The 10 Best Shows on Acorn TV to Stream Right Now

TV Lists Acorn TV
The 10 Best Shows on Acorn TV to Stream Right Now

In the years Paste has been updating this guide to what we consider the best programming Acorn TV has to offer, there’s been plenty of turnover: in 2019 we highlighted series like The Art Detectives, Raise by Wolves, 800 Words, and Walks with my Dog. But by 2020, those had been replaced by Dead Still, No Offence, The South Westerlies, and The Other One. And by 2022, many of those had been replaced by shows like A Suitable Boy, Dalgliesh, and Signora Volpe

At the same time, there is just as much about this list that has stayed constant: Mystery Road is still top of the charts, as it was years ago — and now it’s been joined by its equally compelling flashback prequel series, Mystery Road: Origin. Similarly, PBS favorite Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has held onto top billing, while also having been joined by its own flashforward sequel series, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries. And The Detectorists and Queens of Mystery remain forever Paste favorites. (Even accounting for a mid-series swap of lead actors in the latter!)

In both cases, Acorn TV comes out as a dependable actor, niche-streaming-platform-wise. There is always going to be something new worth firing your subscription up to tune into, and always a deep bench of quality shows to go back to in between splashy new series drops. And as many public libraries in North America offer patrons temporary Acorn TV access, that value proposition goes even higher. If British*—not to mention Irish, Australian, Kiwi, Canadian, and even occasionally Swedish, Spanish, and French—programming is where your TV-loving heart lies, Acorn TV is a really solid bet.

Now, eagle-eyed (robin-eyed?) anglophiles will know that Acorn TV is just one of two top Brit-centric streaming platforms available to North American viewers. The other, BritBox—a combined project of the BBC and ITV—is profiled in greater depth here, but this is, in short, the difference between the two: With its roots planted more firmly on this side of the pond (i.e., in AMC Networks, whose portfolio also includes BBC America, IFC and Sundance Now), Acorn TV is, on the whole, less comprehensive than its BBC/ITV-backed rival — a fact its slightly lower monthly subscription cost reflects. But what Acorn TV lacks in volume, vault access, and next-day soap/news/panel show content, it makes up for in the specificity of its quirky comedy/cozy mystery/gritty thriller curation, the breadth of its international reach, and the speed with which it’s developing its slate of Acorn Originals. From complex longform murder mysteries to short, sharp sitcoms, Acorn TV has something for everyone who’s ever loved British(ish) television. 

Cost: $6.99 per month (or $69.99 per year), with a 7-day introductory free trial period. (And yes, annual gift subscriptions are available.)

Pro-tip: It’s worth surfing over to the digital services section of your local public library’s website, as many libraries in the U.S. provide free access to Acorn TV for patrons through RBdigital. If your library isn’t among them, ask! Your libraries work for you; let them do their magic.

Available on: Roku, iTunes, Google Play, Android TV, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV (on supported devices), as well as online at, and through an Amazon add-on subscription (exclusively for Prime members).

What Makes It Unique: Calling all anglophiles! Well, anglophiles, but also Canada-philes, Aussie-philes, Kiwi-philes, plus all the folks forever casting about for their next gritty Scandi-inspired detective thriller. Scripted dramas—mostly mystery, mostly cozy—are king (er, queen) here, but so too are contemporary comedies, foreign language thrillers, and rambling, arty reality fare.

What You’ll Find on This List: As one of the niche streamers in regular rotation in Paste writers’ homes, we’ve got enough outright Acorn favorites to have made this list a classic Top 10er. That said, the entire Acorn TV catalog is still small enough that, like most other small streamers out there, it’s divided its content into a limited number of discrete (but richly populated) categories. To that end, please enjoy the lightning round we’ve tacked on after the main list, which highlights titles from the streamer’s major categories that may not have made our final Top 10, but are still important parts of the Acorn family. And for those looking specifically for mystery series, check out our list of Plucky Acorn TV Lady Detectives.



