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12 top Netflix shows for Happy Valley fans

Brutal, uncompromising and tremendously well written, Happy Valley has been a huge smash hit for the BBC over its two seasons. When it’s on, Sally Wainwright’s West Yorkshire-set crime drama is the highlight of many a TV fans’ watching week and anyone who’s seen it will know exactly why. It’s a tense, taut and gripping revenge thriller unlike anything the Beeb has produced in years.

A third series is currently in the pipeline, but it’s looking like Happy Valley fans will have to wait for some time to see the return of Sergeant Cath Cawood. But all is not lost. There are plenty more TV fish in the sea. Especially in the vast Netflix UK ocean…

We went fishing for some shows we just know Happy Valley enthusiasts will love. Here’s what our catch looks like.

12 top Netflix UK shows like Happy Valley:

netflix shows like happy valley

Line of Duty

There’s a pretty good chance you’ve already seen Line of Duty. But if you’ve somehow managed to let Jed Mercurio’s adrenaline rush of a bent copper series slip through your net, you need to address that as soon as possible. There are four epic runs of this BAFTA-nominated work of genius to catch up on. You’ll soon discover that the line of duty isn’t as straight as you might think. There are twists and turns abound.

IMDb Rating: 8.5

The Stranger, a Netflix show like Happy Valley

The Stranger

Released in early 2020 to plenty of hype and fanfare on the streaming service, The Stranger is based on Harlan Coben’s popular novel of the same name. It stars Richard Armitage, Jennifer Saunders, Paul Kaye, Siobhan Finneran, Stephen Rea and Game of Thrones’ Hannah John-Kamen in the titular role.

The ‘stranger’ is a young woman who makes it her business to know other people’s secrets. Why? Simple. To make money. The twenty-something blackmailer is, of course, pivotal to this smart but rather convoluted thriller that you’ll really need to pay attention to throughout to follow.

While The Stranger puts the wheels in motion of most plot threads, it’s the supporting cast of characters that make this adaptation worth watching until its climax. Believe us, this eight-episode series has more twists and turns in it than a cheap garden hose.

IMDb Rating: 7.4

Still from Netflix's Safe, a show perfect for fans of Happy Valley

Safe

We’ve just explained why we think Happy Valley fans will enjoy Netflix’s original series The Stranger. While we’re thinking about crime dramas penned by Harlan Coben, we’ll throw Safe in as another recommendation.

It’s been available online for some two years now and sees Dexter and Cold in July actor Michael C Hall as a widower whose teenage daughter goes missing. At times Safe can veer slightly towards being quite soapy, but it never fully crosses the line. Unlike Hall’s really rather dodgy English accent.

This mystery thriller might not have the most original plot, but it’s superbly cast, well acted and never boring. You’ll whizz through these gripping eight hours of schlocky action with ease.

IMDb Rating: 7.3

Three Girls, a Netflix show for fans of Happy Valley

Three Girls

This sobering and unflinching three-part series originally aired on BBC One back in spring 2017. A real-life story of sexual abuse and child grooming in Rochdale, Three Girls stars Molly Windsor, Maxine Peake, Lesley Sharp and Jill Halfpenny and was not only a ratings success but a critical hit too – winning two BAFTAs, no less.

It’s a drama about the sexual exploitation of children that’s based very tightly on real events, so it was never going to be a light-hearted affair, but its mature approach to telling a story is sure to hook anyone that enjoys the likes of Happy Valley. Even if it does leave you feeling sad and angry at the actions of not only those involved in the grooming and abuse, but of those in power who allowed shocking systemic failure to further ruin children’s lives.

IMDb Rating: 8.2

In the Dark BBC

In the Dark

This moody crime drama from the BBC comes in four parts and takes its inspiration from the book of the same title by author Mark Billingham. Ripper Streets’ MyAnna Buring stars as the pregnant detective inspector in the Manchester Met Police at the heart of the action.

Adapting Billigham’s work to the screen here is BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst, the man behind such TV quality as Ordinary Lies and David Morrissey’s The Driver.

