10 Addictive British Reality Shows You Should Stream Right Now
There are seemingly endless streaming possibilities for American reality shows on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and beyond. Chances are you’ve wasted an entire weekend binge-watching a bunch of them already. But if you’re looking to break out of the stateside streaming reality series mold, don’t fret. There are plenty of reality TV shows out there that are similar to your favorite shows, but with subtle differences—like, say, people with English accents. So grab a spot of tea and start streaming.
1. FOR FANS OF CAKE WARS: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW
While Cake Wars counts professionals among its contestants, The Great British Baking Show (also known as The Great British Bake Off) is made up of a gaggle of hopelessly endearing amateur bakers from across England and elsewhere. But there’s nothing unprofessional about this delightfully delicious British export. Each themed episode sees a group of contestants square off to impress expert baking judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry with their expertise in creating cakes, tarts, pies, puddings, and more.
The series made some major news last year when Berry and hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins exited the show, meaning it will go through some drastic changes next season when it airs on a new network. So now’s your chance to get whipped up by the classic lineup of the only reality cooking show where people can say “spotted dick” without anybody snickering.
2. FOR FANS OF HOUSE HUNTERS: ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY
This long-running daytime television series is for people who love to daydream about what it would be like to live in a cottage in the English countryside without ever having to leave the comfort of their own, less-British home. Each episode focuses on a family who decides to retreat to a more rural setting, and is presented with three potential sites that could be the country house of their dreams, all within their specified budget.
The first two choices are usually blissful locales that adhere to their strict specifications like en suite bathrooms, multiple bedrooms, big kitchens, a farmside setting, or—gasp!—maybe even a garage. But the third is what the show calls the “mystery house,” which is a kind of residential wildcard filled with a wide range of controversial details like bedrooms on the ground floor or cavernous living rooms because the house was refurbished from a centuries-old church.
3. FOR FANS OF JACKASS: AN IDIOT ABROAD
If you're a fan of Ricky Gervais and his brash brand of humor, you’ll love this travelogue show that follows the comedian's supposedly dim-witted buddy, Karl Pilkington, as he crisscrosses the world and intentionally pushes the limits of his—and everybody else’s—comfort zones.
An Idiot Abroad is kind of like Jackass, but without the gross humor. Each episode features Gervais and his The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant sending Pilkington on missions to different locales, forcing their impressionable friend into the most achingly awkward fish-out-of-water situations imaginable. The Manchester native does everything from meeting a gorilla in Uganda and going to a “cuddle party” at a New Age retreat along Route 66 to learning the samba for Carnival in Rio and trying to go on a whale watch in Alaska, even though he’s susceptible to severe seasickness. Okay, so maybe the show does have some gross parts.
4. FOR FANS OF JERSEY SHORE: THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX
You didn’t think America had cornered the market on trashy reality television, did you? If you ever tried to imagine what the tawdry exploits of the roommates of MTV’s Jersey Shore would sound like with nearly incomprehensible English accents, The Only Way is Essex is your show.
Now in its 20th season, the series is an endless parade of bartenders, club promoters, and would-be models getting drunk, fighting with each other, stabbing anyone they can in the back, and then doing it all over again in perfectly, semi-scripted ways. It’s so bad you can’t look away.
5. FOR FANS OF FLEA MARKET FLIP: DEALERS: PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
If you're more into antiques than intoxicants, look no further than Dealers, a.k.a. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. Each episode features professional, secondhand maestros who peruse yard sales, swap meets, and auction houses with a set budget, searching for a collection of items that will be compared to the hauls of fellow/rival antique dealers. They see which heap of collector’s items could be turned around to be sold at a bigger profit. Will a Victorian tea kettle be enough to secure a victory? Stream all the available episodes to find out.
6. FOR FANS OF SHARK TANK: FOUR ROOMS
If Shark Tank featured family heirlooms instead of start-up business owners looking for cash, it would be Channel 4's Four Rooms. The show features high-profile collectibles dealers bidding big money for priceless pieces being sold off by willing contestants—with a reality show twist, of course. Each seller enters a succession of four rooms to sit down and pitch their luxury item to a different dealer. Once a dealer’s offer is declined, the contestant can’t go back to a previous room. So if the dealer in the second room offered £20,000 for the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock and the dealer in the fourth room only offered to put up £10,000, the seller either has to take that lower five-figure offer or walk.
7. FOR FANS OF THE INCREDIBLE DR. POL: THE BIONIC VET
If you’re a fan of the animal care techniques seen on shows like The Incredible Dr. Pol, but want to see what more cutting-edge technology would be like when saving the lives of animals in need, look no further than The Bionic Vet. The series follows veterinarian Noel Fitzpatrick, whose practice includes a team of over 100 vets in Surrey. They attempt to help animals whose problems are so serious that euthanasia is often the only suggested alternative. The Bionic Vet is not for the faint of heart, especially for animal lovers, but it’s that rare reality series where there’s a sense of genuine drama behind it all. Plus, where else will you get to see a Border Collie’s pelvis being rebuilt after it was hit by a car, or what a reconstructed barn owl’s wing looks like?
8. FOR FANS OF COPS: MOTORWAY COPS
Bad (British) boys, bad (British) boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when the motorway cops come for you? Police shows are a reality TV staple, but Motorway Cops puts the perfect British spin on the normal recipe of televised law enforcement. The series showcases highway patrolmen and women from different jurisdictions, like the Central Motorway Police Group, busting perps attempting such unlawful acts as stealing copper wire off main highways and drug trafficking along backcountry thoroughfares.
9. FOR FANS OF WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE: HEIR HUNTERS
Technically, Heir Hunters is a show about probate researchers contacting relatives of the deceased, and when you put it like that, it sounds like a bummer. But if you describe the series as investigators searching the world over to contact hidden heirs to potential fortunes, it becomes a lot more enticing. The show tracks the researchers, whose job it is to race against time and find long lost relatives who stand to be the beneficiaries of the estates of people who didn’t leave behind a will. If they aren’t around to collect, the leftover estate goes to the British Treasury. This kind of thing is usually a footnote or a means to push the story along in a fictional drama, but Heir Hunters also attempts to humanize this potentially sensationalized story for reality TV consumption. With plenty of twists and turns, it’s like a mini detective series that usually has a happy ending.
10. FOR FANS OF UNDERCOVER BOSS: EXTREME APPRENTICES: SLUM SURVIVORS
The questionable premise of this British series rivals something like Undercover Boss. But instead of putting the boss in the center of learning the true ways of their particular business, Extreme Apprentices highlights the workers on the bottom rungs of their particular professional ladder. Apprentices in technical jobs like plumbers or mechanics are transplanted from their British gigs and given the same job in places like Nigeria or Mumbai to see if they can last for 10 days. No whiners need apply, especially when you see how horrific the plumbing is in some places.