13 classic shows you need to watch on iPlayer while in lockdown
Even though the competition in the streaming world is fierce, BBC’s iPlayer is still among the very best.
With many of us spending a lot more time gazing at the box, there’s no better time to binge on some on some of the finest BBC shows from the last couple of decades.
From spy thrillers that’ll rival anything to come out of the States to dark comedies, there a show on this list for pretty much everyone.
Recently added back on iPlayer in all its ten series glory, now is the perfect time to binge what remains one of the BBC’s finest shows. Spooks is an MI5 spy-thriller that doesn’t mind dispensing with its star cast in gruesome ways (deep-fat fryer anyone?), consistently switching up its leads and keeping things fresh in the process.
For a show that lasted a decade (and then a slightly less impressive film starring Jon Snow himself) Spooks never feels samey. The earlier seasons run in a different story each week style, while the later episodes have a much deeper overarching arc.
An underrated BBC gem, Hustle is based around a group of con-artists cleverly relieving unsalacious types of their cash. Each episode feels similar in its formula, yet the clever and witty writing, along with a twisty ending that’ll keep you guessing, keeps you engaged. Just don’t take it too seriously.
3. Waking the Dead
Another classic recently added back onto iPlayer, Waking the Dead is a crime drama involving a team of police officers investigating cold cases. A terrific cast, including a brooding Trevor Eve, paired with consistently gripping stories make this a perfect watch when stuck inside.
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4. Silent Witness
As good as Waking the Dead is, Silent Witness remains the best ‘cold case’ crime show you’ll find on the BBC. There are currently 176 episodes of this Emilia Fox lead show available to stream and while the main cast changes every few seasons; the twisty, gripping and varied stories will keep you entertained. Probably one to avoid if you’re squeamish, though.
We have to admit the latter seasons can feel a little bit bloated but watch from season nine to 13 and you’ll find some of the finest forensic stories going.
5. Line of Duty
The most recent seasons of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty likely need no introduction. However, the show was a lot less bombastic when it was nestled away on BBC 2. The earlier seasons are tight and twisty with plots about dodgy cops and a much grittier backdrop. If you’ve only seen the last few episodes, go back to the beginning and see one of the BBC’s best shows in all its glory.
Before Mercurio made Line of Duty, he made Bodies – a gritty, and often grim, hospital drama with Max Beesley. Very different to Line of Duty, but still excellently written and gripping. It ran for two series, and you can stream both on iPlayer.
7. Killing Eve
Both dark and hilarious in equal measures, Killing Eve is one of the BBC’s biggest hits from recent years. The absolute joyous combo of Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh as an assassin and MI5 officer respectively is casting gold, while Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s (Fleabag) writing in the first season makes for an excellent eight-episode run. The second season might not quite reach the heights of the first, but it’s still definitely worth your time.
If you’re a fan of Jodie Comer in Killing Eve, it’s worth taking a look at Thirteen – in which she once again steals the show as a kidnapped girl who has escaped her captors. It might have only run for five eps, but it’s perfectly formed and can be binged in a single sitting.
9. This Time with Alan Partridge
The only show on this list which has the perfect instruction video on how to wash your hands properly. Watch and enjoy, plus probably learn something too…
10. Nighty Night
You might know Julia Davis from her show-stealing turn as Dawn in Gavin & Stacey, but if you haven’t watched her own show Nighty Night, then you’re missing out. This is a pure black comedy that will have you trying not to laugh all the way through. Angus Deayton is in too, as is another Gavin & Stacey alum Ruth Jones.
11. The Wrong Mans
Another show with a strong Gavin and Stacey connection, The Wrongs Mans stars James Corden and Matthew Boynton as two council workers who find themselves mistakenly entwined in a tale of mafia and assassination. It perfectly plays the right mix between comedy and thriller and the short episodes mean you can get through both seasons in just a few hours. If you’re not usually a fan of Mr Corden, this could very well change your mind – for a while, at least.
Fleabag has grown from a cult BBC comedy to one of the biggest, and most awarded, shows ever – and rightly so. Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s exceptional writing, great characters and impeccable timing make this a must-watch for those very few people who haven’t already gorged on the two seasons multiple times.
Considering we can’t really go out right now, it’s the perfect time to relax with some classic David Attenborough-narrated goodness. There are loads of these series on Player, but you’ve probably already seen Blue Planet and Frozen Planet. So we’d recommend Dynasties, which looks at five animal species (painted wolves, chimpanzees, lions, penguins and tigers) and how they’re struggling for survival. It’s gorgeously shot and very dramatic.