You can read our reviews of each episode on In the Dark here, starting with episode 1.

IMDb Rating: 6.7

Netflix shows like Happy Valley

Doctor Foster

A strong, scary but weirdly lovable female lead out for revenge. If you dig Happy Valley, you’re almost guaranteed to adore Suranne Jones in the surprise BBC hit, Doctor Foster. A second series has just aired on BBC One, but you can see the first now on Netflix. We’d recommend you dip in and see just what all the fuss was about.

IMDb Rating: 7.9

netflix shows like happy valley

The Widower

Another dark British drama here, but with an actor you might not expect to see in a straight role. The League of Gentleman’s Reece Shearsmith stars as Malcolm Webster, a black widow murderer type, who’s slowly poisoning his wife to death. Shearsmith is excellent, but it’s The Moorside and Cilla actress Sheridan Smith, as Webster’s long-suffering wife, who really steals the show.

IMDb Rating: 7.4

netflix shows like Happy Valley

Bordertown

This Finnish drama series follows National Bureau of Investigation detective Kari Sorjonen as he, like Cath Cawood, struggles to balance his police career with his turbulent home life. Rapes, assaults and murders should just thing for the big city, thinks the jaded and burnt out Sorjonen. Which explains his move to Lappeenranta, a remote town on the Finnish/Russian border. But, as you can well imagine, he’s wrong on that front. The best thing about this Scandi noir is the sweeping shots and artistic cinematography which really makes the most of its stunning setting.

IMDb Rating: 7.7

netflix shows like happy valley

Lilyhammer

Music fans will know Steve Van Zandt as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. TV crime drama fans will know him as Silvio Dante from The Sopranos. Or, perhaps, as Frankie ‘The Fixer’ Tagliano, the gangster-on-the-run he plays in Lillyhammer. Frank’s an ex-mob boss who rats out his former employees and gets put into the Witness Protection Program. In Norway. Cue a huge fish out of water scenario that’s funnier and fresher than it might seem. The first series made exclusively for Netflix, it’s amusing, but a top rate crime drama at the same time.

IMDb Rating: 8.0

netflix shows like happy valley

Whitechapel

Originally devised as a one series programme that would deal with a team of detectives investigating a Jack the Ripper copycat, reviews and viewing figures saw to it that a further three series would follow. Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones stars as lead detective DI Joseph Chandler and after solving the ‘new’ Whitechapel murders, he has to deal with Jimmy and Johnny Kray, heir to Reg and Ronnie’s criminal legacy in the gripping second run.

IMDb Rating: 8.0

Paula, a show on Netflix for fans of Happy Valley

Paula

Although we’re sure that most fully paid-up members of The Happy Valley Appreciation Society will dig this Northern Irish crime drama, it compares much more directly with BBC Two’s The Fall. The Gillian Anderson-starring serial killer drama is also Northern Irish and features an unabashedly sexual, strong-willed and borderline unlikeable female lead character.

Olivier Award-winning Irish stage actress Denise Gough shines here as Paula, a woman whose life is thrown into a cement mixer when a passionate one night stand goes awry and her temporary lover decides he’d prefer a more permanent relationship.

There are only three parts to this thriller that never quite takes the turns you expect. Easily binged.

IMDb Rating: 6.2

netflix shows like happy valley

Fauda

A ‘Netflix original programme’, Fauda is set slap bang in the middle of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict kinds of forces Fauda (Arabic for ‘chaos’) into being somewhat political. It follows the work of an elite ‘mista’arvim’ deep-cover unit of the Israeli Defense Forces and really does its level best to show both sides of the story. Expect violence, grit and plot twists aplenty.

IMDb Rating: 8.4

If Happy Valley makes you happy, we’re sure you’ll be ecstatic after watching any one of these twelve top drawer televisual offerings. Forget Netflix ‘n’ chill. This is all about Netflix ‘n’ thrill…

Have we missed any excellent Netflix cop shows like Happy Valley from our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

Follow Steve on Twitter.

8 Comments

    Happy Valley hard to top. It had a warmth and authenticity that tempered all the noir.

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