18 British TV Shows like Shetland

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Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Stefanie Hutson

Editor's Note: This post has been updated since it was originally written, so it may contain entries or commentary the original author wouldn't have added. 

Is there are show that compares to Shetland? I'm not sure. Shetland is the perfect balance of all the best elements: bleak atmosphere, breathtaking windswept landscapes, a determined detective, and grisly crimes. To top it off, there's also a wonderful soundtrack.

Shetland is based on the Shetland novels by Ann Cleeves, and while they're different from the show in many ways, they're also deeper and richer because they don't have to be trimmed down to fit in short episodes. If you haven't already had the pleasure of watching Shetland, you can check it out HERE on BritBox. 

Below, we've divided our recommendations into four categories:

  • British TV Shows Similar to Shetland
  • Shows Featuring Douglas Henshall
  • Shows Featuring Ashley Jensen
  • Scandi Noir Series for Shetland Fans

British TV Shows like Shetland

Some of the shows below are more like Shetland than others, but they're all highly-rated and well worth checking out. Enjoy!

Broadchurch

broadchurch image, one of many shows like Shetland
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Olivia Colman and David Tennant in Broadchurch

Broadchurch isn't quite as bleak as Shetland, but it nails the moody coastal vibe. In it, detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) uncover the secrets of a small town as they investigate the death of a young local boy.

With the popularity of Broadchurch, it's possible you've already seen it… but if you're a fan of Shetland and you haven't yet watched it, this is a great time to start. You can watch it HERE on PBS Masterpiece, but it's also available (free with ads) on The Roku Channel. 

How is Broadchurch like Shetland?
Great storytelling. Compelling characters. Gorgeous scenery.

Karen Pirie

karen pirie britbox premieres october 2022
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Karen Pirie

Based on Val McDermid's Karen Pirie crime novels, this series is set in and around the coastal town of St. Andrews in Scotland. Karen Pirie is a young detective who works on a cold case team, so it doesn't have the same level of immediacy as the current cases of Shetland – but it's interesting, the characters are promising, and it's all set against the moody Scottish landscape. At time of writing, just one season has aired, but another is in the works. You can watch it HERE on BritBox.

What makes Karen Pirie ideal for Shetland fans?
Stories adapted from a master of tartan noir. Well-developed characters. Gorgeous Scottish scenery.

DCI Banks

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DCI Banks

DCI Banks is based on Peter Robinson's Inspector banks novels, and it follows Yorkshire-based detective Alan Banks, played by Stephen Tompkinson. Banks is persistent and stubborn. The show has a raw, bleak atmosphere that fans of Shetland may enjoy. DCI Banks is an intelligent and dramatic production with lots of twists. It also stars Caroline Catz and Andrea Lowe. Watch it HERE on BritBox.

Why do we file DCI Banks under “shows like Shetland”?
Intelligent crime drama. Grisly murders. Bleak atmosphere.

Hinterland

Hinterland screen capture
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Hinterland

Hinterland feels even bleaker than Shetland, but the scenery is just as gorgeous. Rather than the islands of Scotland, Hinterland is set in Wales. Some may find the scenery depressing, but it reflects DI Tom Mathias's state of mind.

Like all the detectives discussed so far, he is persistent and dedicated. Richard Harrington does a wonderful job portraying Mathias's damaged soul. Although the episodes are mostly standalone 90-minute stories, there are story lines woven across the three seasons. Watch it HERE on Acorn TV.

How does Hinterland compare to Shetland? 
This show is like Shetland in a lot of ways. Stunning scenery. Bleak atmosphere. Understated, simmering drama.

Annika

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Annika 

Based on the BBC Radio 4 drama Annika Strandhed, the series stars Nicola Walker (Unforgotten) as DI Annika Strandhed. Newly transferred to the Glasgow Marine Homicide Unit, she brings a teenage daughter and a boatload of investigative skills.

DI Strandhed leads a specialist unit tasked with investigating and explaining murders that occur along Scotland's waterways – and though her team is unconventional, they're talented. Watch it HERE on PBS Masterpiece

How is Annika like Shetland?

Bleak and beautiful Scottish scenery. Major British TV starpower in the leading role. A hint of Scandinavian influence at times.

