Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

Normal People

A selection of binge-worthy shows currently streaming on BBC iPlayer, from new hit drama Normal People to RuPaul's Drag Race UK

While many people now have plenty of extra time on their hands while living in lockdown, there probably has never been a better time to binge-watch or catch-up on shows. Thankfully, the BBC has a wide range of acclaimed series available to stream on the iPlayer to keep you distracted and entertained during these uncertain times. Here are our noteworthy picks.

Normal People

The new TV adaptation of Sally Rooney's beloved 2018 novel Normal People is all the rage at the moment, and rightfully so. The 12-part series beautifully tells the story of Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), two complex young characters who attend the same secondary school in County Sligo, Ireland and later meet again at Trinity College in Dublin. Although they have grown up in the same small town, the pair come from two different worlds: Connell from a working-class home and raised by a young single mother, while Marianne's family is extremely affluent and employs Connell's mother as a housecleaner. He's a popular jock with a sensitive side; she's an intelligent and intimidating person disliked by her peers (with the exception of Connell). They begin to see each other in secret in their senior year and their on-again-off-again relationship consumes their lives in the years that follow. Now, Connell and Marianne's story and a certain piece of jewellery are consuming the lives of so many others: an Instagram page dedicated to the silver chain that Connell wears throughout the series has quickly gained an impressive following, while the hashtag #connellschain has even earned its own emoji on Twitter. But Normal People is more than just a steamy romantic drama for fangirls – it's a refreshingly honest and realistic look at young love and early sexual experiences that also delicately deals with heavy topics including social class, anxiety, depression and abuse. Mescal and Edgar-Jones are outstanding as Connell and Marianne and it's impossible to imagine anyone else doing justice to the complicated characters. While it's all too-tempting to binge-watch the emotional roller-coaster of a series to find out what becomes of Connell and Marianne, this is a show that absolutely deserves to be savoured bit by bit. (Megan Forsyth)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Inside No 9

Just over 20 years ago, The League of Gentlemen completed what was then the typical comedy transition from the Edinburgh Fringe to radio to TV, from which they built a sizeable cult audience with their eponymous comedy horror series. Half of the Gentlemen – Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton – went on to create Psychoville, a less successful but still intriguing dark comedy which focused a little too much on long-form storytelling rather than playing to their strengths as sketch writers. In 2014, they reunited to create Inside No 9, an anthology series of entirely self-contained half-hour plays. The result is currently 31 episodes of strikingly inventive black comedy. It's an intoxicating fusion of the writers' favourite influences, notably Hitchcock, Hammer Horror and Tales of the Unexpected. Most stories are funny, some are quite serious, some are scary and a few are heartbreaking. Because there's no overarching through line, it's possible to pick out individual episodes from the entire run; series 2's The 12 Days of Christine is a stunning piece of work featuring an incredible performance from Sheridan Smith, and series 4's Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room is a masterpiece with a sublime blend of comedy and pathos. While any of the stories can be viewed out of order, it's well worth starting from the beginning to watch the captivating evolution of one of the BBC's best ever series. (Murray Robertson)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

Killing Eve

Based on the Villanelle novel series by Luke Jennings, the BBC's Killing Eve is now in its third season and continues to garner four and five-star reviews. The show first aired in 2018 and began winning awards from the off. For season two, the show won a British Academy Award and a Critics' Choice Award, among others. This year is no exception, with eight major award nominations for season three already in the bag. Killing Eve follows Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), a woman who once led a somewhat unremarkable life with a happy marriage and stable job at MI5. When Eve loses her job and takes on a role in a secret division at MI6, her world is turned upside-down as she begins to work behind-the-scenes on a major espionage investigation case, taking a keen interest in assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer) who is responsible for a number of inventive murders. Villanelle, also known as Oxana Vorontsova, may be a psychopathic hit-woman but she is also fierce, fashionable and funny. As Eve and the team at MI6 dig deep into the case of 'the twelve' – a Russian criminal organisation – her focus veers more towards Villanelle and the two develop a mutual infatuation with one another, playing out in a cat-and-mouse manner. The two come together in a lust-fuelled cloud of love-hate emotions, and as the show's name suggests, Villanelle takes an 'if I can't have you, nobody can' approach to their relationship, leaving Eve to fight for her survival. Killing Eve explores fear, grief, lust and fascination in an inventive and captivating manner made all the more remarkable by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer's award-winning performances. (Becki Crossley)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

