In some cases, we earn commissions from affiliate links in our posts.
While Acorn TV and BritBox usually get the bulk of the British TV channel attention, PBS Masterpiece has quietly been building a fantastic channel that's well worth your time and attention – especially if you enjoy mysteries and dramas. They don't have as many individual titles as some of the other services, but they make up for it in having a lot of big-name, recent dramas.
If you've been thinking about getting PBS Masterpiece, we should also point out that it's a great time to do so because the first three months are currently on sale at half price HERE. The sale runs until July 28th, 2019, and the discount applies only to new subscribers. To read about all the channels included in this sale, you can visit our Prime Day discount post.
What is PBS Masterpiece?
First off, let's clarify exactly what we're talking about here. There's the long-running Masterpiece series that showcases British mysteries, but this is something slightly different. PBS Masterpiece is a channel you can subscribe to through Amazon, much like you might subscribe to BritBox or Acorn. You'll need an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription as a prerequisite, but that's not all bad news. There are more than 360 British TV shows on Amazon Prime, and you get access to them when you subscribe.
PBS Masterpiece should also not be confused with PBS Passport. PBS Passport is a form of online access you can get through the PBS website and Roku app in exchange for a minimum $5 monthly donation. Passport is tailored to your local market, and some are definitely better than others.
The Best British TV Shows on PBS Masterpiece
Endeavour – Endeavour is the youngest, hippest entry into the Morse TV trio (the other two being Inspector Morse and Lewis, of course). Endeavour takes us to 1960s Oxford, where Endeavour Morse is a young detective just starting out. While most British mystery fans will be well-acquainted with this one, it's worth noting that PBS Masterpiece is the place to be if you want the latest season quickly.
Though it's certainly not a requirement to enjoy the show, Endeavour is best watched after Inspector Morse, as it's really interesting to watch him develop the traits we recognize from the earlier series.
Inspector Lewis (or just Lewis) – Inspector Lewis was a lovely parting gift after the departure of Inspector Morse. In Lewis, Kevin Whately returns to play Morse's former sidekick once more – except this time, he's the DI and his sidekick is DS James Hathaway. The show is no longer in production, but if you haven't seen it yet, it's a must-watch.
Mrs. Wilson – Mrs. Wilson is fascinating because it's not just a true story, it's a true story about the grandmother of Ruth Wilson, the actress playing the title role. Alison Wilson was widowed in 1963, only to realize her husband had been leading a secret life. Iain Glen (Jack Taylor) plays her departed husband, a foreign intelligence officer with more than one “Mrs. Wilson” in his life. Miniseries.
Lovejoy – Though it's a bit dated now, Lovejoy is a fun little series about a man with a unique talent for discerning the value of antiques – a “divvy”. Lovejoy's life is chaotic and driven by no real long-term plans, but it's enjoyable. Along with a few friends and an occasional enemy, the series moves nicely between adventure, mystery, drama, and comedy over the course of 6 seasons. Ian McShane stars.
Rebecca – Emilia Fox and Charles Dance star as the new Mr. and Mrs. Maxim de Winter in this 1997 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's classic gothic suspense novel. Diana Rigg plays Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper still loyal to her dead mistress, Rebecca.
The Escape Artist – David Tennant stars in this three-episode series about a junior barrister whose specialty is getting clients out of very tough spots. Unfortunately, this means his hands aren't entirely clean when those clients re-offend.
Sophie Okonedo (Mayday) stars as his courtroom rival, Maggie Gardner.
Victoria – As the name might imply, Victoria is a period drama about Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, the Prince Consort. While the first two seasons are more widely distributed, PBS Masterpiece is the subscription you'll need to get the latest one.
Grantchester – In the village of Grantchester, a clever vicar assists a local police detective with his investigations. James Norton stars as vicar Sidney Chambers, and Robson Green plays DI Geordie Keating.
Sadly, as most British mystery fans will know, James Norton isn't able to stay on forever. Later in the series, Tom Brittany takes over for him in the role of Reverend Will Davenport, a former inner-city chaplain.
Les Misérables – Victor Hugo's epic tale of love and poverty in war-torn France returns to the screen in this 2018 adaptation starring Olivia Colman, Dominic West, and Lily Collins. The 6-episode miniseries takes a deeper dive into some characters who have traditionally gotten a bit less screentime (like Fantine), making the progression slower and more grueling – but also much more dramatic.
No expense was spared in this production, and it shows. It's well worth a watch.
The Forsyte Saga – This 2002 adaptation of John Galsworthy's novel follows the life of an English family over 34 years stretching from Victorian England to World War 1. Miniseries.
Unforgotten – Cassie and Sunny use modern technology to get to the bottom of very cold cases. This recent crime drama is based in London and stars Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Cassie and Sunny.
