In British police procedurals, murder scenes are as grisly and murderers are as twisted as in any American-made thriller (think the visceral and visually exquisite Hannibal). British crime dramas often vary, though, in that they eschew car chases and shootouts for long blocks of exposition or dialogue, allowing for rich character development.
Hulu and Netflix are currently offering some British dramas in which the characters—and, fortunately the storylines—are so engaging, it's easy to forget they're fictional. From ITV come two shows with damaged but strong detectives at their core: the long-running, award-winning DCI Banks (2010), which follows headstrong and sometimes eerily farsighted Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks (Stephen Tompkinson) as he deftly navigates solving heinous murders but stumbles through interpersonal relationships.
Tompkinson does a brilliant job of portraying a man who believes everyone counts and gives so much of himself to the job, there's little left for anyone else. Hulu is currently streaming the first three seasons but get binging now, and you'll be ready when season four begins airing Friday, June 3 on IPTV.
Also streaming for Hulu subscribers is BBC 2's award-winning Line of Duty (2012), one of the densest, tensest shows to hit the small screen since HBO's The Wire—and also one of the most popular. Line of Duty is BBC 2's most-watched drama in more than 10 years. In this addictive show, Martin Compston plays Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott, a by-the-book officer whose refusal to lie when an innocent man is killed during a raid gets him transferred to AC-12, one of a dozen police anti-corruption units in the West Midlands. Arnott, his partner Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and department boss, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar), work to nab "bent" cops, but all the lies they hear and all the lies they tell lead them to become suspicious of everyone—even each other. Part of what makes Line of Duty so mesmerizing is how the narrative of each season intertwines into a much bigger—and much more depraved—story. The Guardian said it best, calling it "extraordinary, intense, butt-clenchingly gripping television."