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7 Best TV Series to Improve Your English
24 June, 2019
The Crown series 1 thumbnail v4

As a business English course provider, we’re not going to suggest that you can master the English skills required for cross-border business by watching TV – we know this requires commitment to regular, structured business English training sessions.

However, watching TV in English is definitely a great complementary activity to taking an English course and we always encourage our students to incorporate it into their weekly habits. It’s a passive and very enjoyable way of practicing general listening comprehension, exposing yourself to different accents and idiomatic language, as well as building understanding of Anglophone cultures and humor.

So here is The Language Grid shortlist of the best TV series to help improve your English. They're all award winning, provide insight into the local culture, and have been well reviewed by our business English students!

BRITISH ENGLISH

Sherlock 
Genre: Crime Drama 
Best for: Developing understanding of dry British humor
Seasons: 4 (2010 – 2017)
Episode length: 90 mins
Available on Netflix: Yes

This celebrated BBC production brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s much loved detective duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to contemporary London. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Sherlock as “Brilliant, aloof and almost entirely lacking in social graces”, which simultaneously leaves Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) infuriated and enamored. Together they are the perfect comedy pairing, the dialogue epitomising dry, sharp and witty British humor.

Each episode sees Sherlock and Dr. Watson solve a new crime somewhere in the sprawl of England’s capital and occasionally elsewhere in the UK. It is always gripping and exciting but the humor makes the show feel light and easy to watch.

It’s ideal if you’re looking for something funny but don’t like American sitcoms.


The Crown

Genre: Historic Drama
Best for: Improving comprehension of the English accent with Received Pronunciation
Seasons: 2 (2016 – Present)
Episode length: 50 – 60 minutes
Available on Netflix: Yes

This historical drama chronicles young Queen Elizabeth II’s personal and political journey to becoming leader of the world’s most famous monarchy. Not only does it accurately portray the political climate of the era – the British Empire in decline and a shift in the political and social status quo at home – it paints a very believable picture of the family dynamics going on behind closed doors at Westminster and Buckingham Palace. Together this creates high drama value!

Because the British Royal Family of this period spoke exclusively with Received Pronunciation and in a formal way, the dialogue is very clear and slow – and therefore should be easy to follow. It also offers great insight into the making of modern British monarchy which still has cultural relevance in the UK today.


Luther

Genre: Crime Drama
Best for: Exposure to a wide variety of British accents
Seasons: 5 (2010 – Present)
Episode length: 60 minutes
Available on Netflix: Yes

London Police Detective John Luther (played by Idris Elba) is revered for his ability to solve murder cases by entering into the mindset of the killer. But his brilliance is often hampered by battles with superiors and a difficult private life. This acclaimed and long-running BBC series follows Luther as he navigates through the grit and grime of crime in the English capital and the red tape of public sector in the UK.

With a cast from all over Britain you will be exposed to a wide variety of regional accents from ‘New Cockney’ (London) and ‘Scouse’ (Liverpool) to Scottish and Irish.



Our Planet

Genre: Nature Documentary
Best for: Learning why everyone in the UK loves naturalist David Attenborough
Seasons: 1 (2019)
Episode length: 50 minutes
Available on Netflix: Yes

This documentary series looks at immense diversity of animal habitats all around the world, from remote arctic wilderness and unknown oceans to the arid landscapes of Africa and tropical jungles of South America. It is narrated by English naturalist and scientist David Attenborough, who has been presenting nature documentaries since 1977 and has become a national treasure in the UK.

This is a great option for viewers of all levels because you don’t need to understand all of the script to enjoy it – the footage of the natural world is stunning.


AMERICAN ENGLISH

Glow
Genre: Comedy
Best for: Developing understanding of satirical humor
Seasons: 2 (2017 – present)
Episode length: 30 minutes
Available on Netflix: Yes

This cult comedy show focuses on the professional and personal lives of a group of disparate women who find themselves working for a wrestling entertainment organization in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Yes, this sounds ludicrous, but that’s exactly what makes it so brilliant – the memorable and strong female characters, loud 1980s costumes and endless laughs make for easy viewing. The sharp, gritty script is proudly feminist, using satire to mock the gender equality of the era.

If you struggle with complicated plot lines and just want to relax with pure entertainment at the end of the day, Glow is the show for you.


This Is Us
Genre: Drama  
Best for: Exposure to American accents and popular culture
Seasons: 3 (2016 – present)
Episode length: 40 minutes
Available on Netflix: No (Amazon Prime Video)

This heartwarming series follows an American family through the ups and downs of everyday life, across several decades. As individual characters’ stories intertwine in curious ways, there are moments of love, joy, heartbreak and revelations. This is Us is refreshingly diverse as it authentically addresses topics including racism, obesity, sobriety, adoption and loss. It is known for its crazy twists and emotional moments. Get your tissues ready!

It is great for students of all levels who want to improve their listening skills for an American context.


AUSTRALIAN

Secret City
Genre: Political Thriller
Best for: Exposure to the Australian accent and professional dialogue
Seasons: 2 (2016 – present)
Episode length: 50 minutes
Available on Netflix: Yes

Coined as the ‘Australian House of Cards’, this political thriller set in Canberra follows a senior political journalist, Harriet Dunkley, as she uncovers a major political conspiracy against a backdrop of rising tension between China and America. The combination of espionage, complex characters and political relevance will keep you hooked.

Due to the politically charged nature of the conversations, this is suited to high level English students who are looking to improve their recognition of nuanced, indirect language.



A quick note about watching with subtitles
If you feel you need subtitles to help you follow the plot, remember that you MUST USE English subtitles and not your own language. If you watch TV with the subtitles in your own language, you simply won’t process the English and you won't experience any learning benefits.

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