This Time with Alan Partridge

Norfolk's most famous fictional broadcaster has been a mainstay of British comedy for nearly three decades, peaking with 1997's I'm Alan Partridge. But the character was unceremoniously neglected when actor Steve Coogan burgeoned his career in Hollywood and co-writer Armando Iannucci went off to create iconic series The Thick of It and Veep. Then, around ten years ago, Coogan united with comedy writing brothers Neil and Rob Gibbons and together they very carefully curated the return of Partridge with a multimedia renaissance including a live show, a pair of spoof autobiographies, two TV series of Mid Morning Matters and feature film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. With the character fully 'bounced back' (alongside new regular Tim Key as 'Sidekick Simon'), the team went on to craft This Time with Alan Partridge, a spot-on parody of the awkward framing and cumbersome tonal lurches typical of contemporary magazine/chat shows, with Partridge ostensibly dropped in as a last-minute addition to the presenting team. Throughout the six half-hour episodes he mucks things up in his own inimitable style, embarrasses himself and others, and manages to shatter the fragile relationship he has with his co-host, Jennie Gresham. Brilliantly played by Susannah Fielding, Gresham's subtle expressions betray the torment of a woman desperately trying to be professional while being endlessly tested by her contemptuous co-host. Like his beloved James Bond, Partridge has been reshaped over the years in order to keep him relevant, and This Time… is the perfect platform for contemporary Partridge. (Murray Robertson)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

People Just Do Nothing

Taking on the mockumentary sitcom format, People Just Do Nothing offers up a look into the lives of a group of Londoners who run a pirate radio station – Kurupt Fm – from a tower block in Brentford. MC Grinder (Allan Mustafa) leads the group of grime and UK garage loving DJs: DJ Beats (Hugo Chegwin), DJ Steves (Steve Stamp), and their entrepreneurial – yet mostly useless manager – Chabuddy G (Asim Chaudhry). The troupe are unemployed and in place of work put everything they've got into running the radio station. Delusions of grandeur run deep throughout the show; the cast of tragicomic characters believe MC Grinder to be a 'lyrical assassin', and the 'greatest MC in the galaxy' for example. In truth however, the listening numbers of the radio are so low that even the police aren't concerned about Kurupt FM's activities. Running a pirate station isn't easy and throughout five seasons viewers bear witness to the farcical predicaments the group get themselves into for radio's sake. Their decisions are most often short-sighted, condemning them at almost every turn. From flogging breast-pumps and unwanted signed autographs at a car-boot sale, to hosting a Kurupt rave at a Grinder's wedding, there are no lengths they will not go to to 'save radio' and fan their egos. The premise of people 'doing nothing' should be a boring one but instead the actors and creative team responsible for the show (which started out on YouTube) have formulated a cry-laugh inducing show, with an endearing group of friends that win the viewer over early in season one and leave you wishing the show's finale wasn't the last. Luckily for Kurupt FM fans, People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan the film is due for release in August 2020. (Becki Crossley)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

