10 Underrated British Crime Series You Have to Add to Your Watch List
Bet you’ve never even heard about some of these.
Shetland (2013 – Present)
If your watchlist is craving some remote, windswept intrigue, you can't go wrong with Shetland. This detective series, set in the isolated Scottish Shetland Isles, follows Inspector Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshall, as he solves complex crimes in a community where everyone knows everyone else's business.
Shetland gives you murders, kidnappings, and missing persons cases set against a ruggedly beautiful backdrop that's so remote, it makes social distancing look like a packed concert. The series has a well-deserved 86% Rotten Tomatoes rating, but it's often overshadowed by more mainstream British crime shows.
Unforgotten (2015 – Present)
If there's anything Unforgotten proves, it's that the past never really stays buried. This captivating British crime series revolves around DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker ) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar), who unravel cold cases involving historic murders and disappearances.
One unique aspect of the series is how it compassionately portrays the impact of uncovering old wounds on the victims' families (although sometimes this is just the thing that makes it all the more difficult to watch). With a solid 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's high time Unforgotten steps out of the shadows of obscurity.
Whitechapel (2009 – 2013)
Whitechapel will give you the creeps, no doubt about it. This series, named after a district in East London notorious for the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, resurrects infamous crimes of the past in the present.
Each season revolves around a series of murders that mimic historical crimes, driving Detective Inspector Chandler and his team to dig deep into the grisly annals of British criminal history. On the upside, you get to learn history; on the downside, you'll probably double-check your locks at night.
Despite an impressive 75% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Whitechapel often gets overlooked, which is a crime in and of itself, if you ask me.
Scott & Bailey (2011 – 2016)
Scott & Bailey is the ultimate "girl power" detective series. The show focuses on the lives of two female detectives, DC Janet Scott and DC Rachel Bailey, who juggle personal life dilemmas with complex criminal investigations in the Greater Manchester Police. It's like Cagney & Lacey meets Prime Suspect, with an extra dollop of Northern charm.
The series' realistic portrayal of women in policing and the genuine friendship between the leads set it apart from its contemporaries. Scott & Bailey was conceived by Suranne Jones (DC Bailey) and Sally Lindsay, who based it on their own enduring friendship.
Wire in the Blood (2002 – 2008)
This criminally underrated series follows Dr. Tony Hill, a clinical psychologist with the uncanny ability to get inside the minds of murderers. While his methods are unconventional and his social skills... well, lacking, his insights are often key to solving cases.
The crimes are eerie, the solutions are satisfying, and Dr. Hill's character, played by Robson Green, is just odd enough to be endearing. With a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating of 78%, it's baffling why Wire in the Blood hasn't caught on with the wider public.
Line of Duty (2012 – Present)
This intricate police procedural drama might have flown under your radar, but let me tell you, once it hooks you, you're going down a rabbit hole of corruption and suspense. Line of Duty centres around an anti-corruption unit tasked with investigating some of their own. Yes, cops investigating cops.
The plot thickens with each passing season, throwing in unexpected twists and intricate connections. Fun fact: the creator, Jed Mercurio, was a former hospital physician, and now he's diagnosing crime in the police force.
While Line of Duty has a solid rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, it remains a criminally underrated show on the far side of the pond.
Happy Valley (2014 – Present)
The series, despite its cheerful title, is anything but happy. It follows Sergeant Catherine Cawood, played by the stellar Sarah Lancashire, as she battles personal demons and manages intense criminal situations in the Calder Valley. The real twist? The primary antagonist is directly linked to a tragedy in Cawood's past.
This series might not be on every American's watchlist, but it really should be. It proudly holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, if you need a further proof it's definitely worth watching.
Broadchurch (2013 – 2017)
It might be an understatement to say that Broadchurch is a slow-burn mystery. This show is like a painstakingly brewed pot of tea that you savor, one tiny sip at a time.
The series unfolds in a small, close-knit community that is shocked into action by the murder of an 11-year-old boy. David Tennant and Olivia Colman are the lead detectives, their performances adding the perfect balance of grit and vulnerability to the narrative.
Broadchurch is filled with red herrings that'll have you suspecting everyone from the local priest to the boy's own family, making up theory after theory. With a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's a series that will grip you, wring you out, and leave you gasping for more.
The Fall (2013 – 2016)
The Fall is not your typical cat-and-mouse detective series. This psychological thriller dives deep into the mind of a serial killer, Paul Spector, chillingly portrayed by Jamie Dornan. On the other side of the law is Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, played by Gillian Anderson, who delivers a relentless pursuit of justice.
The show doesn't merely glance at the criminal; it immerses you in his everyday life, which, quite honestly, is a tad too close for comfort. Did you know Jamie Dornan prepared for his role as a serial killer by stalking a woman on the London Underground? That's some dedication for you.
Hinterland (2013 – 2016)
Filmed entirely in Wales, Hinterland is a show that's got more atmosphere than a gothic novel. This series follows DCI Tom Mathias, a troubled detective who investigates grim crimes in the coastal town of Aberystwyth. The series is unique for shooting each scene twice, once in Welsh and once in English.
Hinterland combines melancholic landscapes, dark narratives, and a brooding detective to form a potent brew of crime drama. Sadly, it hasn't caused much of a stir outside the UK, which makes it a prime contender for your underrated watchlist.