In Plain Sight

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Douglas Henshall and Martin Compston in In Plain Sight

This three-episode miniseries also stars Douglas Henshall as Lanarkshire's Detective William Muncie. It's about the struggle to catch Scotland's first serial killer. The lines between good and evil are clear and you'll be rooting for the good guys from the first moment you see Peter Manuel's smug face. (Martin Compston plays Manuel – he must be a great actor). In Plain Sight is based on true events and you can watch it HERE on Freevee or BritBox.

Why is this show like Shetland?

Douglas Henshall plays a detective. Set in Scotland. Good cinematography. 

Loch Ness

Loch Ness image for fans of Shetland
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Laura Fraser and Siobhan Finneran in Loch Ness

This six-episode miniseries is also called The Loch. It stars Laura Fraser, Siobhan Finneran, John Sessions, and more. Loch Ness follows the story of Annie Redford, a detective working on her first murder case – a serial killer, no less. It's set against the gorgeous backdrop of Loch Ness in Scotland. Stream it on Acorn.

How does Loch Ness compare to Shetland?
Gorgeous Scottish scenery. Eerie, haunting atmosphere. Features great actors. 

Granite Harbour 

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Granite Harbour

After completing his work with the Royal Military Police, Davis Lindo (Romario Simpson) arrives in Aberdeen as a new recruit with Police Scotland. Though he dreams of one day becoming a Scotland Yard detective, he'll have to begin training as a DC in Aberdeen.

Monarch of the Glen fans will be pleased to see an appearance from Dawn Steele (who played Lexie). Stream it on BritBox

Luther

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Idris Elba as DCI John Luther

Like Shetland, Luther is a popular show with a bleak atmosphere. But instead of natural landscapes, it's set in urban London. Luther follows the cases of DCI John Luther played by Idris Elba. Ruth Wilson also stars. If you thought DI Jimmy Perez from Shetland had demons, wait until you meet Luther. Streaming HERE on BritBox.

Trivia: Shetland native Steven Robertson (who plays DC Sandy Wilson in Shetland) is in two episodes of Luther‘s second season. 

How does Luther compare to Shetland?  
Noir aesthetic. Dark. Troubled detective. Grisly crimes.

The Long Call

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The Long Call (2021)

The Long Call is based on Ann Cleeves' Two Rivers series, featuring detective Matthew Venn. Of the three shows made from her books, this is the one with the most inconsistent reviews – and ultimately, it was cancelled after just one season.

The show follows Detective Matthew Venn, a troubled gay detective who's recently returned to live in North Devon with his husband Jonathan. Unlike the more brash, confident detectives, Venn is a man scarred by religious extremism, with hefty doses of anger and self-doubt.

You can watch The Long Call HERE on BritBox

What makes this show like Shetland?

Dark and moody, set by the coast, source material by the same author.

Manhunt

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Martin Clunes in Manhunt

Manhunt, starring Martin Clunes, was the highest rated new drama on ITV since Broadchurch at the time of its premiere. It's only three episodes long, but well worth the watch for fans of Shetland. It's based on the true story of London Metropolitan police detective Colin Sutton as he works to track down a serial killer. Manhunt is streaming on Acorn.

Why do we recommend Manhunt for fans of Shetland?
Understated, realistic drama. Gritty. Somber.

Marcella

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Anna Friel in Marcella

Anna Friel plays Marcella Backland, an investigator in the Metropolitan Police who quits her job to spend more time with her family. But it doesn't matter – her husband leaves anyway. So, she returns to the murder squad where she must investigate a crime that feels close-to-home.

In tone, Marcella is a blend between Broadchurch and Nordic noir genre. It also stars Ray Panthaki as DI Rav Sangha, Jack Doolan as DC Mark Travis, and Jamie Bamber as DCI Tim Williamson. Marcella is streaming on Netflix

How is Marcella like Shetland?

Bleak atmosphere. High quality, intelligent crime drama. Complex characters. 

The Tunnel

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Stephen Dillane as Karl Roebuck and Clémence Poésy as Elise Wassermann in The Tunnel

The Tunnel is a British-French show based on The Bridge, a Swedish-Danish show. It begins in the underwater channel tunnel (also called the Chunnel) between England and France. A body is found on the border and an English detective (played by Stephen Dillane) is required to work with a French detective (played by Clémence Poésy).

The detectives don't just differ in culture, but in every other respect. Their professional relationship is refreshing, compelling, and brings the show to life. You can watch it HERE on PBS Masterpiece.

How does The Tunnel compare to Shetland?
Noir aesthetic. Compelling characters. High quality, intelligent crime drama.  

