental cooking and pairing unexpected items, which he is encouraging others to do in Crazy Delicious. Dishes on the Channel 4 series have so far included banana tacos, strawberry cheesecake chicken wings, and hot dog profiteroles. It might not sound like it, but the aim is to create a visual taste extravaganza. The show is set to debut stateside on Netflix in the first half of this year.

    Best Home Cook

    On the other end of the culinary spectrum, the BBC competition Best Home Cook is more traditional in its scope. Fans of GBBS who are also missing Mary Berry in the later iteration will be pleased to see her back in a judging capacity on a show that follows a similar three challenge format. Starting with 10 contestants, each week they're asked to prepare a beloved home-cooked meal followed by making a dish based around a central ingredient — such as tinned tuna — before an elimination round challenge. Leaning into the cozy aesthetic, one person will be crowned Britain's best home cook

    The Great Pottery Throw Down

    First, there was GBBS, followed by The Great British Sewing Bee, then, in 2015 came The Great Pottery Throw Down. Although it was canceled by BBC Two after two seasons, the series was given a new lease of life on Channel 4’s More4 at the start of 2020. Artistic skills are celebrated in this battle of the clay as the potters are asked to create egg cups, elaborate chess sets, nude sculptures, and even blindfolded bowl making.

    Emma Fraser has wanted to write about TV since she first watched My So-Called Life in the mid-90s, finally getting her wish over a decade later. Follow her on Twitter at @frazbelina

    TOPICS: Brit TV, BBC, Channel 4, Hulu, Netflix, Baghdad Central, Best Home Cook, Crazy Delicious, The End, The Great British Bake Off, The Great British Baking Show, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Intelligence, The Trial of Christine Keeler, White House Farm, Win the Wilderness, Corey Stoll, Cressida Bonas, David Schwimmer, David Tennant, Harriet Walter, Heston Blumenthal, James Norton, Lisa Kudrow, Mary Berry, Sophie Cookson, Peak TV