TV Shows for British English

British English TV

Today I’ll be answering a listener request and giving my recommendations for TV series that will help you practise listening to the British accent and hone your pronunciation.

I’ve included 14 British TV programmes of varying genres and also a couple bonus American shows. Which ones do you like?

Fantasy

Game of Thrones

There are many different accents from all around the UK and the world. Many of these are acted and fake, but they still sound real. There’s also a really exciting storyline. However, perhaps there is some unuseful vocabulary (related to dragons and castles) and the speech isn’t always clear over loud battles and music.

Horror Survival

The Walking Dead

Okay, so this one isn’t British! It’s full of American accents. But I had to mention this one in the podcast because it’s one of my favourites.

Historical

Vikings

In my top 3 favourite TV shows of all time! But… also generally not British accents. Mostly they speak a fake Scandinavian accent so I wouldn’t actually recommend this one unless you want a challenge.

Downton Abbey

Of course, this one is very popular. Some words and ways of speaking are old fashioned and outdated – we don’t say “m’lord” anymore! But generally the speech is quite good. I haven’t actually seen it but most of the English seems to be quite standard and some people still talk this way.

Crime

Dexter

Another show from the USA, but I really love it. (You can tell I don’t watch many British shows.) If you want to practise the American accent, this might be good due to the fairly normal situations (such as going to work, meeting family, etc). But also there’s an amazing story!

Sherlock

I haven’t personally seen this (maybe just one episode), but it seems quite good! This is very British and Benedict Cumberbatch, the main actor, has a very RP kind of accent. Although he does tend to talk quite fast!

Realistic Science Fiction

Humans

I highly recommend this one. I think it’s very underrated. Generally, the dialogue isn’t so hard and the accents are very standards – not too posh and not too casual. It’s made to seem like real British people. Also, the robots speak very clearly because… they’re robots. Amazing story too.

Black Mirror

Also really amazing. Black Mirror will make you think deeply. Again, generally has clear accents. Some characters can be from Scotland, Ireland, the USA and other countries. The dialogue is generally not too hard since it doesn’t look at crazy situations (such as space travel) like most sci-fi.

Science Fiction

Doctor Who

I stopped watching after the actor David Tennant left, but has always been very popular with kids and adults. Good stories that will get you hooked. Some harder vocabulary and specific sci fi related topics but generally good with clear accents from London and other areas.

Comedy

Peep Show

Very funny point-of-view comedy about two guys living in London. There are many embarrassing and awkward situations that highlight some aspects of British culture (not the fake Downton abbey stuff!) Very normal situations, yet exaggerated!

The IT Crowd

I haven’t seen for a long time but I remember it as funny. Irish accents and standard British accents. Funny situations about working in an IT department. A little more outlandish compared to peep show but still somewhat normal and realistic.

Game Shows

Would I Lie to You?

A funny game show where you have to guess if the story being told is true or a lie. Accents depend on the guests as they change each time. The humour is a little bit easier to get compared to many game shows since it’s about the stories they tell and not about topical knowledge of British news and culture.

8 Out of 10 Cats

Celebrity guests discuss opinions, news and various topics. Very funny and often has adult themes.

QI

I highly recommend QI. It’s a panel show that discusses interesting facts with Stephen Fry and later Sandi Toksvig, who both have perfect British accents (even though Sandi is from Denmark). Stephen is quintessentially British. You’ll get smarter while you practise your English.

Real Stuff

Top Gear

Top Gear is good for car fans with probably lots of car-related vocab!

Embarrasing Bodies

If you like gross medical stuff, maybe this is for you!

Planet Earth documentaries

The narrator, David Attenborough, has an iconic voice, and the dialogue is usually quite simple because it’s describing what you’re seeing. This might be a great start for beginners – but just watch this anyway because it’s amazing to see our beautiful world.

Bonus List

From Lindsay Does Languages

Perhaps this list isn’t good enough for you

That’s fine! Check out her longer list here.

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