Mystery Road

Category: Mystery, Only on Acorn TV, Acorn TV Original
Hails from: Australia

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Acorn bills Mystery Road as “Australia’s answer to True Detective,” but if anything, the multiple-award-winning series is even closer in spirit to Bosch, as both feature a sharp, stoic detective (Aaron Pedersen) so driven by a sense of moral righteousness that he ends up a lone wolf in a sea of institutional and cultural corruption. It is also shot with a cinematically breathtaking sense of sun-baked noir.

We would recommend Mystery Road regardless—just on a visual level, it has some of the most overwhelmingly gorgeous shots we’ve ever seen on the small screen. (Unsurprisingly, several of the series’ many awards nominations have come courtesy of cinematographer Mark Wareham.) That said, there’s even greater draw in the fact that both Pedersen and Jay Swan, the detective he plays, are Aboriginal, and that the rural crimes he ends up investigating are informed by generations of institutional racism and injustice. The murders in the first season center on the question of who has (or should have) rights to access a cattle station’s lone natural water source—a water source that, not incidentally, is also a sacred site for the local Aboriginal people—while the long-awaited second season takes the question of colonialism’s brutal legacy to a fishing community up north. As will be obvious to anyone scanning the platform’s library, Acorn TV is a pretty white place; for a show like Mystery Road to be made available, and for it to treat the Aboriginal people of Australia with nuance and respect, is important. For it to be a model for more, similarly diverse and complex shows to come, is even more so.


Mystery Road: Origin

Category: Mystery, Only on Acorn TV, Acorn TV Original
Hails from: Australia

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Set just before Y2K in the wasted streets of Detective Jay Swan’s tiny mining hometown, Mystery Road: Origin stars Mark Coles Smith as a younger, greener version of the role Pedersen originated, adding not just emotional dimension to the canonically laconic solo investigator, but a knot of challenging family ties and childhood hurts. That all of this wraps around a pile of milestones and biographical details that don’t remotely fit in with the established facts of Pedersen’s Jay—including when and how he meets Mary (Tuuli Narkle), when and how he loses his dad (Kelton Pell), when and how (and where!) he starts his career as a detective, and where, in point of fact, he grew up in the first (i.e., where his ‘country’ is)—well, that’s beside the point. With an eye towards the most visually arresting Outback vistas and the kind of season-long mystery rooted in baked-in racism and the unquestioned legacy of settler colonialist abuse that have long put Mystery Road in a genre class of its own, Mystery Road: Origin is a more than worthy successor to the most viscerally gripping international mystery series that Americans are still sleeping on.


Mrs. Sidhu Investigates

Category: Mystery, Acorn Original
Hails from: Britain

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Listeners of BBC Radio 4 will already be familiar with Meera Syal’s Slough-based professional caterer-turned-meddling sleuth, Mrs. Sidhu, but for those of us whose entertainment line-up doesn’t generally include BBC radio dramas, Acorn TV now offers a four-episode streaming adaptation. 

Still starring Syal in the extremely fun title role, Mrs. Sidhu Investigates also features Gurjeet Singh as Mrs. Sidhu’s layabout son, Tez, Craig Parkinson as her long-suffering professional detective counterpart, DCI Burton, and—in a role new to the streaming adaptation—Naana Agyei Ampadu as Sergeant Mint, DCI Burton’s equally long-suffering Met partner. Format-wise, there’s nothing wild that sets Mrs. Sidhu apart from any other contemporary cozy crime comedy (murders happen in eclectic locales, an amateur sleuth manages to sneak their way onto the scene, hijinks and headaches for their detective counterpart ensue), but this genre is a classic for a reason. Make your eclectic locales memorable and your central characters charming, and you’ve got a winner. With a first season that features murders in a high-octane, members-only spinning gym, a blockbuster fantasy fan convention, a cut-throat tech start-up, and a Rocky-like return to professional boxing, Mrs. Sidhu definitely clinches the former. And with the high-chemistry performances of Syal, Singh, Parkinson. and Ampadu in hand, it equally nails the latter. A fun time, all around! We just hope there will be more.



