What’s Christmas without some good British telly?
It was “Downton Abbey” that kicked it all off. With its dashing landed gentry, sumptuous feasts, and sultry romances, the cozy winter nights at the Abbey were as on point as the Dowager Countess’ incredible sense of sarcasm. “The Crown” managed to make us all as lazy as possible this time last year, tracing the first years of Her Majesty’s tumultuous path to power. But, while we wait for Julian Fellowes to drop “Downton: The Movie,” and for the brilliant Olivia Colman to take the reins at Buckingham Palace, here’s the best out of the Blighty for these long Princeton evenings. Even the Dowager Countess would approve!
1. “Bodyguard” (streaming on Netflix)
We love your melodramatic 25-episode-long series, America. But as a person who is still struggling through “Gossip Girl” almost two years after discovering it on Netflix, the joy of a six-part series, where you can be done with a show in the course of a particularly fruitful evening, is not to be sniffed at.
“Bodyguard” has this nailed down to a T — troubled war veteran Provost Sergeant David Budd (Richard Madden) is assigned as bodyguard to the secretive and controversial home secretary, Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). Considering it’s become Britain’s most-watched TV series ever, it's no surprise that, when the details of a crucial episode were printed on the cover of Britain’s most popular television magazine, people lost it.
2. “Absolutely Fabulous” (streaming on Netflix)
In the 90s, a time when the mobile telephone and Nirvana were all the rage, “Ab Fab” follows two hapless public relations executives who attempt to do as little work as possible, drink as much as possible, and buy just about every stupid thing one can find in Harrods. Ridiculously funny, atrociously politically incorrect, and yet endearingly popular, “Absolutely Fabulous” is a show for those nights when you just want to belly laugh. Thank God a U.S. remake was never made, though...
3. “Killing Eve” (streaming on BBCAmerica.com)
This isn’t your typical spy drama, with a dashing, handsome, yet complex man who is accompanied by glamorous, half-dressed and shallow young women. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Killing Eve” throws this trope out of the window, with an incredibly talented psychopath, Villanelle (Jodie Comer), constantly trying to outwit the MI5 officer (Sandra Oh) out to arrest her.
Oh is back on top form here. With her sharp wit and hilarious put-downs, it’ll be like Cristina Yang never left “Grey’s.” The episodes are only streaming on BBC America until Dec. 1, at which point they’ll become available on Hulu.
4. “The Honourable Woman” (streaming on Netflix)
“Who do you trust?,” asks the opening to “The Honourable Woman.” If your answer isn’t “absolutely nobody at all” by the end of this backstabbing, politically intriguing drama, then you’re officially beyond help. If the mysterious and never fully answered backstory of shady business woman Nessa Stein doesn’t get you, the wonderful soundtrack, politically relevant storyline, and bizarre twists and turns will. Also, can we give a hand to the incredible Maggie Gyllenhaal, who somehow manages to pull off one of the most authentic, refined and gorgeous British accents ever? I’m not saying that we focused for way too long on the wrong Gyllenhaal, but …
5. “Love Island” (streaming on Hulu)
And you thought the United States had the monopoly on ridiculous reality TV shows? No list of contemporary British TV would be complete without “Love Island” — with its lovers and haters in equal measure. On “Love Island,” 10 narcissistic, hedonistic millennials are thrown into a sunny Spanish villa, where they must date their way to a £50,000 prize. So, do as the British do and “down tools” for the entire season to binge watch the entirety of this year’s series.
Beware: it’s a 57 episode commitment, and you’ll likely lose a couple of brain cells (and a lot of time) on the way. But being able to hold your own in a “Love Island” discussion will earn you instant cache with any British millennial. Just know that your perfect idea of dapper British gentlemen and prim and proper British ladies will be shattered about three minutes into episode one. You have been warned!