The BBC and ITV have joined forces to take on Amazon Prime and Netflix. At first, you may be confused as to why you’d want to pay £5.99 a month for television that you can already access for free on BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub respectively, but there’s actually a treasure trove of long-forgotten goodies in the new streaming service’s collection.
As well as splitting up television shows into the usual categories like crime, reality and romance, you can also explore the Sheridan Smith Collection, or Made in Yorkshire, which features hits such as Happy Valley and Downton Abbey.
You’ll also find classics such as Dinner Ladies, Cracker and several Top Gear specials. It’ll make you feel more patriotic than you ever have before (if that’s your thing). You can watch all three series of Gavin & Stacey before the Christmas special comes out later this year. You can binge on Broadchurch – a BritBox exclusive.
Despite the array of big name boxsets on BritBox, there isn’t yet the depth of content when compared to the streaming giants. It has, however, just struck a multi-year deal to bring Channel 4 and Film 4 content to the platform from 2020.
How can you watch BritBox?
While BritBox has a special deal with Samsung to be one of its smart TV featured apps, you can also access it on the web, Apple TV and iOS and Android devices. At launch, this is a pretty limited line up of devices, but the broadcasters say they’re planning to expand to more connected TV platforms and devices next year.
French & Saunders
You just don’t get classic comedy like this anymore. Six seasons of French & Saunders have been unearthed from the late 80s/early 90s. The duo take on the roles of various characters, believably becoming naughty schoolboys, high-pitched housewives and dirty old men. They’re at their best when spoofing popular movies such as Troy and Kill Bill. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Madonna and Cher are among the celebrities who French and Saunders parody in hilarious skits.
Lost in Austen
When a Jane Austen-obsessed Londoner discovers Elizabeth Bennet (played by Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom, she assumes she has gone mad. Upon further inspection, she finds a portal into the plot of Pride and Prejudice, where she immediately starts causing trouble. This ITV show was placed at number 48 in The Times’ “Top 50 TV Shows Of The Noughties” list. Of course it has its own version of Mr Darcy emerging from a lake in a wet shirt, as well as Amanda stumbling out of a portaloo back into London in full 18th century dress. It certainly hits the mark for noughties nostalgia.
Fans of British crime drama will be happy to hear that all eight series of Hustle are on BritBox. In each episode, a group of con artists set a target who deserves to lose a little money, and create a ‘long con’ to trick them into willingly handing it over. It’s fast-paced and very clever, with plot twists in nearly every episode that you won’t see coming. The show is led by Adrian Lester, whose character Mickey makes the wealthy fall for his charm before taking their cash.
There’s no denying that us Brits love a spy drama – and the 10 series-long Spooks proves it. The show follows the work of the British intelligence service as its officers uncover terrorist plots and other threats to national security. BritBox favourite Keeley Hawes stars in the first three series as junior case officer Zoe Reynolds. There’s love, death and tension by the bucketload, perfect for fans of Line of Duty and Bodyguard.
Boy Meets Girl
This four-part comedy-drama starring Martin Freeman and Rachael Stirling is ITV’s take on a body-swap story. DIY shop employee Danny and journalist Veronica are caught in an electrical explosion, causing them to swap bodies. Veronica loses her memory, and Danny has trouble finding her in his old body until he spots her crashing a news broadcast on the TV. Danny must learn to walk in high heels, while Veronica learns how to ‘slum it’ as a shop worker – but ultimately they end up finding out more about themselves in the process.
Secret Diary of a Call Girl
When this show came out, Billie Piper shocked everyone by losing her good-girl Doctor Who image. She plays Hannah Baxter – a university graduate with a secret life as an escort. The series shows her trying to keep her personal and professional lives separate, which proves to be much trickier than she thought it would be. You’ll see some familiar faces pop up through the episodes, such as Lily James and Gemma Chan, and even a surprise appearance from fellow Doctor Who actor Matt Smith.
It may not be a very bingeable TV show, but if you feel like learning some facts BritBox currently has two full series of QI. Sandi Toksvig hosts a 45-minute version of the usual show, quizzing Alan Davies and three celebrity panellist on obscure facts relating to letters of the alphabet – N for series 14 and M for series 15. The scoring system is a little bizarre, with contestants often ending the show in negative figures, but it’s a funny show that is bound to make you laugh.
The 2012 London Olympics may not seem like they happened that long ago, but Twenty Twelve proves that it’s a good source of nostalgia. The one-series show is a mockumentary following the fictional Olympic Deliverance Commission as they attempt to deliver the Olympic games on time and on budget. Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Haynes star in it, Olivia Coleman plays an assistant and David Tennant narrates. After you’ve finished Twenty Twelve, you can move onto W1A which is also on BritBox.
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