To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw (or Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill, depending on whom you ask), the U.K. and the U.S. are two nations separated only by a common language -- but united by their love of good TV.
Our TV shows air in Britain, and we get plenty of theirs. Here are but a few of Britain's best available now (or soon) for U.S. viewing.
Some are for kids and entire families. The last two on our list are only for grown-ups, but showcase a heroic priest and a nun in stories that boldly proclaim the Catholic faith -- and are surprisingly popular in a land traditionally averse to all things Catholic.
The Great British Baking Show (Netflix)
Returning to Netflix on Sept. 24, the weekly competition/reality show The Great British Bake-Off (as it's known on Channel 4 in the U.K.) has become a sweet sensation on both sides of the pond.
It features 12 amateur bakers who gather under a tent in the bucolic English countryside to take on a dizzying array of baking challenges, from simple crackers to elaborate cake constructions.
I hold up The Great British Baking Show to filmmaking students as an example of how you can have incredible tension and stakes in an environment where everyone likes each other and gets along.
The foes in GBBS are the clock, creativity and chemistry, as the contestants battle tight schedules to coax eggs, flour, butter, etc., to become the desired bake -- which must look good and taste good (and, according to judge Prue Leith, be "worth the calories").
Again, though, the producers had to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, creating "bubbles" for the contestants and crew.
As WomanandHome.com reported:
Like almost every other TV program on the planet this year, The Great British Bake Off’s production schedule was heavily impacted by the pandemic. Channel 4 reportedly created a COVID-19 bubble by hiring out the luxurious Down Hall Hotel in Essex for six weeks, to minimize the chances of cast and crew contracting the virus during filming.
Judges Leith and Paul Hollywood, and hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, occasionally say something vaguely suggestive, but that's about as far as it's ever gone.
The contestants come from diverse backgrounds -- including different ages, religions, nations of origin, occupations, ethnicities and sexual orientations -- which are discussed briefly and without fanfare, while the focus stays on the bakes.
GBBS is perfectly suitable for families, and you might want to stock the pantry, since it could inspire you to break out (or buy) that stand mixer.
FYI, if you don't want to be spoiled as to which baker gets eliminated each week, stay off social media. Each episode airs in the U.K. four days before it comes to Netflix.
Peppa Pig (Amazon/YouTube)
Parents may run the risk of their children speaking in a British accent -- apparently the #PeppaEffect is a thing -- but the preschool show has enchanted many of America's toddlers and tots.
Created by British animation studio Astley Baker Davies, Peppa Pig portrays a bright, simply drawn world of anthropomorphic animals, focusing on a cheeky little pink pig named Peppa, her brother George, their parents, other family, neighbors and friends.
As sweet as Dr. Who's Jelly Babies, Peppa Pig offers gentle lessons on kindness, loyalty, friendship, etc., in short episodes geared for preschool attention spans.
Peppa Pig has become such a phenomenon that the show is getting its own Florida theme park.
Click here for the "grown-up" Peppa Pig website. The first two seasons are available on Amazon Prime Video, and plenty of episodes can be watched for free on the official Peppa Pig YouTube channel, which has almost 25M subscribers.
But, if you hear children asking to go on holiday or calling his or her mother Mummy, don't say you weren't warned.
And Not Quite for the Whole Family ...-
Broken (BritBox, Amazon Video) and Time (BritBox)
Written by Liverpool-born Jimmy McGovern (Cracker) and starring Sean Bean, these two limited series look at very different, and equally difficult, aspects of British life -- with rough language, violence and adult content.
Click here to read my interview with McGovern about both shows.
In the six-episode Broken, Bean plays a beleaguered Catholic priest in a city in northwest England (it actually filmed in Liverpool), struggling with his past, his vocation and the tragedies unfolding among his parishioners.
But, unlike many shows dealing with Catholic clerics, Broken presents a man who has troubles but is true to his vows. McGovern, a lapsed Catholic, nevertheless has great respect and affection for priests, especially those working in disadvantaged areas, and that love comes through.
In the three-episode Time, which premiered recently on BritBox, Bean plays Mark, a teacher thrown in prison after a fatal drunk-driving accident. As he struggles to adapt and survive, a compassionate prison officer (Stephen Graham) tries to help -- but he has his own challenges.
Also on hand to help Mark stay connected to his humanity and reconnect with his faith is the prison chaplain, a Catholic sister (Siobhan Finneran). Especially moving is when she walks him though his father's funeral Mass, because he is unable to attend.
It's tough stuff, but honest and ultimately uplifting.
Image: Channel 4/Netflix
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.