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Best Bingeworthy British Crime Dramas

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Enjoy some late-summer Netflix-and-chilling with these compelling streaming series.

Summer beach reads are great – IF you’re going to the beach. But perhaps your idea of fun during the dog days of summer involves hibernating in the AC and enjoying the other creature comforts of home – including your 207-inch, 99K, ultra-super-mega-high-def-IMAX-enabled television.

If so, you’re probably disappointed by the summer slump of reruns and reality rubbish. Fear not. It’s time to graduate from the ubiquitous iterations of tame, tired American broadcast crime procedurals (NCIS New Rochelle, anyone?) to edgier, grittier, more engrossing crime fare from our friends across the pond. Check out these streaming sure bets:

Bodyguard (Netflix)

Not to be confused with the 1992 Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner flick “The Bodyguard,” this taut six-parter should nicely satisfy the cravings of those suffering from Homeland withdrawal. Interspersing ever-ratcheting political tensions and suspense with well-produced, pulse-pounding action sequences, Bodyguard stars Richard Madden as a maladjusted war vet turned elite police officer assigned to protect the government’s ambitious Home Secretary (played to perfection by MI-5 alumna Keeley Hawes) after her life has been threatened. The Home Secretary’s divisive political positions aimed at cracking down on terrorism have drawn the ire of terrorists, civil libertarians, and fellow government officials alike – even her own bodyguard secretly hates her. So, is the looming threat from an external foe, or is the call for her demise coming from inside the house? A shocking plot twist in episode three turns the whole miniseries on its ear.

Watch the trailer:

Line of Duty (Amazon Prime)

In its sixth season, Line of Duty is now the UK’s most-watched TV drama of the 21st century. And for good reason. The show deftly balances intricate plotting with just the right amount of character development to give it depth without bogging down the pace. The series revolves around the staff and cases of “AC-12,” a unit in the police department of an unnamed British city. AC stands for Anti-Corruption – basically, the British equivalent of our internal affairs departments. So, they’re investigating allegedly crooked fellow police officers (or “bent coppers,” as the unit’s stalwart commander, Superintendent Ted Hastings, is fond of calling them). This sets the stage for some thrilling cat-and-mouse capers and adrenaline-fueled action set pieces, all punctuated by some extraordinarily clever interrogation scenes (the show’s hallmark). Each season is headlined by a marquee guest actor who plays the suspected said bent copper, and runs just five or six episodes, making it perfectly binge-worthy. Above all, Line of Duty respects the viewers’ intelligence – nothing is spoon-fed, so pay attention.

Watch the trailer:

Broadchurch (Netflix)

For those seeking a good old-fashioned whodunnit presented in a contemporary way, it’s time to visit Broadchurch. David Tennant of “Dr. Who” fame stars opposite Oscar-winner Olivia Colman as a pair of newly matched detectives investigating the shocking murder of an 11-year-old boy. Set in the picturesque eponymous seaside town along the Jurassic cliffs of the British coastline, Broadchurch is so beautifully filmed with breathtaking scenic shots that the town and landscape are elevated from mere backdrops to virtual characters in their own right.

As the series unfolds, the characters populating the town and their respective subplots get slowly unpacked, causing suspicions to shift continuously from one to the next. While the mystery becomes progressively engrossing, don’t expect any camp or melodrama here. This is no Agatha Christie romp. On the contrary, interwoven with the investigation is a refreshingly poignant portrayal of how such a tragedy can devastate the victim’s family and tear apart an entire community. Indeed, some scenes are quite moving (get your Kleenex handy for the final sequence of the season one finale). For their parts, Tennant and Colman deliver arresting performances (no pun intended) with their clashing, conflicted characters. Bonus for Dr. Who fans: Tennant is one of three actors on Broadchurch who previously played the time-traveling doctor.

Watch the trailer:

The Five (Netflix)

Mystery novelist phenom Harlan Coben may be American, but his best-selling books keep getting adapted for television miniseries in Europe, including The Five. Four childhood pals reunite in adulthood when the DNA of the supposedly murdered younger brother of one of them turns up at a recent crime scene. Was he a victim, a perp, or is something even more nefarious afoot? Latent friendships, rivalries, and romances get rekindled as the search for the truth – and the apparently not-dead member of the eponymous “Five” – unfold to a surprise, heartrending finale.

Watch the trailer:

Happy Valley (Netflix, Amazon Prime)

Hands down, one of the quirkiest and most out-of-the-box crime dramas to come down the pike (Variety hailed it as “The Best Cop Show You’re Not Watching”), Happy Valley was written by creator Sally Wainright specifically with actress Sarah Lancashire in mind. And boy, does she deliver (and has a mantle full of BAFTA and all the other European TV awards to show for it.) Lancashire plays Catherine Cawood, a police sergeant in the eponymous Happy Valley, where things are anything but. Drugs permeate this working-class enclave (including under Catherine’s own roof – her sister is a recovering addict), but that’s only part of the misery. A single woman raising her grandson, Catherine’s professional and personal lives collide when Tommy Lee Royce, her grandson’s father (and the man she holds responsible for her daughter’s death), gets sprung from prison and becomes (unbeknownst to Catherine) involved in a kidnapping plot she’s investigating. Lancashire’s tour-de-force is rivaled by James Norton’s chilling performance as bad-seed Tommy Lee. Note: the series is currently available through Netflix via DVD only, or via Amazon Prime (for $10.99 per season; there are just two). While it’s understandable to balk at paying additional for some Prime content, this is one series that’s worth every pound sterling.

Watch the trailer:

Robert Schork is Examiner Media’s new Digital Editorial Director. Schork has written and reported extensively about television for more than two decades. He is formerly the managing editor of Soap Opera Weekly, covering both daytime and prime-time drama series, and was a contributor and research consultant for ABC’s best-selling “General Hospital: The Complete Scrapbook.” His celebrity interviews include Betty White, Donald Trump, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Dennis Franz, Elisabeth Moss, Edward James Olmos, and Susan Lucci (who, before her 19 Emmy nominations and ultimate win, attended the now-defunct Marymount College in Tarrytown).

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