Unforgotten

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Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten, another great series for fans of Shetland

Season one of Unforgotten uncovers the story of a skeleton found in the cellar of a house. Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar star as detectives using every ounce of grit they have to find the truth. It also features realistic, modern forensic science. Watch as detectives uncover long-buried secrets. You can watch it HERE on PBS Masterpiece

Why is this show like Shetland?
High quality, intelligent detective drama. Compelling characters. Good cinematography.  

Vera

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Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) with DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon). 

Like Shetland, Vera is also based on novels by Ann Cleeves. Vera has a similar atmosphere and gorgeous, windswept landscapes. Vera Stanhope is a lonely character, but full of spunk and determination. Deep down, she cares and always does whatever it takes to catch the criminal.

Fans of Shetland will fall in love with Vera and the Northumberland setting. Brenda Blethyn stars. You can watch it HERE on BritBox.

How does Vera compare to Shetland?
Too many to list. Bleak atmosphere. Gorgeous scenery. Intelligent mysteries. Tenacious detective. 

Whitstable Pearl

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Whitstable Pearl 

Whitstable Pearl follows Pearl Nolan, a middle-aged single mum who runs an oyster bar in Whitstable, Kent. Her son is getting ready to head off to university, so she's at a stage where she can finally start thinking about herself again. 

In her twenties, her police career was cut short by an unexpected pregnancy. She's raised her son alongside her own mother, a quirky older woman who is said to have lost her husband to the sea. Now, she's ready to open a detective agency to get back to her real passion – investigation.

At the same time, you've got the newly-arrived DCI Mike McGuire working for the Kent police. He's left London to escape his own challenging past, and he's not the easiest man to get along with. As one might expect, he alternates between believing in what Pearl has to say and getting irritated at her interference. 

You can watch it HERE on Acorn TV

What Makes Whitstable Pearl like Shetland?

Focus on human relationships, small seaside community, bleak atmosphere.

Whitechapel 

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Phil Davis and Rupert Penry-Jones in Whitechapel

Whitechapel is perhaps the least similar show on our list, but it has a dark noir atmosphere that borders on horror. It also features compelling characters.

Rupert Penry-Jones plays ambitious DI Joseph Chandler. Although most cases might involve interviewing people and going door to door, this case is different – they must turn to history for answers as the 1888 murders of Jack the Ripper are reenacted. Watch as they try to get one step ahead and catch the killer. It also stars Steve Pemberton and Phil Davis. Watch it HERE on BritBox.

How does Whitechapel compare to Shetland? 
Noir aesthetic. Compelling characters. Great cast. Eerie, spooky. 

More Shows with Douglas Henshall

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Douglas Henshall is an accomplished actor from Glasgow, Scotland. If you want to follow his career, be sure to watch Primeval, Dorian Gray, South Riding, and Outlander – but if you're specifically looking for him in shows in the mystery/crime/thriller realm, check out the five shows below. 

Black Work

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Black Work. ITV. 2015.

Black Work is a three-part miniseries starring Sheridan Smith as PC Jo Gillespie, Matthew McNulty as DC Jack Clark, Douglas Henshall as DCS Will Hepburn, and even Kenny Doughty as DS Ryan Gillespie (he plays the second DS in Vera).  Shetland fans will love it for Henshall's capable performance and the dark, gritty nature of the series.

With the news of her husband's death, Jo also learns he was working undercover for three years. Suspicious and skeptical, she seeks to uncover the truth. Watch it HERE on BritBox.

Collision

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Collision. ITV. 2009.

Douglas Henshall stars as DI John Tolin. The story follows him as he investigates a substantial multi-car collision and the ten people affected by the life-altering event.

Even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you may want to watch it for the astounding cast. Henshall is just the tip of the iceberg. Collision is a five-part miniseries streaming on Masterpiece through Amazon.

The Secret of Crickley Hall

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The Secret of Crickley Hall – if you think it's weird I included a ghost story in this list, it's because I love it. 🙂

If you like a ghost story, this one's for you. In this miniseries, Henshall plays a very different character. While this story features ghosts, it never ventures fully into horror.

Rather, it's a family-centric supernatural mystery about two cases: a missing boy from the present and a horrific flood in the past. The supernatural allows timelines to converge, revealing the truth about what actually happened.

It stars Suranne Jones, Tom Ellis, Maisie Williams, Olivia Cooke, Pixie Davis, and more. Watch it HERE on BritBox

Who is Erin Carter?

