The Very Best Shows on PBS

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A friend recently asked me to give her a list of my favorite shows on PBS for one of her family friends so I thought I would share what I put together.

Needless to say, if your favorite shows are Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or The Walking Dead, you can stop reading now. But if you like Downton Abbey, The Crown, and A Place to Call Home, keep reading, download the PBS app and enjoy.

Also, no British show is complete without tea. Here is my PBS watching ritual:

  1. THE LAST TANGO IN HALIFAX: This is one of my all time favorite British shows (although nothing could ever top Gavin and Stacey), possibly of any genre. It has a Seinfeld like aspect to it, in that it really isn’t about anything -there’s no big mystery unveiled at the end, etc., but it is about two sweet, dysfunctional, hysterical, different families and how they come together. The other main character in this show is the setting in Halifax, England – it will take your breath away. Directed by the great Sally Wainwright.

2. GRANTCHESTER: Calling all Episcopalians, this show is part village church soap opera, part detective whodunit. There are six seasons to enjoy – I am sure I speak for all Grantchester fans when I say that I much prefer Reverend Sidney Chambers in the earlier seasons to the current village Reverend Will Davenport, but I’m still watching and enjoying.

3. ALL CREATURES GREAT & SMALL: A sweet show about a veterinarian in 1930’s Yorkshire. My favorite character is the funny, ne’er do well brother of the vet who causes all kinds of problems. Season Two premiers on January 9.

4. ROADKILL: Terrific political thriller starring Hugh Laurie about a public official whose public and private life is in shambles. Just four episodes, it fits in the great quality/low commitment category.

5. DURRELLS IN CORFU: One of the sweetest and most charming shows on PBS called The Durrells in Corfu, based on the true story and book of the same name about a British family in the 1930s who move to Greece after the death of their father.

It is four seasons of family chaos, joy, ups, downs and most importantly, love. It stars Keeley Hawes, a British actress who you might recognize from other great shows such as The Bodyguard on Netflix and Josh O’Connor, who played Prince Charles in The Crown. My absolute favorite character is the second son, Leslie – he is quirky and hilarious. Also stars as the brother in the aforementioned All Things Great & Small.

6. HOME FIRES: Paraphrasing from the PBS website…”This show tells the story of a rural English town on the verge of World War this heartwarming story of courage, friendship, and holding onto light in our darkest moments.” Warning: This show is only two seasons and it ends abruptly, making you think there will be a season three but in fact there is NOT. Telling you this to save you from the heartache that I experienced after realizing I had to say good-bye to all these great characters.

7. UNFORGOTTEN: This three series show is about two police officers investigating cold cases. There are many unexpected twists and turns in each case and it keeps you guessing the entire season.

Watch Unforgotten Season 1 | Prime Video

8. MRS. WILSON: This is another three episode series staring Ruth Wilson (you may recognize her from The Affair), which was inspired by her grandmother’s memoir. The main character, Alison Wilson, thinks she is happily married until her husband dies, and another woman claims to be Alec’s wife. It is a fascinating and unbelievable story.

Mrs. Wilson | PBS

9. CALL THE MIDWIFE: The first thing you should know about Call the Midwife is that it is TEN seasons long. I like this show but I will admit it is not my favorite – however many people (my mother being one of them) vehemently disagree with me and think it is wonderful so I included it here. “Call the Midwife follows the nurses, midwives and nuns from Nonnatus House, who visit the expectant mothers of Poplar, providing the poorest women with the best possible care.”

Call The Midwife: A True Story Of The East End In The 1950s : Worth,  Jennifer: Bücher

10. SANDITON: This is a newer show on PBS…I loved Season 1 and was excited when they announced that they would be filming two more seasons. From PBS…”Jane Austen was chronically ill with a mysterious disease in early 1817, when she turned her thoughts to a happier subject. She started work on a witty and delightful novel set in a seaside town. She never finished it…now, noted screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) picks up Austen’s plot and takes it in a glorious and satisfying direction, on Sanditon.”


11. POLDARK: No PBS list would be complete without Poldark. It is so good – love, fortune, loss, tragedy, not to mention Poldark himself – it has everything. Here’s the PBS description: “Ross Poldark, a redcoat who returns to Cornwall after battle to discover that his father is dead, his lands are ruined, and his true love is engaged to another. Can Poldark change his destiny, restore his lost fortune, and reclaim his love ?”

Poldark: Complete Series 1-3 [8 DVDs] [UK Import]: DVD & Blu-ray

12. The Trouble with Maggie Cole: Simple, sweet show based in a small fishing village about a nosy but well intentioned main character and her family and community.

The Trouble With Maggie Cole | PBS

13. Victoria: The story of Queen Victoria, from the beginning in 1837, when a “diminutive, neglected teenager is crowned Queen Victoria.” She navigates the scandal, corruption, and political intrigues of the Court, and soon rises to become the most powerful woman in the world. Three seasons.

Masterpiece: Victoria: The Complete Seasons 1-3 [DVD] - Best Buy

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