Decades ago, (possibly the late 70s or early 80s), I became interested in watching British mystery television series. They were aired on America’s PBS stations (Public Broadcasting Service) and later when streaming became available, services like Netflix offered a variety of BBC mystery shows. These programs are so popular there is a subscription service called BritBox and they boast that they offer the largest selection of British TV programs, which includes many of the mystery series. There are lots of British mystery shows to choose from that are worth watching and rewatching, but I have managed to narrow it down to five (5).
From the very first episode of the first season, you will be hooked. In fact, when you reach the last episode of the last season, you might be tempted to start over and watch them again. Don’t be upset that the list does not include Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” and “Sherlock Holmes”. They were left out because I figured those shows were on everybody’s list.
- The Bletchley Circle
- Inspector Morse
- Inspector Lewis
The Bletchley Circle (2012 – 2014)
Do you like a TV show where the lead character is a strong, independent, and intelligent woman? Have you ever watched a series where there was a team of strong, independent, and intelligent women? This was a first for me. I have seen shows where there was a stong smart female lead. But never a team of women! It is set in the 1950s. This group of women worked as codebreakers during the war. After the war, they decided to get together and use their minds to solve complex crimes. Can you blame them? They deciphered messages transmitted by the enemy and provided the military with information that helped win the war. Now what are they supposed to do after the war is over? Take their brains out of their heads, put them on a shelf and not use their knowledge, skills, and abilities any more?
Broadchurch (2013 – 2017)
In the first episode, your heart is captured immediately. A child’s dead body is found on a beach in a quiet sleepy coastal town where things like that just don’t happen. Next, your mind is captured because along with the investigators, you feel compelled to examine each character in each episode and try to piece together the clues. You have just got to know who killed that child! This was another first for me. This series literally kept me up all night. I couldn’t go to sleep. I had to watch it from start to finish. I had to!
Inspector Morse (1987 – 2000)
This show’s main character is a criminal investigator, DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) Morse, and as soon as you see the car he drives, you know he doesn’t need the job. He is financially independent and could spend his time throwing parties on a yacht or traveling the world. But he knows that he has a gift for solving crimes. Why waste such a talent when you can put it to good use? Need a recommendation for binge-watching. This series is totally binge-worthy. SPOILER ALERT! … Morse died. That’s because the actor who played the part, John Shaw, died in real life. No doubt the real-life audience would not have accepted a replacement. So the fictional detective in the series had to be written off, and so DCI Morse passed away.
Inspector Lewis (2006 – 2015)
The Inspector Morse TV show had such a loyal fan base that it was followed up with a sequel ~ “Inspector Lewis”; as well as a prequel ~ “Endeavour”. (See below) Even if you had not seen the Morse series you would still enjoy watching Inspector Lewis. Detective Sergeant Robert “Robbie” Lewis was Morse’s junior partner. When Morse passed away, Lewis was promoted to DCI and he was assigned a junior partner, James Hathaway. Hathaway was training to become a Catholic priest but decided to become a detective instead. For some reason, he is able to draw upon his education and training at the seminary and use it to help Lewis solve crimes. It’s like I always say: Education is never wasted. Just as Morse and Lewis worked well together, Lewis and Hathaway were also an outstanding investigative duo.
Endeavour (2012 – 2020)
The prequel TV series, “Endeavour”, is about Inspector Morse during his younger days when he started his career as a DC (Detective Constable). It is set in Oxford, England, during the 1960s and 70s. His name is Endeavour Morse, hence the name of the show. There was a pilot episode which aired in 2012 and it was well-received by the public. Season 1 officially began in 2013. It’s 2020 and the program is in Season 7.
By the way, all 3 series ~ Morse, Lewis and Endeavour ~ are based on novels and a short story collection written by English crime writer, Colin Dexter (1930 – 2017).
Are you also a loyal viewer of BBC mysteries?
Do you agree with this list?