Fleabag

The quirky TV series that made Phoebe Waller-Bridge a comedy icon, Fleabag is based on her one-woman show of the same name which she first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. Waller-Bridge stars as the eponymous Fleabag, a free-spirited but confused thirty-something who runs a guinea pig-themed cafe in London and is navigating the aftermath of trauma. Angry, confused and incessantly sarcastic, Fleabag struggles to form any kind of emotional connection with other people. In addition to having to deal with her insufferable godmother-turned-stepmother (Olivia Colman) and crude brother-in-law Martin (Brett Gelman), she is frequently tormented by memories of her best friend Boo (Jenny Rainsford) who accidentally killed herself. The show is filled with Waller-Bridge's now-trademark snappy dialogue and Fleabag frequently breaks the fourth wall to provide internal monologues and running commentary. The acclaimed series only ran for two short seasons, with one airing in 2016 and the final season last year, which saw Andrew Scott join the cast as the aptly-dubbed 'hot priest' that Fleabag fancies and falls in love with. A year after its conclusion, Fleabag remains a near-perfect work of art that is, like all of the best comedy, equal parts painfully funny and devastatingly dark. (Megan Forsyth)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

This Country

This beautiful mockumentary series follows the frivolous exploits of cousins Kerry and 'Kurtan' Mucklowe (real-life brother and sister Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper) as they doss about in a quiet Cotswold village. The local area is sparsely populated with a collection of transient characters (many played by various Cooper family members and friends), while the local reverend, nobly played by Paul Chahidi, plays an increasingly important part in their lives, eventually becoming almost as important to the show's focus as the central pair. The Mucklowes are portrayed as simple folk with big hearts and meagre ambitions. They're fully rounded, sympathetic characters whose nonsensical musings and torpid philosophies are hilarious to behold. While it's consistently funny, there's real humanity in the storytelling and it's heartbreaking to see the unfolding tragedy of Kerry's relationship with her selfish father, while Kurtan has a sweet desire to do good even though he inevitably fails, time and again. Working from a sparkling script written by the pair, the lead characters' expressions – particularly when responding silently to the camera – are reminiscent of the best parts of The Office (a clear influence). Kerry, in particular, has a phenomenal command of comical facial contortion as she tortuously tries to process the events of any given scene. (Murray Robertson)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

Luther

Sometimes it feels as though we'll never reach saturation point when it comes to gritty crime dramas, as the great British public continues to demonstrate a voracious appetite for death and murder. Amongst the unending televised bloodbath, however, Luther is a true watershed of the genre, mainly for the commanding performance of Idris Elba in the role of DCI John Luther. When we first meet Luther, his brilliance and dedication to his job has made him a legendary figure in the police force, though it's come at a steep cost to both his personal life and mental health, and his occasionally unorthodox methods have earned him his fair share of enemies even within the force. Against a backdrop of truly harrowing murders, Elba's righteous vindictiveness is thrilling to watch, as is the complicated push-pull between him and the brilliant psychopathic Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), whose belief in an amoral universe ruled by chaos clashes with Luther's conviction that things can, and still deserve to be, put right. The Moriarty to his Sherlock, Morgan's obsession with Luther leads her to insert herself into his professional and personal life, bringing both mayhem and unexpected aid in unexpected turns. Despite Luther's unremitting bleakness, there's a great deal of humanity and empathy to be found amongst its complex cast of characters, even as the body count ceaselessly continues to mount. (Deborah Chu)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

RuPaul's Drag Race UK

RuPaul's Drag Race is an institution, having propelled drag culture into the mainstream through its now 12 seasons on air. As a reality competition, the show has a fairly standard set-up: contestants are pitted against each other, all vying for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar, with one queen being eliminated each week after a series of challenges. But where the unique element comes in is in the show's utterly brilliant exploration of not only interpersonal dramas but wider conversations about what it means to be a drag queen and part of the LGBTQ+ community today. The sequins, over-the-top looks and jaw-dropping lip syncs are just one part of it; the beauty is in the artistry that the queen's display as well as their quick wit and humour. When the UK version of Drag Race was announced, fans were rightly worried that the best bits of the show would be missing in this international edition. But thankfully, with queens like The Vivienne and Divina de Campo, hilariously British in-jokes and a rotating line-up of special guests including Andrew Garfield and Geri Halliwell, as well as RuPaul himself and Michelle Visage as judges, it proved to be a hit and an extension of the original series that is very much worth catching up on. (Arusa Qureshi)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

