In this series, we take a look at the London-set TV shows and films to look out for on various streaming platforms. We begin with Netflix, which offers a particularly good mix of classic television shows.
Note: streaming services add and remove content all the time. We will try to keep these articles up to date, but always check with the service for the latest details.
Corridors of power
All-conquering The Crown is, for many people, reason enough to get a Neflix sub. The biographical drama follows the lives of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) and Prince Philip (Matt Smith) beginning with their (pre-Accession) marriage in 1947. The show has garnered many awards and huge critical praise. As you'd imagine, it features many London scenes, but those shots of the Palace and Downing Street are faked on a set in Elstree Studios just north of the capital.
From crown to parliament. Slick political comedy The Thick of It made a household name of Peter Capaldi as a sweary spin doctor. All four series of the Westminster-set show can be found on Netflix.
Not only can you watch the wildly successful US version of House of Cards on Netflix, but you can also remind yourself just how brilliant was the original 1990 production from the BBC. Set in Westminster, it stars Ian Richardson as scheming politico Francis Ewan Urquhart.
The Fourth Estate gets a thorough drubbing in W1A, set in the BBC's Broadcasting House in Portland Place. The mockumentary-style show follows 'Head of Values' Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) and his inept staff at the BBC. The show's forerunner Twenty Twelve, which cocked a snook at preparations for the London Olympics, is also available on Netflix.
Spies and detectives
London cop and spy shows are particularly well represented on Netflix. The BBC's Sherlock is arguably the pick of the bunch. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are immense as Holmes and Watson, while London itself plays a big part in the show's success. Witness the phonebox shrine to Sherlock, which materialised outside Bart's hospital following the character's apparent death. The first three series can be found on Netflix.
London Spy is definitely worth your time if you didn't catch it on the Beeb first time round. The five-part series sees the hedonistic Danny (Ben Wishaw) fall for respectable banker type Alex (Edward Holcroft), who turns out to be a spy. When Alex is found dead, Danny is pulled in to a sinister world of espionage with only Jim Broadbent to lean on. Cracking stuff, at least for the first three episodes, with plenty of London streetscapes to identify.
More spy drama with Spooks (or [spooks] as they'd have it), which follows a team of agents at MI-5 (based, for some reason, in Freemason's Hall in Covent Garden). The BBC show ran to a whopping 10 series, and all are presented on Netflix. Although at times a bit hammy, Spooks has a regular knack of shocking its audience — we're still traumatised by that deep-fat fryer scene. Best of all, Spooks is a quintessentially London show that makes frequent use of the city's sights.
ITV series Whitechapel is beyond far-fetched, but has plenty of adherents. Rupert Penry-Jones heads the bill as an East End detective investigating a series of macabre crimes, with a little help from Steve Pemberton's tour guide. The first series focuses on a Jack the Ripper copycat, while the second revives the Krays.
Luther might be glibly summed up as another gritty crime drama about a cop who isn't afraid to break the rules. Yet this BBC show has an assured edge that makes for compelling viewing — especially if you live or work in Shoreditch where most of the action seems to have been filmed. Plus, Ruth Wilson and Idris Elba make one of the best pairings on television.
Call the Midwife probably needs little introduction. The Poplar-based series portrays the lives of a group of midwives and their charges in the 1950s and 60s. The show has been a huge success and looks set to continue for years to come. The first four series and Christmas specials are all available on Netflix.
Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror takes a dystopian, satirical look at the impact of technology on society. It makes regular use of the capital — either as a setting in its own right or to stand in for somewhere else. After impressing the critics on Channel 4, the show moved to Netflix in 2016 and now enjoys a worldwide audience. Run, another dark show to debut on Channel 4, follows four seemingly unrelated Londoners whose lives are nevertheless interlinked.
If we're being honest, Netflix's offering of classic London films is pretty poor. Highlights include Layer Cake, Kingsman, The King's Speech and, um, Jason Statham's The Bank Job. But special mention has to go to London Has Fallen, abysmal sequel to the much better Olympus Has Fallen. It's the most preposterous film ever made. Somehow, terrorists manage to take over the entire city. They're everywhere, blowing up buildings and patrolling the streets dressed as armed police. At one point, our heroes (Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart) break into an abandoned tube station (actually, Moorgate) to get away from it all. Big mistake. It's full of terrorists, too. This is unrelentingly implausible stuff, but worth watching for that reason.
And a few scraps
1920: London: Indian horror sequel sees dancing and black magic on the streets of London. It received terrible reviews and has a rating of just 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London: Clunky title, clunky film, but plenty of London scenes in this teenage spy thriller.
He Who Dares: Downing Street Seige: You can guess the story from the title of this badly reviewed drama. An SAS veteran attempts to save the life of the PM from an attack on Downing Street. Never seen it, never going to see it.
Secrets of the Tower of London: conventional 2013 documentary about the riverside fortress. As with all these things, contains no actual secrets.
The Krays: The Myth Behind The Legend: Documentary brought out to coincide with the film Legend, narrated by former Kray portrayer Martin Kemp.
Coming soon... London films and shows to watch on Amazon Prime.