Top 9 Gritty Shows Like 'Peaky Blinders' Everyone Should Watch
What Series Are Like Peaky Blinders?
With tons of TV shows popping left and right, it’s easy to miss out on some of the best dramas the small screen has to offer. I have seen a lot of excellent TV shows getting canceled as they couldn’t draw enough of an audience. A lot of excellent melodramas like Penny Dreadful and Hannibal get canned every year by TV networks because they don’t bring in the numbers.
Thankfully, Peaky Blinders is finally getting the attention it deserved since the very first season. From a strong ensemble cast to intriguing, gasp-inducing storylines, it has every ingredient to sweep you along in its mighty current. It’s a breathtaking journey all the way through.
It’s understandable that you’re itching to get your hands on something similar whenever this show is on a hiatus. The good news is that I have done all the work and compiled a list of shows like Peaky Blinders that’ll hook you right away.
Shows Similar To Peaky Blinders
- Breaking Bad
- Boardwalk Empire
- Penny Dreadful
- Ripper Street
- The Sopranos
- Narcos: Mexico
1. Breaking Bad
Walter White, a caring family man, works two jobs to make ends meet. Diagnosed with cancer, he knows that teaching chemistry and car washing (his part-time job) won't put enough money on the table to secure a good future for his two kids and wife. With not a lot of time left, he decides to use his prowess in chemistry to good use. And then it begins! The meth empire he builds with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his student, is enormous.
But with that kind of power and money comes responsibility, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), and other rivals into play, making an already-dying man's life even worse. How long can he maintain the ruse before his family and friends discover his secret identity?
You've probably heard about the eulogies of Bryan Cranston's portrayal of Walter White, so my hyperbole isn't needed here. All you need to know is that he has absolutely nailed this performance. I can't imagine anyone else bringing out the multi-faceted Walter White with such aplomb. White’s gradual change from a cowry, sympathetic character to a ruthless anti-hero over the course of five seasons, is seamless and mesmerizing.
Get ready to be sucked into the breathtaking world of Breaking Bad - a place where ruthlessness and cruelty are out of bounds.
2. Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk chronicles the life of Enoch Thompson, taking us back to the peak of the Prohibition era, where he made truckloads of money through his underground network, supplying booze to all parts of the Atlantic City. His diplomacy brings both sides of law into his pocket, up until a back-stabber joins the ranks.
Apart from Steve Buscemi’s sad-eyed Enoch Thomson, Stephen Graham’s portrayal of AI Capone, one of the most notorious mobsters of his time, deserves a mention as well. Graham brings a dose of effortless dark humor into play, mixing it up with unflinching cruelty Capone was infamous for. While these two are the pillars of Boardwalk Empire, the rest of the cast have done an amazing job too.
Before you write it off as just another period drama, you should know that it's much more than that. Boardwalk Empire touches upon the politics of its time, bringing forth interracial tensions simmering below the surface during the Prohibition era.
It may not have the rabid fanbase of Narcos or The Sopranos, but it still comfortably stands alongside these shows as one of the best period dramas in the last 30 years.
Coming straight from the deep pockets of Netflix, Godless is a sprawling western period drama with a star-studded cast and an enchanting storyline.
This 7-part mini-series is rife with enough sadness, death, disarming cruelty, and pestilence to make anyone depressed. The sheer amount of mayhem shouldn't be surprising, considering it's a western drama, but it will still catch you off-guard with its unyielding bleakness.
All the carnage and havoc would be meaningless if it wasn't hinged upon a storyline that pivots all this breathtaking action. The story is perched right in the edge of catastrophe, which makes the impending doom seem like the only way forward. Amidst all the action lies a tale so rich, it feels unfair we won't get more of the same after 7 episodes.
In the busy landscape of TV where many worthy shows never get the audience they rightly deserve, it's no surprise that Godless is still an undiscovered masterpiece - one that'll only mature with time, like a fine wine. If you haven't watched it yet, it's about time you redeemed yourself.
Tom Hardy plays a ragged character, James Delaney, who must fight and protect his contentious land against all odds. His dogged, brash character is intense, eliciting dread at first, from other characters and audiences alike, but you'll adapt to his sententious, aberrant approach soon enough as he calmly goes about his business.
Period dramas can often be a little too slow and unoriginal, but Taboo is charming and disruptive, unlike anything you'll witness on the small screen. The story takes some time to pick up, but never looks back once it starts changing gears. The brooding period drama turns darker as you delve further into its heart.
With the second season right around the corner, there couldn't be a better time to catch up with this show. Here's hoping that this ponderous watch finally sheds some light on James’ subtle character. For now, it's hard to get behind his rhetorics and root for him.
If you're looking for an underrated show like Peaky Blinders, Taboo should be right up your alley.
