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We spend most of our time around here writing about clever comedies, artfully made period dramas, and the sort of murder mysteries that keep you up at night. Today, we're going to talk about something completely different.
This time, we're talking about the weird stuff. We recently finished up the British TV Streaming Guide (US Edition, Autumn 2020), and we came across a LOT of strange British shows while attempting to find and catalogue all of them.
In the end, we found roughly 2000 British TV shows across 18 streaming services – so it's not at all surprising to know there were a few odd ones. If you're an American reader and you want the full list with descriptions and index, you can click HERE to learn more or order your copy of the guide.
Either way, on with the list…
15 of the Weirdest, Most Unusual British TV Shows You Can Stream
These are the sort of shows you won't typically find on services like BritBox and Acorn TV. They usually end up on the free or cheap services that want to pad out their content (though there are definitely some exceptions to that). In the UK, a lot of these shows would end up airing on Channel 4 or 5 instead of the BBC or ITV stations.
All the shows below would fall under the “documentary and lifestyle” heading – likely because they're quite cheap to produce and it's an area where they can take a lot more risks than with a typical scripted series.
British Bouncers: Boozed Brits vs. the Velvet Rope (2013)
If you want to shatter all your posh illusions about Great Britain, this show about drunken Brits going up against bouncers might be just the thing. A word of caution: it's not for the faint-hearted or young kids. Expect foul language, partial nudity, and a serious lack of dignity.
From Russia with Cash (2015)
A significant part of London’s property boom has been fueled by overseas buyers laundering money. This series sees an undercover reporter pretend to be a corrupt Russian property buyer looking to buy a property with his mistress. It's equal parts amusing and disheartening.
Nurses Who Kill (2016)
While nurses are an overwhelmingly good and compassionate group of people, a handful use their positions to hurt, rather than heal. This series takes a look at what motivates them.
21 Again (2019)
In this series, a group of young women disguise their mothers as 21-year-olds and send them out into the wild. Though the mums look lovely, it's hard to imagine anyone mistaking them for 21. It's a strange series.
A Very British Sex Shop (2019)
In the city of Brighton, the Richardson family runs a small chain of sex shops. Though there's only one episode, but that's probably enough.
This is another one that's definitely not for the faint-hearted (in case that wasn't completely obvious).
Allotment Wars (2013)
It’s easy to romanticise allotments as a beautiful, peaceful part of English life. This series shows a different reality, though, where it’s harvest-or-lose-out, and neighbours battle over plots of land.
All Creatures Great & Stuffed (2015)
When most people lose a pet, they lay it to rest in a relatively normal way. Others choose to have their beloved pets turned into art. This programme takes a look at people making roadkill and pets into unusual taxidermied works of art.
Though no animals are killed to make the pieces in this programme, be warned that it may be upsetting to many to see cats and dogs remembered in this way. At the time we're writing this, the show has just one review: “Worst video ever.”
The Great Hip Hop Hoax (2013)
This documentary tells the story of two Scottish students who faked American accents and identities in pursuit of rap careers in California. I think my favourite thing about this documentary is the fact that the pair called themselves “Silibil n'Brains”.
Watch it HERE on IMDb TV (or you can pay to rent a commercial-free version)
The Great British Benefits Handout (2016)
One of the problems with benefits systems is that they pay out tiny amounts over a long time, making it hard for recipients to get ahead or invest in themselves to get out of the mess. If you fall on hard times or have an unexpected expense that sets you behind, how do you ever catch up when you're getting the bare minimum for survival? How can you stock up and save by buying in bulk, or invest in your education if you can't save more than a few pounds/week?
As a social experiment, this show offers benefits recipients the opportunity to quit benefits and receive a year's worth of payments in one lump sum. It follows as they invest in themselves and their new businesses. It's a great series for empathy-building – and at least one participant managed to turn his life around after the handout.
Mummy's Little Murderer (2013)
This true crime documentary tells the story of Elliot Turner, a boy whose mother helped him cover it up when he murdered his girlfriend. It's a remarkable series of friends and family having all the warning signs – and nobody listening.
The Toilet: An Unspoken History (2012)
This quirky programme takes a look at toilets throughout the ages. From bidets to squatting toilets to golden-plated toilets and historic toilets, this show covers it all. They also talk about the wide variety of implements used in wiping throughout history, including sponges, feathers, and corn cobs.
Secret Life of the Human Pups (2016)
Learn what goes on in the human “puppy play” community where grown men crave doggy treats and squeaky toys.
This is another one that's definitely not a family programme.
My Pet Shame (2010)
Joanna Page of Gavin & Stacey presents this series about Britain’s most embarrassing pet problems. It includes flatulent felines, dogs that like poo and pants (underpants), and pigs with bad breath, among other unpleasant pet problems.
Fat Men Can't Hunt (2008)
In this unusual series, four overweight British men and women are taken to the African desert to try out the hunter-gatherer diet and learn how to lead healthier lives.
Boozed Up Brits Abroad
In mainland Europe, British tourists have something of a reputation for being drunk and disorderly. This series follows a number of British tourists as they set out on vacations and stag parties. If you've ever been stuck looking after an intoxicated friend…this show is even less fun that that.
Not suitable for the faint-hearted due to nudity and language.
What's Your Favourite Unusual British Show?
Though we've stuck to docu-series and reality shows here, you certainly don't need to.
While shows like Endeavour and Vera and Line of Duty may get all the attention, that doesn't mean all British TV is so thoughtful and well-made – and this list should be proof of that. Aside from the ones we've mentioned here, there are plenty more not available to stream in the US. While these may not become your daily go-to shows, we hope you've had a bit of fun wandering through the darkened alleyways of British television.
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