Short BBC dramas
August 27, 2009 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What great <10 episode British dramas, such as State of Play, have I missed in the last 10 years?

I just finished watching the 6 part series State of Play, which reminded me how much I used to enjoy that format. I left the UK 10 years ago, so I'm hoping that I've missed lots of other great short drama series that I can now catch up on.

There are some excellent suggestions here, but most of them have too many episodes for my current limited TV watching time.

I'm not looking for procedural types where there's a new problem to solve every hour. I also prefer dramas set in the present day. State of Play was ideal and is exactly what I'm looking for more of: a great story that unfolds over 6 hours, 2 DVD's, 2 weekend evenings at home while the kid's asleep.
posted by IanMorr to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Have you made your way through the various series of Prime Suspect? Excellent.

You might also like Spooks. Even though the episodes are an hour long, the storyline runs throughout each series and are constructed so that you have to watch them all to get the entire story. Season 1 is a good place to start as there are only 6 episodes. Seasons 2 and later have 10 episodes each.
posted by meerkatty at 7:09 AM on August 27, 2009

Words cannot describe how deeply I adore The Thick of It, which has plenty of drama in addition to its acid satire.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:19 AM on August 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jekyll is very good and only 6 episodes long.
posted by Kattullus at 7:39 AM on August 27, 2009

Ultraviolet was a six part vampire thingy with one of the guys from the British Coupling. It was pretty good.

Viva Blackpool? It's got quite a bit of singing, but is still excellent. I think there was a sequel, which I've not seen.

Archangel was an excellent little two-parter with Daniel Craig set in Modern-day Russia.

I will be monitoring this thread with great interest.
posted by joelhunt at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ultraviolet is a great 6-part TV series that's 'a modern retelling of the vampire myth'. Brilliant storytelling, great acting, and very thrilling. Originally was on Channel 4 in 1998. Had a strong arc, but with individual stories for each episode.
posted by adrianhon at 7:47 AM on August 27, 2009

Try Jekyll (2007) as was highly recommended in the previous thread.

Survivors (2008) is also short & sweet.
posted by jayne at 7:48 AM on August 27, 2009

Best answer: I much prefer the Swedish version but the Kenneth Branagh version of Wallander was highly thought of.

Seconding Prime Suspect and Survivors too.
posted by ceri richard at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm just running out of the door but the others that pop into my head:

Being Human (6 x 1 hour episodes)
Boys from the Blackstuff
The House of Cards
Waking the Dead

Seconding Prime Suspect and Survivors too.
posted by ceri richard at 7:56 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Check out The Street. Stellar cast, created by Jimmy McGovern and multi award winning. Just been through season one and loved it.

The Take was a Sky 1 original which would generally fill me with run away feelings but turned out to be pretty great because of the excellent Tom Hardy.

While on Tom Hardy also have a look at The Virgin Queen which was excellent.
posted by merocet at 8:05 AM on August 27, 2009

Seconding Prime Suspect.

Also House of Cards, though that's a little longer but trust me is completely worth it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:31 AM on August 27, 2009

I think everything Suranne Jones has done is brilliant but would particularly recommend The Unforgiven and Dead Clever.
posted by TheRaven at 8:33 AM on August 27, 2009

...Blackstuff is older than I am :)

The Street is a series, but consists of complete stories in each episode, so good to dip into now and again. Taking Over The Asylum is great. Occupation looked pretty good, though I didn't see it myself.
posted by mippy at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2009

Seconding "The Thick of It", if for nothing else than introducing the phrase "as useless as a marzipan dildo" into the world.
posted by lattiboy at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2009

Best answer: Conviction completely fills your bill: 2 discs, wonderful actors, non-typical story, incredibly gripping, once you get past the confusing first episode in which too-clever cutting keeps you as baffled as the cops, (I suppose that's the idea; things straighten out quick enough…). Amazing, an all-time favorite.