Category: Mystery, Acorn Original
Hails from: UK

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With two seasons under its belt, Dalgliesh follows the character of Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh (Bertie Carvel). The creation of critically beloved English novelist P.D. James—who spent a full 44 years of her career (from 1962 to 2008) walking in his shoes—Dalgliesh is something of a paradox: an intensely private, quietly competent detective with London’s New Scotland Yard, he also happens to be a critically lauded poet. Who drives a Jaguar. Add to this the fact that Dalgliesh is also a recent widower, and what you have isn’t the usual kind of cozy period mystery (Dalgliesh is set in the mid-1970s) you’ll otherwise find on Acorn TV, but rather something much closer to what HBO or AMC might bill as prestige.

If I had to draw a comparison to any detective series in television history, it would be that other beacon of 1970s police work: Columbo. Not because the audience is on the solution before Dalgliesh even gets to the scene (we’re not), or because Dalgliesh plays the scruffy, meddlesome clown to trick his main suspect into revealing all (he is, if anything, painfully proper and zipped up). Rather, both detectives—and therefore, both series—take the lives of the people involved in their respective cases entirely in earnest. Where Columbo’s persistent cleverness ends up making Peter Falk’s series a study in catharsis, however, Dalgliesh’s enduring, preternatural stillness ends up making Bertie Carvel’s almost meditative. What I’m saying is, if you’re going to watch Dalgliesh, put down your phone, turn your subtitles on, and let yourself fall under the spell of television that trusts you to actually watch. [Full review here.]


The South Westerlies

Category: Drama, Acorn Original
Hails from: Ireland

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It’s rare these days to find an across-the-pond drama whose premise feels entirely fresh. It is rarer still to find one that doesn’t feature even one (1) depraved small-town murder, or the psychologically battered local detective set to investigate it. So imagine our delight when Acorn’s Carrigeen-set The South Westerlies hit the streamer in 2020. Not even remotely murder-y, The South Westerlies stars Orla Brady (Into the Badlands, Star Trek: Picard) as Kate Ryan, an environmental consultant for a Norwegian wind energy company who’s been tasked with embedding in her tiny Irish hometown as an undercover lobbyist for a proposed wind farm the community is staunchly resisting. Never mind the fact that she fled Carrigeen nearly two decades previous, after she became pregnant by her free-spirited ex, Baz (Steve Wall), whose heart was set on starting a pro-surfing career in Hawaii. And never mind the fact that she cut off every friend she had when she left. As far as NorskVentus is concerned, she’s ideally suited for this extremely sneaky (if environmentally beneficial) role.

Naturally, all the lies Kate has to maintain to pull off this job start unraveling almost immediately, like when her now-grown son, Conor (Sam Barrett), strikes up a friendship with his absentee dad pretty much the minute he meets him. While this familiar, familial drama serves as a solid foundation for the series’ short, six-episode first season, it’s ultimately the ways the town works through their feelings about the proposed wind farm, as a community, that make The South Westerlies so compelling. There’s a strong Gilmore Girls vibe throughout; the town’s residents regularly come together to lobby for NorskVentus for the installation of universal broadband, or a sponsorship of the local youth camogie team in the same breath as they air their concerns about the wind farm. Where Gilmore Girls really played up the quirkiness of its small-town personalities, though, The South Westerlies leans deeper into the idea that any change in the status quo—even good ones, like a new wind farm, in the middle of a global climate crisis—demands genuine community buy-in, which means talking to people one-on-one, and taking their concerns seriously.



Category: Drama, Miniseries
Hails from: Britain

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For as joyous and cheekily funny as Tony Curran and Tom Glynn-Carney are as the middle-and teenaged versions of Tully Dawson in the BBC’s two-part miniseries based on Andrew O’Hagan’s 2020 book of the same name, Mayflies isn’t the kind of show you should sit down with if you aren’t ready to really weep. Centered on lifelong best friends and former punks Tully (Curran/Glynn-Carney) and Jimmy (Martin Compston/Rian Gordon), Mayflies dives into the deepest trenches of the two friends’ soul-level kinship, tracking all the ways they’ve been rocks for one another across the years—from their wayward teenage era, when Jimmy was effectively an orphan and Tully and his mom made him a part of their family, to today, when Tully has just been given a advanced cancer diagnosis, with only a few months left to live, and has asked Jimmy to help him get to Switzerland to go out on his own terms.