Each series focuses on a new case, with connections unfolding over the of several episodes. There are currently three seasons, with a fourth expected to air sometime in 2019 (though it's uncertain how long it will be before we see it on PBS Masterpiece or any other streaming service).
Jamestown – This series goes 400 years back in time to follow a group of English settlers in 1619 Virginia. When it opens, it's a little more than a decade since a group of men settled Virginia, and a group of woman is arriving to marry the men who settled the area and paid their way over.
There are three seasons, with the third and final one airing in 2018. Interestingly, most of the filming was done in Vértesacsa, Hungary.
Reilly, Ace of Spies – Acorn TV fans will recognize this series as one that's been on the service for a while now – but if you don't have Acorn TV and you want to watch it, PBS Masterpiece is another option.
In this series, we get a glimpse at the life of Sidney Reilly, the spy who inspired James Bond.
The Woman in White – This 2018 BBC miniseries adaptation of Wilkie Collins' famous book of the same name includes Jessie Buckley, Ben Hardy, and Olivia Vinall, among other talented cast members. Acorn TV fans may recognize Vinall from her recent starring role in Queens of Mystery.
This classic gothic tale begins when a man meets a mysterious woman in white before heading to Limmeridge House to tutor his nieces. He's told its a woman who escaped from an asylum, but already, a mystery has begun to unfold around him…
The Miniaturist – This 2017 BBC miniseries is an adaptation of Jessie Burton's novel by the same name. In 17th century Amsterdam, a woman moves in with her new husband and his sister. Oddly, the husband gives her a mysterious dollhouse to occupy her time.
While reviews were mixed, most agree that the gorgeous setting and production work make it worthy of a watch regardless.
Remember Me – Michael Palin (Monty Python, Great Railway Journeys), Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), and Mark Addy (The Syndicate) star in this sublimely creepy three-part mystery about a series of unfortunate events that unfold around an unhappy pensioner who fakes a fall in order to be moved to a care home. The scenery is perfectly bleak and atmospheric, and the cast is outstanding.
Apple Tree Yard – This 2017 miniseries is based on Louise Doughty's novel by the same name, and it's a suspenseful combination of sex and murder. When a woman gets an intriguing proposition, it excites her – until she realizes it may not be quite what it seemed. Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin star.
The Bletchley Circle – During World War II, a number of talented women worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park. After the war, their services were no longer needed and some women found themselves mentally unstimulated and rather bored by normal housewife life. That's where we begin in The Bletchley Circle – and those unfulfilled women put themselves to work solving murders no one else can figure out.
If you have a BritBox subscription, it's likely you'll have seen the follow-up to this series, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.
Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen – Anne-Marie Duff stars in this fascinating two-part (possibly four part, depending upon where you watch it) series about Queen Elizabeth I, the enigmatic and long-reigning queen who never took a husband.
Tom Hardy stars as her dear friend and possible lover Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Emilia Fox takes on the role of Dudley's wife.
Collision – After a multi-car accident, a group of relative strangers see their secrets unfold around that single event that ties them together.
This short series was written by Anthony Horowitz of Midsomer Murders fame, and Shetland fans will immediately notice Douglas Henshall as DI John Tolin.
Dancing on the Edge – In early 1930s London, a black jazz group is coming up in the world. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes before they can fully appreciate their success…
This six-episode series aired in 2013, and it features a mixture of British high society and the much uglier underbelly of racism and poverty in London at the time.
Exile – Life on Mars fans will enjoy John Simm's performance in this psychological thriller about a man who returns home to his aging father and caregiver sister. Previously, he had left home after being beaten by his father for looking through his files – files that hide a sinister secret. Now that his father is suffering from Alzheimer's, his son is able to revisit the mystery from all those years earlier.
Vicious – This snarky British comedy won't be everyone's taste, but it has some wickedly funny moments. Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen star as an elderly gay couple who've been together for the better part of 50 years. Having survived decades of hate and prejudice, they've managed to carve out a happy little existence with just each other and a few close friends.
Frankie Drake Mysteries – Though this one's a Canadian series, we're throwing it in because hey, it's in the Commonwealth, it's in English, and it's a mystery. Set in 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake is a great series for anyone who loved Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
Frankie Drake is a female detective whose Drake Detective Agency takes on the cases police don't want. Along with her trusty partner Trudy, they get into all manner of trouble.
PBS Masterpiece Also Includes Water Presents International Selections
If the series above aren't quite enough to keep you busy, keep in mind that PBS Masterpiece somewhat recently added quite a few non-English titles, too. They acquired the Walter Presents library (similar to mHZ Choice), and you can view those selections HERE.
What's Your Favourite British TV Show on PBS Masterpiece?
In the comments, let us know your favourite British TV show on PBS Masterpiece – or the one you wish they'd get. Happy watching!
Save it on Pinterest