So does Seesaw; 2 discs, great stuff, surprising turn-about…

Then there's Five Days: 2 discs, great cast, story, first-class…

Trial & Retribution comes close: Each disk is a complete tale in two 1.5-hour episodes. It's more genius from Lynda La Plante. Harrowing crimes, stand-out performances, multi-show story arcs for the coppers, great pacing, nothing formulaic, even though there's a strict formula: Crime, investigation, trial.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:54 AM on August 27, 2009

Dead Set was an insanely good show! It ran for maybe 8 episodes and is about the british version of big brother being overrun by zombies. I know, I know- another zombie flick. It is so much more than that- it is a real character study with lots of development and zombies. I love zombies.

I also loved Rome- a little more than 10 episodes, I think it ran for 2 seasons for about 24 episodes, and it was shown on HBO, but it was FANTASTIC! One of the best series out EVAR!
Kevin Mckidd should do something worthwhile after that, not grey's anatomy- boo on grey's anatomy!
posted by TheBones at 10:58 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cranford is a very good costume drama. (5x60 minute episodes)
Wallander is a great sort-of-series of detective stories (3x90 minute episodes)
I LOVE The Thick of it, as recommended by so many others. Political comedy/drama. (6x30 minute episodes + 2 specials)
posted by rhinny at 1:02 PM on August 27, 2009

I really liked Apparitions, with Martin (Martin) Shaw, which had a great Exorcist-style atmosphere (and was, indeed, about an exorcist).
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 2:36 AM on August 28, 2009

There's also The Crow Road and The Lakes.
posted by mippy at 3:10 AM on August 28, 2009

Tony Marchant's Holding On was aired just over ten years ago but only released on DVD in 2005.
posted by ninebelow at 5:41 AM on August 28, 2009

The BBC A to Z of Drama might be helpful.
posted by ninebelow at 5:44 AM on August 28, 2009

Response by poster: Excellent suggestions, thanks. Netflix are going to be busy for a while. They didn't have everything mentioned above, so there are some I'll keep looking for. The Thick of It in particular sounds great. Of the ones they did have:

Shameless, Ultraviolet, The Street, The Virgin Queen, Conviction, Seesaw, Five Days, Trial & Retribution and Wallander are available

The House of Cards series are available and can be watched instantly online.

Archangel, Being Human, In The Loop and Survivors are not out on DVD yet, but can be saved for later.
posted by IanMorr at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2009

I really liked State of Play, Jekyll and The Street. Another one I liked was The State Within. Worth a try?
posted by kaarne at 8:29 AM on August 28, 2009

Blackpool is awesome. Nothing else quite like it.

David Morrissey was also in an awesome miniseries called "Meadowlands," which also goes by "Cape Wrath."
posted by jbickers at 12:08 PM on August 28, 2009

Second the Spooks recommendation. In the U.S. it is titled MI-5.
posted by stchang at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2009

Seconding Blackpool!

Russell T Davies' The Second Coming and Bob and Rose are pretty underrated in my opinion.

Also, in no particular order -

Jimmy McGovern'sThe Lakes
Paul Abbott's Clocking Off
Holding On
The Devil's Whore
House of Saddam
Red Riding Trilogy

The League of Gentlemen is on the verge of being drama, as is the recent excellent Psychoville

Bit longer but Bleak House is definitely worth a weekends viewing
posted by brilliantmistake at 2:56 AM on August 29, 2009

The original Edge of Darkness is 24 years old, and still a high water mark for television drama.

The 2010 remake with Mel bloody Gibson does not and will not exist, and any evidence to the contrary will find me sticking my fingers in my ears and crying "La la la la la!"
posted by rdc at 8:24 PM on September 1, 2009

Pennies from Heaven introduced Bob Hoskins to my world many many years ago.

But, oh my word, I'm nthing The Boys from the Blackstuff. That was genius. Liverpool FC have a player on their team right now called Yossi Benayoun. The fans have dubbed him Yosser - one of the main characters from The Blackstuff. I'd guess Yossi wasn't even born when the series was on.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2009

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