His Dark Materials

Bringing Philip Pullman's sprawling, multi-world fantasy trilogy was never going to be an easy feat – the book series, nominally marketed for a young adult audience, has raised hackles since the publication of Northern Lights in 1995 for its frank discussion of theology and philosophy, particularly due to a perceived (rightly or wrongly) anti-Christian message. However, when the 2007 film adaptation excised the religious elements in order to make a more palatable, Hollywood-friendly feature, the story was left a shell of itself. Happily, the miniseries – a co-production between the BBC and HBO – has no interest in watering down the complex questions that His Dark Materials raises around morality, sin and power. The show stars Dafne Keen (Logan) as Lyra Belacqua, a young girl who lives in a alternate world much like our own; except in her world, everyone has an animal companion called a daemon, which exists as an external manifestation of their soul and is able to shape-shift until the human reaches puberty. Lyra and Pantalaimon, her daemon, have been raised by the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford since her birth, though she longs to join her explorer uncle, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) in his expeditions to the North. The arrival of the mysterious Mrs Coulter (a sublime Ruth Wilson) sets Lyra and Pan off on a treacherous journey, bringing them in conflict with the Magisterium, her world's ruling authority, armed with only a truth-telling device called the alethiometer and an armoured polar bear. An extremely worthy re-telling of Pullman's series, which preserves its intelligence while also bringing new dimensions to light, His Dark Materials is a moving and immersive work of television that's unafraid to challenge its audiences. (Deborah Chu)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Best shows to stream on BBC iPlayer right now

State of the Union

Written by novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, Fever Pitch) and directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Queen), State of the Union stars Chris O'Dowd and Rosamund Pike as Tom and Louise, a married couple who find themselves at a crossroads in their relationship after Louise admits to a brief, regretted affair. The pair decide to start couples counselling to work through their issues and proceed to meet once a week in a London pub for a quick drink before attending their therapy session together. Consisting of ten mini-episodes, State of the Union is unique in that it only covers the ten or so minutes that Tom and Louise spend in the pub each week, never showing what happens once they go inside the therapist's office. They still manage to cover plenty of ground in the short episodes, discussing everything from sex to Brexit, all with great intensity and charm courtesy of the convincing O'Dowd and Pike. Through these short but meaningful conversations, Tom and Louise try to determine what brought them together fifteen years ago and what is now pulling them apart, all while revealing their personal insecurities, hopes and desires. The writing is unmistakably Hornby's, filled with quick, witty dialogue and relatable musings on love (or lack thereof) and life that will ring true for many. (Megan Forsyth)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Summer Heights High

As the follow-up to mockumentary series We Can Be Heroes, which tells the spoof story of five unique Australians who have been nominated for the Australian of the Year award, Chris Lilley's 2007 comedy Summer Heights High uses a similar format, but to much greater and more ludicrous effect. Satirising life at an Australian public high school, creator and writer Lilley takes on three distinctive characters, portraying the exploits and idiosyncrasies of each with finesse and laugh out loud humour. There's the camp and egomaniacal drama teacher Mr. G, private-school exchange student Ja'mie King and 13-year-old break-dancing delinquent Jonah Takalua, each of which has their own issues from bullying and stereotyping to teenage drama and social problems. Though there is the occasional serious moment dealing with deeper themes, Summer Heights High is full of crude jokes and deliciously crass one-liners, which is what truly makes its eight episodes so funny and endlessly quotable. We dare you to try and get 'Naughty Girl' from the masterpiece that is Mr G: The Musical out of your head after the first watch. (Arusa Qureshi)
Watch now on BBC iPlayer.

Follow The List's Staying In is the New Going Out articles for more recommendations, alternative online events, press releases, refund policies, restaurant deliveries and further general information.

Magazine offer: Get 3 issues for £1 — titles include Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair or House & Garden

Get three issues in print or digitally from Condé Naste's world-renowned titles for £1.

Post a comment