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Who is Erin Carter?

This seven-part limited series was created by Doc Martin writer Jack Lothian, and it follows a British expat who's happily living and teaching in Spain until she gets caught up in a supermarket robbery. When one of the robbers claims to recognise her, it threatens the new life she's built. Though not the lead, it's fast-paced and suspenseful, with Douglas Henshall in a significant role (five of the seven episodes). You can find it on Netflix.

The Silence

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The Silence. Genevieve Barr and Douglas Henshall.

The Silence is a four-part miniseries about a deaf teenager torn between two worlds after getting a cochlear implant. In a turn of events, she witnesses the murder of a police officer, revealing a web of police corruption. Entering the hearing world is overwhelming enough. Being a witness to a murder might throw her over the edge. Douglas Henshall plays her uncle, Jim Edwards, a police detective trying to balance his investigation with his niece's safety.

The Silence stars Genevieve Barr, Douglas Henshall, Hugh Bonneville, Gina McKee, and Dervla Kirwan. It's streaming on Freevee at time of writing.

More Shows with Ashley Jensen

dark image of tosh and ashley jensen in new season 8, shetland
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Shetland

Not everyone has been pleased about the change in leads on Shetland, and some people haven't even bothered to watch after Henshall's departure. That's especially true of people who've only seen Ashley Jensen in shows like Agatha Raisin or Ugly Betty. It's true, she has a great talent for playing lively, bubbly characters – but that doesn't mean she's lacking in dramatic skill. 

Jensen trained in drama at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, and she actually met her first husband while working on a stage production of King Lear. There's more to her than just laughs.

If you'd like to see a bit more of Jensen's range, we recommend checking out these shows. There are others we would recommend (like City Central, Roughnecks, or Clocking Off), but they can be hard to track down. The ones below are, at time of writing, available to stream in the US.

Love, Lies, & Records

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Love, Lies, & Records

Jensen takes the leading role in this dramedy about a Yorkshire-based registar who struggles to balance her chaotic personal life with the routine dramas of the people she works with each day as she records marriages, deaths, births, and other major life events. The series was written by Kay Mellow (The Syndicate), and is has a great mix of light and dark moments. Watch it HERE on Acorn TV.

After Life

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Ashley Jensen and Ricky Gervais in After Life

Rocky Gervais stars in this darkly hilarious series about a man grieving the loss of his much-loved wife. Ashley Jensen enters the picture as Emma, a kind nurse who works at the care home where his dad lives. The series gives both Jensen and Gervais a chance to show off a greater range of emotions, though we'll warn you up front that some people may find the language a bit much at times. You can watch it on Netflix.

International Shows Similar to Shetland

Shetland has a specific aesthetic and atmosphere: the beautiful yet bleak landscape, grisly crimes, and simmering suspense. This atmosphere is in a lot of “Nordic Noir” or “Scandinavian Noir” shows that are popular now. These two highly-acclaimed shows are worth watching if you don't mind reading subtitles:

The Bridge (Bron | Broen)

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The Bridge: Great for fans of Shetland willing to watch subtitles

If you enjoyed The Tunnel (or you prefer to watch the original first), this show is the first incarnation of several remakes. It was re-adapted for the screen for UK-France, US-Mexico, Estonia-Russia, Malaysia-Singapore, and Germany-Austria.

And for good reason. It's a great show. It's a Nordic noir crime drama spanning 38 episodes. Three seasons (of four) are available to purchase on Amazon. Danish and Swedish with English subtitles.

Beck

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Beck
 

This long-running Swedish series is, like Shetland, based on characters from novels (in this case, by  Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö). The series follows police detective Martin Beck as he works cases in and around Stockholm, Sweden. Peter Haber plays the lead role.

Like Shetland, it features an unstylish middle-aged male detective, has tons of seasons to enjoy, and has that dreary but atmospheric landscape so common in northern Europe. Watch it HERE on MHz Choice.

Trapped (Ófærð)

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Trapped

If you're looking for something a little colder than the windswept Shetland landscape, Trapped might be just what you need. It takes place in a small Icelandic town in a fjord. As a ferry approaches, a body is found on board. But the body is missing a few things to help identify it… namely, a head and limbs.

Two seasons of Trapped are streaming on Amazon Prime. Icelandic with English Subtitles. 

 

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British mysteries and other TV shows like Shetland…

British Television shows to watch if you like Shetland web story

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