Downton AbbeyBritish shows have never been more popular in the U.S. than they are now. Thanks to the explosion of online streaming sites, Americans can get their fix of British TV in a way that would have been difficult even 10 years ago.

Here are a few British TV shows that really struck a chord with American audiences.

1. 'The Office (UK)' (2001 - 2003)

Before Michael Scott, there was David Brent. Hilarious, cringe-worthy, and frankly brilliant, "The Office" was just two seasons and a Christmas special of some of the best comedy ever made. You can't compare the original to the American remake, simply because both are hilarious -- yet very different -- shows. No one who ever saw Brent's insane Comic Relief day dance will ever forget it. The 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series -- Musical or Comedy was well-deserved, and Brent's portrayal kicked off a stellar career for Ricky Gervais.

2. 'Downton Abbey' (2010 - 2015)

"Downton Abbey," among the most successful British imports to the U.S., follows the adventures of the upper-class Crawley family in early 1900s England, and had American audiences glued to their seats every Sunday night for five years. Viewers couldn't get enough of this glimpse into a culture so specifically English -- and one that all but disappeared as the age of sprawling estates filled with servants ended. Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), and his family and servants "below stairs" went through war, social upheaval, and drastically changing times, yet always had the most fabulous costumes throughout. What set the show apart from other period pieces was the incredible cast, sharp writing, and unforgettable characters such as Maggie Smith's wonderfully snarky Violet Crawley (also known as "Granny"). With beautiful interior shots of the gorgeous Abbey, and lush exteriors around the English countryside, this soap opera was as comforting as hot chocolate on a cold, wintry night in Yorkshire.

3. 'Luther' (2010 - 2015)

Who doesn't love a good cop drama with a gorgeous, yet deeply troubled, lead character? Idris Elba stars as the titular John Luther, a Detective Chief Inspector with London's Metropolitan Police in the Serious Crimes Unit. Luther is not your typical hero detective -- he's had a traumatic past, which often leads to morally questionable decision making and gripping story lines. Look out for Ruth Wilson, before "The Affair," playing Luther's wonderfully evil nemesis, Alice Morgan. In "Luther," the city of London becomes one of the main characters -- few TV shows or films have captured its dark, grimy, yet beautiful landscape so well.

4. 'The Fall' (2013 - )

There are many reasons to watch this exceptional crime drama but the main one is, of course, Gillian Anderson. Strong, sexy, vulnerable, fiercely intelligent -- Anderson's Stella Gibson is flawless as the detective hunting down serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan). Gibson is complex and nuanced, portraying the challenges a woman faces in a very male-dominated field. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, setting is gray and ominous, a perfect background for the chilling yet compelling plot.

5. 'Peaky Blinders' (2013 - )

Americans love a good British gangster tale ("Snatch," anyone?) and "Peaky Blinders" doesn't disappoint. Cillian Murphy heads up a cutthroat cast as Thomas Shelby, the boss of a Birmingham gang who keep razor blades sewn into the peaks of their caps. Darkly compelling, it's set in the same time period as "Downton Abbey" but couldn't be more different in tone. "Peaky Blinders" doesn't shy away from violence and nudity, and creates a unique glimpse into the lives of a certain class of people in 1919-era England.

Sources