As you can imagine, this is not a mood lifter! But Curran and Compston are so tender as adult friends trapped in love and tragedy, and Glynn-Carney and Gordon, alongside teen mates Matt Littleson (“Limbo”), Mitchell Robertson (“Young Tibbs”) and Paul Gorman (“Young Hogg”), are so raucous and fizzing and alive as ‘80s punks with their whole lives ahead of them, that it is nevertheless gripping. There’s very little plot to speak of, at least insofar as mini-arcs or narrative twists might go. Rather, writer Andrea Gibb and director Peter Mackie Burns lean hard into the ruminative ache and bittersweet nostalgia that comes with any adult friendship as it reaches its natural, tragic apogee: one friend leaving the other behind. Tully and Jimmy’s end comes too soon, of course, but that’s just one part of their story. Mayflies makes the compelling case that everything else is just as important.  


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries / Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

Category: Mystery, Only on Acorn, Acorn Original
Hails from: Australia

Watch Miss Fisher Now
Watch Modern Murder Now

(Yes, this one is a bit of a cheat, but with such a close connection between the two generations of Ms. Fisher, we couldn’t not include them both.)

Premiering in Australia in early 2012 and reaching the American market via Acorn TV and PBS the following year, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries was the first of a particular subset of plucky lady detective procedurals to hit the small screen. Set in Melbourne in the late 1920s and featuring Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher, international woman of intrigue, adventure and investigative nerve, the series immediately proved how whizbang successful such a specifically feminine take on the private detective business could be, and quickly became a cult hit.

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, Acorn TV’s zippy original spin-off, has taken that cult-hit energy and run with it. Starring Geraldine Hakewill as Phryne’s long-lost niece, Peregrine, who inherits not just her aunt’s estate after Phryne goes missing in a plane accident in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, but also her calling as a private detective who just so happens to also be primed to butt romantic heads with her own handsome local detective (Joel Jackson, stepping charmingly into Nathan Page’s more serious shoes), Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries have a slightly different flavor than Phryne’s, but one that’s more than charming enough to turn to Acorn to catch. I mean, as both a lady detective in historic Melbourne and a cozy mystery protagonist on Acorn TV, Miss Phryne Fisher set an impossibly high bar. How lucky are we all, then, that her fictional niece, one Ms. Peregrine Fisher, has found the legs (and go-go boots) to leap high enough to match it.


Agatha Raisin

Category: Cozy Mystery, Acorn Original
Hails from: UK

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Miss Marple, but make it sexy slapstick. Bright and bold and brazenly unconcerned with how big a mismatch her lifestyle is for the tiny Cotswolds village she decamps to as the series starts, Agatha Raisin (Ashley Jensen) is an accidental detective with the sharp bob and keen fashion sense of Phryne Fisher. A trained investigator she is not, but if you like your mysteries solved by a bullheaded unwillingness to let anything like training or decorum get in the way, Agatha is your woman. One part Cotswolds cozy, one part Scooby-Doo, Agatha Raisin’s goofy pluck is a breath of fresh air.



Category: Comedy,
Hails from: Britain

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One of the gentlest series on television, the wry and warm Detectorists follows two regular blokes (Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones, wonderfully atypical leading men) who find joy and meaning in their sleepy English village by metal detecting. It’s a cutthroat business, turns out, and Crook does a magnificent job of making the smallest details and triumphs and skirmishes feel extraordinary. Detectorists is an unhurried series, one that revels in the rolling hills the men traverse in the hope of finding ancient treasure (before giving up and heading to the pub). Not much happens over the course of three seasons objectively speaking, and yet, the show is wildly compelling and devastatingly lovely. Perhaps Johnny Flynn’s haunting theme song says it best: “Will you search through the lonely earth for me? Climb through the briar and bramble. I will be your treasure … I’m waiting for you.” With only 19 episodes over three seasons [Editor’s note: Plus one movie special from December 2022!], it’s a gem well worth seeking out. —Allison Keene


