100 years of the BBC: The best shows on BBC iPlayer right now
What to watch on the BBC's 100 year anniversary
It’s been 100 years since the BBC first broadcast with the words “2LO, Marconi House, London, calling.” Well, almost 100 years. Those words were aired at 5.33 PM on 14 November 1922, but it was a century ago today (18 October) when the BBC was formed. So here’s our guide to the best shows on BBC iPlayer.
Over the decades the BBC has brought us everything from Del Boy to David Attenborough. There have been laughs (Guy Goma). There have been tears (the Euro 2020 final, but it’s too soon to talk about that). We’ve witnessed humans enter space, lizards escape snake attacks, the rise of Ceefax and the fall of Barry from Eastenders, all on the BBC.
Today, the BBC lives on iPlayer. And while it’s far from an exhaustive list, we toast 100 years of the Beeb with our picks of the best shows on BBC iPlayer right now.
Additional copy by Dan Grabham, Craig Grannell, Connor Jewiss and Tom Wiggins
OJ: Made in America
BBC Four’s Storyville series is a goldmine of incredible documentaries, but none of them can compete with the Oscar-winning OJ: Made in America – all 7.5 hours of it.
If you can’t spare an entire working day to watch it in one go, don’t worry, because it’s split into much more manageable 90-minute chunks on iPlayer. Each one examines a different part of OJ Simpson’s life, from his childhood growing up in San Francisco to his more recent, less well-known run-ins with the law, but it’s also about much more than that: power, celebrity, the media, justice, and, most of all, America’s problem with race.
Watch OJ: Made in America on iPlayer
How To with John Wilson
John Wilson films absolutely everything. From the mundane to the miraculous, he compiles his self-shot footage into 25ish-minute visual essays on various everyday themes, whether that’s making small talk or investing in property.
While that makes them sound painfully pretentious, they never take you where you think they will, and each one is packed with quirky metaphors and visual gags that, when combined with Wilson’s nerdy narration, result in a genuinely unique show that comes across like a collaboration between Adam Curtis and Louis Theroux.
Watch How To with John Wilson on iPlayer
Toast of Tinseltown
Can you hear me, Steven? Good, because we can rave about the Beeb’s sequel series to Toast of London. Starring Matt Berry’s comedically modulating tones (and himself, of course), this comedy focuses on struggling actor Steven Toast. The sequel sees its namesake pack up and head to Hollywood in pursuit of a role in a particular space-based flick.
It follows Toast through all manner of ridiculous situations, landing acting gigs, rivals, and a rather annoying sound booth operator. Each of the six episodes are packed with visual gags, plenty of cameos, and sarky one-liners that’ll keep you laughing through the 30-minute runtime. It’s daft, outlandish, charming, and hilariously funny.
Watch Toast of Tinseltown on iPlayer
Children: they’re like adults, with infinitely worse taste in television. But if you’re a parent driven to despair by the horrors you have to sit through, Hey Duggee has since 2014 been an oasis of amazingness.
The set-up is generic: anthropomorphic animals at a clubhouse learn new things. Yawn. But novel visuals, superb scripts peppered with adult-pleasing in-jokes and subversion, and narrator Alexander Armstrong chewing his way through the scenery all make for a kid’s show that you’ll sneak episodes of long after your nippers are tucked up in bed.
Now, Squirrels, let’s all sing along!
Stick stick stick stick, stick stick stick stick, stick stick stick stick, sticky sticky stick stick!
This darkly comedic murder drama (yes, really) follows the titular Eve as a security operative for MI5. Taking a little too much interest with the assassin in an ongoing investigation, it takes us on a journey of fascination, self-discovery, and lots of bloody killings.
Murders thrill, twists actually surprise, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of what makes people tick. Perfect casting, dynamic storytelling, and a shake-up in the genre make this binger a must-watch.
What list of the Beeb’s shows could be complete without its Sci-Fi diamond. Creeping up on 60 years, the show’s been around forever – and fans love it. With different actors getting the chance to take a crack at the titular time-traveller (well, The Doctor, not Doctor Who), the show constantly changes and evolves.
Going through wibbly-wobbly time-wimey space adventures, each episode brings a battle, monsters that’ll get you behind the couch, and a touch of warmth. While recent seasons haven’t lived up to the show, Doctor Who is a must-see for Sci-Fi fans across its 800-odd episodes.
The original version of the BBC’s car show is a goldmine of motor knowledge, sark, and wit. Each hour-long episode brought the latest in car news through the charming humour of Clarkson, May, and Hammond. Car reviews, track races, and some of the most out-of-the-box car challenges feature in each episode of the show.
