Happy Valley: If you loved Sally Wainwright’s thrilling crime drama, here are 8 more classic series to get stuck into

If you’re already missing Catherine Cawood and Tommy Lee Royce, here are eight more gripping dramas like Happy Valley to watch next.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 7 February 2023 - 1.04pm
BBC Sarah Lancashire as Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley

Sally Wainwright's Happy Valley concluded its third and final season with one of the greatest TV endings of all time on Sunday night.

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably already feeling a bit bereft at the prospect of there being no more Catherine Cawood and Tommy Lee Royce to watch next weekend.

But don’t despair, we’ve compiled a list of eight classic series to fill a Happy Valley-shaped hole in your lives.

The shows are either similar gritty crime dramas, influential series which inspired writer Sally Wainwright or earlier shows by the Yorkshire-born writer.

1. Last Tango in Halifax

Last Tango in Halifax cast BBC

Just like Happy Valley, Last Tango is written by Sally Wainwright, stars Sarah Lancashire and is filmed in Yorkshire.

Although the show has a very different tone – Last Tango is at its essence a romantic comedy and doesn’t have the bleak underbelly of Happy Valley – the scripts have the same Wainwright DNA and authenticity.

The series is acclaimed for breaking down barriers and opening the door for older characters to be shown enjoying romances and drama in their lives. The series offered a refreshing alternative to endless series about teens and hot twentysomethings.

Alongside Lancashire, the stellar cast includes Anne Reid, Nicola Walker and Derek Jacobi.

Watch Last Tango in Halifax season 1-5 now on iPlayer, ITVX Premium or BritBox.

2. Band of Gold

Band of Gold - Classic 90s ITV drama ITV

Like Sally Wainwright, Yorkshire-born writer Kay Mellor cut her teeth as a writer on Coronation Street before going on to create hugely influential dramas.

Mellor’s big breakthrough came in 1995 with Band of Gold, a ground-breaking series of the lives of a group of sex workers in Bradford, which was edgy and gritty, but never exploitative.

The series stars Geraldine James, Cathy Tyson, Barbara Dickson and Hollywood star Samantha Morton in an early small-screen role.

Watch Band of Gold season 1-3 on ITVX Premium or Britbox.

3. Clocking Off

Clocking Off cast - Classic BBC drama series BBC

Another Coronation Street writing team alumnus, Paul Abbot, gave us four seasons of working-class drama Clocking Off, which followed the complicated lives of staff at a Manchester textiles factory.

The series features self-contained dramas about tumultuous everyday life, stunning scripts and a incredible cast list of Britain’s greatest modern actors including Sarah Lancashire (again!), Philip Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Christopher Eccleston, Craig Kelly, Maxine Peake and Sophie Okonedo, Siobhan Finneran (Happy Valley klaxon!), John Simm and Pam Ferris.

Watch Clocking Off season 1-4 on ITVX Premium and BritBox.

4. Nurse Jackie 

Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie Showtime

Happy Valley writer Sally Wainwright said that Showtime series Nurse Jackie was her big inspiration for creating Catherine Cawood, she just switched her profession from nurse to police officer.

The award-winning US drama had a similar dark and comedic voice to Happy Valley and the series is lead by the brilliant Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Oz).

Juggling the drama of patients, colleagues and her own demons, Nurse Jackie is stylish, sharp and compelling.

Watch Nurse Jackie season 1-7 on Paramount +.

5. Unforgiven

Suranne Jones in Unforgiven ITV

Alongside Sarah Lancashire, Sally Wainwright’s most common screen muse is Suranne Jones. The pair have worked together several times, including in the critically acclaimed Gentleman Jack.

The duo’s first big success came in ITV 2009 drama Unforgiven – a series which would later be adapted into a Sandra Bullock movie.

Like most of Wainwright’s work, the series is set in Yorkshire and follows the story of Ruth Slater, a woman who goes on the hunt for her sister after she is released from prison for the murder of two police officers.

Watch Unforgiven now on ITVX Premium or BritBox.

6. Scott and Bailey

Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones as Scott and Bailey ITV/Red

Suranne Jones and Sally Wainwright teamed up again in this gripping ITV police procedural, which ran for five seasons between 2011 and 2016.

Lesley Sharp starred opposite Jones as the pair played friends and colleagues Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott, two detectives in Manchester Met Police.

The series features guest roles from Amelia Bullmore, Pippa Haywood, George Costigan and Nicola Walker.

Watch Scott and Bailey season 1-5 on ITVX Premium or BritBox.

7. Sherwood

David Morrissey in Sherwood BBC

2022’s Sherwood was a brooding, intense and devastating drama that explored the fractures and divisions in a small Nottingham mining village that resurface following a shocking murder.

This six-part thriller avoids whodunnit or whydunit tropes, focusing instead on the characters, real lives and shattered communities that were left behind by the miners’ strike and how old wounds are easily reopened.

David Morrissey and Lesley Manville are a stone-cold guarantee of great TV and Sherwood didn’t disappoint.

Watch Sherwood season 1 on BBC iPlayer

8. A Confession

Martin Freeman in A Confession ITV

This six-episode mini-series had viewers gripped to their TV screens with its retelling of a heartbreaking true story of police procedure and a serial killer.

Written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jeff Pope (Philomena), A Confession stars Martin Freeman as Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, who investigated the disappearance of Sian O’Callaghan in 2011.

With an incredible supporting cast that includes Imelda Staunton, Joe Absolom and Siobhan Finneran, A Confession shows how lives were ruined not only by a horrific crime, but also examines a detective’s personal struggle to square the procedure he should follow with his need to find the victim as quickly as possible.

Watch A Confession on ITVX or BritBox.

Must-watch crime dramas to stream now