Queens of Mystery

Category: Cozy Mystery, Acorn Original
Hails from: UK

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Starring Florence Hall as the platinum-fringed Detective Sergeant Matilda Stone, the series’ taciturn young investigative lead who’s recently taken a job back in her picturebook hometown, Queens of Mystery is far from a one-hit wonder. Narrated with arch charm by Juliet Stevenson and featuring idiosyncratic, almost Pushing Daisies-like aesthetics (a comparison only helped by the occasional break from reality), Queens of Mystery is one of Acorn’s most tonally specific originals to date. As much a family mystery as it is a case-of-the-week procedural, Queens of Mystery derives both its verve and its mystery-solving power from Matilda’s three sharp-as-a-stiletto crime writer aunts, Cat, Jane and Beth Stone (Julie Graham, Siobhan Redmond, and Sarah Woodward, respectively), who raised Matilda after her mother’s mysterious disappearance when she was young. (And as Season 1 hinted at and Season 2 drew into sharper relief, the aunts’ knowledge about Mattie’s mom’s disappearance runs deeper than they’ve been letting on…)

While both Queens of Mystery seasons are tragically brief (just three two-part mysteries each), what time it has it uses well. We want you to watch the whole series, of course, but if you only have time for one, make it the Season 1 two-parter “Death by Vinyl,” which uses the reunion album of a fictional all-girl rock band, Volcanic Youth, to better get to know ex-rocker, bisexual graphic novelist Aunt Cat (Graham). Bonus? “Death by Vinyl” features a couple of killer original songs (“Strangled” and “Death by Vinyl”) commissioned especially for the episode. Double bonus? The recording studio the band gets terrorized in is set in Britain’s coolest piece of hidden architecture. We mean, nothing is perfect, but in terms of modern takes on the cozy British mystery? Queens of Mystery comes pretty dang close.


With that, we move on to the…

Acorn TV Lightning Round

New(ish) Releases: Harry Wild (Series 2)
Paste logline: Jane Seymour returns as retired literature professor-turned-meddling sleuth Harry Wild in this cozy Irish mystery series, which also features Rohan Nedd as Harry’s local youth-turned-unlikely sidekick, Fergus. (Hey, maybe Harry and Mrs. Sidhu should team up!)

Critically Acclaimed: Happy Valley
logline: Sally Wainwright’s emotionally gripping crime drama about a good-hearted but taciturn cop (Sarah Lancashire) returned in spring 2023 for a third and final season that is not to be missed.

Most Popular: Ten Percent
Paste logline: The anxiously awkward comedic mind behind W1A takes on French favorite Call My Agent!; a bevy of British stars including Hamish Patel, David Oyelowo, and Helena Bonham Carter follow.

Gritty Crime Drama: Whitstable Pearl (Series 2)
Paste logline: Don’t be fooled by this seaside sleuther’s ostensible cozy tone—it’s a serious swing by Acorn TV at British Nordic noir, pearl-inducing grit and all.

Mystery: The Chelsea Detective (Series 2)
Paste logline: Adrian Scarborough lives on a houseboat and rides around Chelsea on a bicycle solving crimes with his partner(s) DS Shamsie (Sonita Henry, Series 1) and DS Walsh (Vanessa Emme, Series 2) while his German ex-wife Astrid (Anamaria Marinca) gives him flirty grief. It’s better paced in its second turn at bat!

Escape to France: Cannes Confidential
Paste logline: Jamie Bamber turns con man and shows up in Cannes to alternately harry and flirt with intense French detective Camille Delmasse (Lucie Lucas). C’est chic!

Down Under Drama: Darby and Joan
Paste logline: A mysteriously widowed retired nurse (British) literally runs into a mysteriously retired detective (Australian) and his possibly indestructible (also Aussie) sheepdog, spends a summer tootling around the Australian Outback solving mysteries, growing through grief.

Period Drama: Murdoch Mysteries
Paste logline: Handsome Victorian Canadian detective invents forensics.

Drama Drama: Slings & Arrows
Paste logline: The entertainingly heightened, darkly comic cult-favorite goings on of the fictional New Burbage Shakespearean Festival finally available to stream for North American audiences.

Binge Worthy: Foyle’s War
Paste logline: Anthony Horowitz makes the brazen suggestion that even as World War II raged on, Brits back home just kept doing crimes. [Full TV Rewind feature here.]

Okay, lightning round over. What are you waiting for? The American experiment is already crumbling. Go binge what’s come of Britain’s post-empire culture while you still can.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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