From 'Broadchurch' to 'Vera': 10 TV Shows We Love, Partly Because of Their Stunning Scenery
(Photo: BBC America)
If you've been holed up at home all week, you might find yourself craving a TV show that's lovely to look at. Here are 10 of our favorites from the U.K., U.S., and beyond – though be warned, some are rather darker than their beautiful scenery might suggest.
There are lots of reasons to watch BBC America's crime drama created by Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall – not least the brilliant performances by David Tennant, Olivia Colman, and Jodie Whittaker. Chibnall grew up in the coastal county of Dorset, where Broadchurch was set and filmed, and has described his three-season show as a "love letter to the scenery of the [region’s] Jurassic Coast."
2. Midsomer Murders
Now onto its 22nd season, which premiered on Acorn TV in May, this popular crime series follows the surprisingly high number of suspicious deaths in the fictional English county of Midsomer. It's actually filmed in a various villages and towns in the pretty English counties of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, home to the rolling Chiltern Hills. The show is so popular that local tourist boards now offer Midsomer Murders-themed tours of the area.
3. The North Water
This miniseries that launched on AMC+ in July will definitely chill you to the bone. Based on Ian McGuire's novel of the same name, it follows a disgraced former army surgeon (Jack O'Connell) who signs up for an Arctic whaling expedition alongside a disturbingly brutish harpooner (Colin Farrell). Filming took place on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard; crew members believe they ventured further north than any other TV production in history to secure jaw-dropping shots of drift ice.
4. Big Little Lies
The superior first season of this HBO series will keep you gripped with its twisty whodunnit and impeccable performances from Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoë Kravitz, and Laura Dern. Its prestige drama credentials are definitely enhanced by director Jean-Marc Vallée's stunning shots of California coastal locations including the Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, and Carmel Highlands. Seriously, the characters’ super-fancy houses have views that are, um, to die for?
5. Whitstable Pearl
This Acorn TV original series follows warmhearted restaurant owner-slash-private detective Pearl Nolan (After Life's Kerry Godliman) as she teams up with local police officer (The Three Musketeers' Howard Charles) to investigate her friend's suspicious death. The addictive six-parter is set and partly filmed in Whitstable, a charming and old-timey English seaside village located 50 miles east of London. You'll be craving fish and chips on the beach as you watch.
Based on Winston Graham's novels, this BBC/PBS historical drama series follows Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) as he returns to Cornwall in southwest England following the American War of Independence. Unfolding over five seasons that premiered between 2015 and 2019, it's a show that's romantic in every sense – consequently, the rugged Cornish scenery sometimes feels like a character in its own right. At times you can almost smell the salty sea air.
IFC's cult sketch series might seem like a left field choice here, but it's often as lovely to look at as it is hilarious. As stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein gently send up the hipsters of Portland, Oregon, they keep the series firmly rooted in this uniquely quirky city – a longtime hive for countercultural ideas – plus its mountainous surrounding region. Factor in the soothing theme music by chillwave artist Washed Out and Portlandia becomes a low-key treat for the senses.
8. The Durrells
This PBS/ITV series that ran from 2016 to 2019 is based on Gerald Durrell's autobiographical books about his family's years living in 1930s Corfu. Led by appealing performances from Keeley Hawes and Josh O'Connor, it's a warm and family-friendly series that feels a bit like a vacation to a more innocent time (as well as to a gorgeous Greek island, of course). So if you need a quick sun fix, it's one to binge-watch.
9. Top of the Lake
Set in Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island, the first season of this murder-mystery series from Oscar-winning director Jane Campion is absolutely ravishing to look at. The plot follows Sydney-based detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) as she heads to a tight-knit lakeside community to investigate the murder of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. It’s an unsettling and atmospheric watch made creepier by the setting’s sometimes overwhelming natural beauty.
Featuring a bravura performance from Brenda Blethyn as no-nonsense detective Vera Stanhope, this British crime series has become an enduring favorite: an 11th season is in the can, with a 12th being debated. It is filmed in various locations in Northumberland, a region of northeast England whose unspoiled beauty hasn't been tapped by TV crews too often before. The show does such a lovely job of showcasing its rugged charms that it has given tourism in the area a 25% boost.
Which other TV series do you appreciate for the scenery?