Blurring the lines between news, consumer telly, and a comedy, the series stands out for the three presenters more so than the sets of wheels they’re sitting behind. Perfect for some light-hearted viewing, the 22 series of the original show must not be missed.
Not Going Out
Not Going Out is one of the Beeb’s long-running comedy shows. With Lee Mack playing a fictional version of himself, the series follows him navigate through life, relationships, and family drama.
It’s cheeky, heart-warming, and filled with enough clever one-liners to fill the River Thames. Filled with a tremendously funny cast and enough audience laughter to fill a sound-stage, the cheeky series is one to catch-up on at any time.
Watch Not Going Out on iPlayer
What We Do in the Shadows
Loosely based on the movie with the same name, What We Do in the Shadows is a dark comedy from the BBC and FX looking at vampires struggling to adapt in the modern day.
Forget all the cheese you’d usually associate with vampire shows, as What We Do in the Shadows has none of that. Rather, it’s a mockumentary comedy filled with the struggles of a group of vampires. Starring Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, and Natasia Demetriou as the vampiric cast, the show could make even the undead laugh at the clever lines and absurdity of the entire premise.
Watch What We Do in the Shadows on iPlayer
BBC and Prime Video’s collaboration on this dark comedy can only be described as a televised masterpiece. Written and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this clever comedy is a televised version of a one-woman stage show.
The series follows the titular character navigating her way through bizarre family relationships, tough emotions, utterly bizarre situations, love, and ultimately, self-acceptance. Fleabag creates relatable characters through a show that’s so true-to-life that it’ll feel like a slap across the face (the good kind, naturally). It’s a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-go-watch-it kind of show – off you go.
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
There’s a certain genre of TV show that the BBC has long perfected. It usually involves a former politician, public figure or comedian doing an activity in a place. The premises are usually very simple. Does Michael Portillo enjoy trains? What if Romesh Ranganathan was in Romania? Where can we send Ed Balls now?
Few TV shows fulfil the need for wholesome celebrity action than Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing. The show sees Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse pondering life over lines cast into quaint countryside settings. There are laughs, mostly from Mortimer falling over, but also lessons to learn in how to enjoy life from two people who’ve lived it well.
Watch Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing on iPlayer
Storyville showcases the best in international documentaries that shine a light on untold stories from around the world. On iPlayer, the documentaries featured are ever-changing but always enthralling to watch. The once featured The Great Hip Hop Hoax highlighted how two Scottish friends deceived their way to a record deal by pretending to be American rappers. Orion: The Man Who Would Be King tells the tale of a man who masqueraded as Elvis back from the grave, and found great success doing it.
There are stories of crime, capitalism, controversy and Evel Knievel. Many will simply have you shaking your head in disbelief. Whatever emotion you want from your evening, it’s there on Storyville.
Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams
File this show under ‘extremely feel good’. Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams sees the former batting legend return to his home city of Preston in an attempt to teach local kids that cricket is cool, actually. It’s an uphill struggle from the start. Football reigns supreme in this part of the north. There are no experienced batters, bowlers or fielders. Cricket jumpers are lame and few of the boys have ever heard of Freddie Flintoff, never mind his past glories.
But Field of Dreams is an outrageously heartwarming affair, filled with incredible characters and a team that you end up rooting for as if they were your own. You want them to succeed, are gutted when they don’t, but watch in pride as they don’t give up. How they manage to cram this much goodness into just three episodes is beyond us.
Watch Freddie Flintoff’s Field of Dreams on iPlayer
Nordic noir can sometimes feel like a parody of itself. After 2011’s The Bridge introduced this form of Scandi-crime drama to international viewers, there has been no shortage of gritty mysteries set in cold, unforgiving terrain. The same can be said for British dramas of course, the type of bent copper fodder that usually stars a well-intentioned but troubled (and bearded) David Morrissey.
Trom breaks the trope mould, though. Set across the Faroes, this Danish- language mystery follows journalist Hannis Martinsson who risks it all to unearth what happened to an animal rights activist found during a local whale hunt. OK, we appreciate that sounds suspiciously familiar, but just trust us on this one.
Don’t expect The Capture to be the best thriller ever. But it is genuinely engaging and quite freaky in how it makes you think about how images and video can be manipulated.
Before it was a thing your dad shared on Facebook, it also explored how deepfake video can be used to warp our sense of reality. Holliday Grainger shines as the embattled and embittered cop who’s trying to work out the truth but encounters a lot of resistance on the way. Naturally, there are good people and there are bad people and many in between…