5. Penny Dreadful
On the first glance, Penny Dreadful can easily be mistaken for just another otherworldly show trying hard to get a lion's share of this lucrative market. The streets of Victorian London, however, have more to offer than palpable gore and tumult (of which there's no dearth.) Yet Penny Dreadful is much more than a simplistic, blood-soaked affair.
The story starts off eccentrically as we're introduced to its three main characters. With plans to destroy the underworld of vampires and move on from their inescapable past, they begin on a journey that'll only strengthen the sinister interlink of their past and present. As they delve deeper into this treacherous underworld, it soon dawns on them that they have invited more trouble than they could handle. With otherworldly dangers lurking around every corner, they don't stand much of a chance. Will they come out unscathed?
It never quite got the fervent fanbase the likes of Game of Thrones and Vikings enjoyed from their outing, however, the concise fanbase was an enthusiastic and passionate bunch, ready to riot when Showtime (its network) announced that the third season was going to be the last.
It's unfair, but so are a lot of other things in life. The silver lining is, there are three mesmerizing seasons for you to binge upon.
6. Ripper Street
Let me present you another Victorian crime thriller at your service, a nimble, no-holds-barred drama taking place in 1888’s London - a city gripped in fear thanks to a string of ruthless murders by Jack the Ripper, the infamous women serial killer.
The story takes place a few months after the final murder by the Ripper. For the time lost, life has reigned on the tracks, with people going about their jobs as usual. Things once again go south as a string of murders goes off in the same dark, cold alleys of London, hinting at the return of the wicked killer.
Is he back from the hibernation? When a detective follows the trail of recent murders, he finds himself struggling to get out of the chaotic mess.
First few episodes are more of a one-case-per-week drama, but as the show moves into higher gears, it evolves into much more than just a sum of blood, gore, and murder.
More than its gothic storytelling, you'll love its witty, snarky dialogues. The writers definitely have delivered on their end, and so have the actors, especially the leads who carry the whole show upon their shoulders. It must have been difficult to balance heavy-handed action with some of its profound, contemplative moments. Ripper Street pulls it off with panache.
7. The Sopranos
The Sopranos is probably more famous now than it was in its running days. It still is one of the finest productions of HBO. It is where this premium network really started the climb, rising to prominence in the early 2000s and continuing the momentum with shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld. But I digress. Let's get back to The Sopranos.
The story revolves around Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a revered and feared mobster, who is desperately trying to find a balance between his business and family. Things only get worse when he seeks the help of a shrink.
An enthralling storyline, it’s rife with bloodshed, scheming and some delightful chaos. As you binge through the seasons, it gets progressively better with each episode as stakes keep getting raised all the time. This is not only Tony's story. He represents the lovable monster inside all of us who just wants to cut loose. Preposterous as it may sound, you'll feel the same way once you're through a few episodes.
The first few episodes take some time to gradually set up the premise and introduce the audience to every player involved. The story starts firing on all cylinders once it's past 4-5 episodes. When it gets going, The Sopranos never slows down.
Narcos chronicles the life of Pablo Escobar, kingpin of cocaine business, in his prime. Primarily written and directed by Chris Brancato and Jose Padilha, the series captures both ends of the law, as they try to outsmart each other at every step. For the most part, Narcos stays true to the story inscribed in the history books. Of course, some liberties are taken, which they had to in my opinion, for a story as grandiose as this has to be altered a little to be a good fit for the small screen.
Despite the limitations of TV, the deep pockets of Netflix ensure that the pompous story is told in the best manner possible.
The first season felt like a slow-burn prestige drama at times, as if it were trying too hard to be preachy. By the second half of the first season, however, the showrunners thankfully traded its preachy, monotonous skin for bleak, relentless action.
The second and the third season only improved upon its preceding seasons, in every manner. I could eulogize it all day, but you'll only understand the stakes involved once you experience this drama unfold on the screen. It's a one-of-a-kind show that'll appeal to the fans of gritty dramas like Peaky Blinders and Breaking Bad.
9. Narcos: Mexico
Narcos: Mexico can be considered a spiritual successor to the original series, as the action moves from the treacherous streets of Columbia to the fields of Mexico. Only this time, stakes are much higher for the American authorities. These ruthless mafiosos, unlike their Columbian counterparts, don't give a damn about murdering DEA agents.
Since this taut show stays true to its original roots, reveling in its blood-soaked affairs, you'll love the onslaught and carnage on display here.
Despite being reasonably good, the first season feels a little lackluster, particularly because of the slow start. Here's hoping that the second season goes all guns blazing, much like Narcos, the original show.
Last but not least, try to overlook the user reviews swirling around the net. Most of the negativity stems from the impatient viewers, stigmatizing a neatly crafted show with their premature cries. I guess some people are still not over the whole Pablo Escobar hangover. He's gone. The show has moved on from its initial premise, and so should everyone who's hung up on that.
Did I miss out on any shows like Peaky Blinders? Let me know in the comment section.