Grab Some Tea And Binge View British TV Dramas

British dramas, mostly from BBC America, have become gold mines of binge viewing for American TV fans seeking a deep dive into compelling series. Gillian Anderson's The Fall, David Tennant's Broadchurch and Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock are just a few of the series which offer hours of escape.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's look back now on 2013 with our TV critic Eric Deggans. He says it was the year of the binge viewer and a special kind of program made it so.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I was stuck at home and not feeling so well when I stumbled on an old magazine article about "The Fall," a moody BBC drama with Gillian Anderson as a British police inspector hunting a serial killer in Ireland. So I fired up the Netflix, found the first season online and dove in.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "THE FALL")

GILLIAN ANDERSON: (as Stella Gibson) It thrills him to stalk these women.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Haven't you heard? There's a stranger in the (unintelligible).

ANDERSON: (as Stella Gibson) To break into their home.

(SOUNDBITE OF A WOMAN SCREAMING)

ANDERSON: (as Stella Gibson) What could be more intimate than squeezing the life from another human being?

DEGGANS: Dana Scully from the "X-Files" with a spot-on British accent and tough-as-nails attitude. It was suspenseful. With a villain who sometimes hid in neighborhoods crushed by poverty in Belfast. It was the best binge viewing - high-quality British crime drama.

Another show among that treasure trove: "Broadchurch," a spellbinding BBC show about the murder of a young boy known by everyone in a small town, including one of the officers investigating his death.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "BROADCHURCH")

OLIVIA COLMAN: (as Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller) I know him, he lives here. He has tea at my house. He's my boy's best friend. Oh god, Beth, does Beth know?

DAVID TENNANT: (as Detective Alec Hardy) All right, calm down, D.S. Miller.

COLMAN: (as Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller) You don't understand, I know that boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Shut it off. Be professional. You're working a case now.

DEGGANS: New shows like "The Fall" and "Broadchurch" have created a critical mass of great modern British crime dramas, just waiting for fans like prized volumes on a bookshelf. In fact, TV's best British crime drama showed its hero faking his own death in its most dramatic storyline yet. That's "Sherlock," the BBC's modern take on Sherlock Holmes.

These dramas often showcase talented British stars before Americans really get to know them. So "Sherlock" had Martin Freeman as John Watson trading quips with his socially stunted partner, Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SERIES, "SHERLOCK")

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH: (as Sherlock Holmes) Oh, John, I envy you so much.

MARTIN FREEMAN: (as John Watson) You envy me?

CUMBERBATCH: (as Sherlock Holmes) Your mind, so placid, straightforward, barely used. Mine's like an engine racing out of control, a rocket tearing itself to pieces trapped on the launch pad. I need a case.

DEGGANS: Consider it a binge viewing bonus. These guys may be big stars now, appearing together in the latest "Hobbit" movie, but you can see them and many other British talents just like them before they became England's coolest entertainment export.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Now, for many Americans, some or all of this week is a holiday - one of the benefits when Christmas falls in the middle of the week.

INSKEEP: Of course, many Americans will be working. You'll see them in the stores, in coffee shops, in half-empty offices and busy hospitals.

GREENE: And also here at NPR, where our colleagues at work include Kevin Leahy, Maggie Penman, Mallory Yu, Rachel Ward.

INSKEEP: Oluwakemi Aladesuyi, Martha Wexler, Lindsay Totty, Paula Brito, and our director Lauren Migaki.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Who just gave me a cue to say: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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