The 5 Best British Programs on PBS in 2018

Credit: Courtesy of John Rogers/Mainstreet Pictures
Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in "Unforgotten" (Photo Credit: Courtesy of John Rogers/Mainstreet Pictures)

It's the end of 2018, and that means it's time to look back at the best shows aired on your local PBS station this year. This was a big year for British programming on PBS. With dependable standbys like Grantchester on hiatus and promised shows like Press delayed until 2019, Masterpiece experimented a bit and came up with a few more hits than anyone might have expected.

Let's run down the highlights.

The Child In Time

 

For those who were looking for a Benedict Cumberbatch performance that didn't include overworked Sherlock Holmes plots, this was the beginning of a beautiful year. The Child in Time provided a reminder that the man with the impossible name isn't popular due to a rabid fanbase but because he is a fantastic actor.

The series may have drawn people in with the idea it was a mystery about a missing child, but it kept us there for a superb meditation on grief and loss between Cumberbatch and actress Kelly Macdonald. All we can say is "more like this please."

Unforgotten Series 1 & 2

 

With no Grantchester, no Home Fires, and no Inspector Lewis on the schedule this year, PBS took a chance on an older ITV series about long unsolved cold cases with an uneven critical response and found a home for it here in America.

Unforgotten's first season wound up with an unsatisfying ending, but with PBS in possession of two seasons to play back to back, that was soon forgotten with a far improved spin on the formula for Season 2. The sleeper hit has only grown since with fans discovering the joys of DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar).

Endeavour Series 5

How does this show improve year to year? The unlikely revival of the Inspector Morse franchise reimagined as a 1960s period prequel has become one of PBS' most reliable summer pleasures.

Endeavour's fifth season featured an expanded slate of six full episodes, as the young Endeavour Morse found himself at a crossroads both his love life and his professional career. This year also saw the end of at least one show mainstay, as the Oxford City Police were folded into the Thames Valley Constabulary, where fans of the 80s series met Morse twenty years hence.

The Great British Baking Show Season 5

 

The BBC may have lost the rights to GBBO, but it still has a few seasons banked away for an emergency, and this year PBS fed off them.

The Great British Baking Show Season 5 on PBS may actually have been The Great British Bake Off Series 3 (and is now The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings Season 1 on Netflix, just to confuse everyone), but with a cup of Sue & Mel and six ounces of Mary Berry, this is a recipe that will never go wrong. (Except maybe in that American Pies challenge. What *was* that?)

Poldark Series 4

 

The most maddening show on PBS, Poldark edged out Victoria to make my list this year, but not by much. Both shows have at this point settled into their respective grooves, but often lean far too precariously into their weaknesses than playing to their strengths.

In the end, Poldark managed to pull itself together enough due to Heida Reed and Jack Farthing's performances as Elizabeth and George Warleggan, especially in the finale. (Who knew it would take having it smashed for anyone to believe George had a heart?) And Eleanor Tomlinson is a national treasure as Demelza. You know, after next year's final season, I have this great idea for a spin-off starring everyone's best red-headed friend in Cornwall...

What were your picks for the best in British TV in 2018 (on PBS and otherwise)? Let's discuss in the comments.