The Best British Crime Series

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The stunning finale of Happy Valley sent the country into raptures, with many stating that the show was one of, if not the, greatest British crime-dramas ever. 

Whilst I can’t dispute the quality of Happy Valley, I think a lot of recency bias is creeping in and its reputation is not quite as strong as people suggest. The only way we can judge how good it is, after all, is to see how it holds up over time and how many people talk about it several years down the line. 

Let’s take a look at some of the other acclaimed British crime-dramas and see how Happy Valley compares to them.


 

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Broadchurch 

Chris Chibnall’s smash-hit Broadchurch ran from 2013 to 2017 and starred David Tennant, fresh from Doctor Who, and Olivia Colman, fresh from Peep Show.

The two leads couldn’t have come from different worlds, yet their performances and chemistry were both superb. With top-notch writing, genuine suspense, and wonderful cinematography, it’s no surprise that Broadchurch became the phenomenon it was. 

Over five years after its spellbinding conclusion, Broadchurch is still among the most popular crime programs in the entire country.


 


The Bill

Generations of Brits tuned in to follow the Sun Hill Police unit as The Bill became one of the longest-running television dramas in British history.

Taking place from 1983 to 2010, the last episode of The Bill was considered an emotional affair. Over the preceding 26 years, we’d grown accustomed to the officers, locations, and iconic theme all brilliantly showcased in this classic program. 

Talks of a reboot are always prominent, but the new Bill has a lot to live up to. 



The Sweeney

It may contain some dated references and a few not-so-great dialogue exchanges, but The Sweeney really was a show of its time. 

Running from 1975 to 1978, the show achieved a lot in its short run and was rather ahead of the curve in depicting police officers as imperfect beings. John Thaw’s portrayal as DCI Jack Regan has become iconic, whilst Dennis Waterman’s role as Sergeant George Carter cemented the actor’s image as a hardman. 

Both lead actors are gone now, but their roles in The Sweeney live on. 

We’ll see how well Happy Valley holds up compared to these three shows - each one from a different generation in television. As good as the show was, I believe its reputation has to grow a little more before it joins the pantheon of truly-great British crime-dramas. 

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