12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Life on Mars | almostginger.com

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Manchester may not have the British film industry knocking on its door, but the TV shows set in Manchester are some of the best in the country.

I think Manchester represents what’s great about everyday, working-class people in England, which might be why there are so many Manchester-based TV shows and so few films about the area. Sure, there are kitchen sink dramas, but there are so more British films about posh people in the South.

And with Media City opening ten years ago allowing the BBC and ITV to grow their local bases alongside steller production companies like Red Productions, there’s plenty of talent up North.

So let’s take a look at, what I think, are the best TV shows set in Manchester. And I’ve watched A LOT.

12 TV Shows set in Manchester you MUST watch

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including The Driver, Shameless, Scott & Bailey, Safe, The Royle Family, Queer as Folk, Life on Mars, Fresh Meat, Cutting It, Cucumber, Coronation Street and Cold Feet | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

1. Coronation Street (1960 – )

How could I start a list about the best Manchester TV shows without mentioning Coronation Street? It’s an English institution. Aired all over the world, Coronation Street follows the lives of families, friends and businesses living on the titular street in the fictional Manchester neighbourhood called Weatherfield.

I used to watch Coronation Street when I was younger with my family, then I didn’t keep up at University… then I started watching again, but for the last year, I’ve given it a miss. I still appreciate everything that Coronation Street represents, but Neighbours is my one true soap.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Coronation Street | almostginger.com
© ITV Studios

2. Cold Feet (1997 – )

I’ve never watched Cold Feet, probably because I was four-years-old when it started and was more interested in Teletubbies.

Cold Feet‘s original run was from 1997-2003 but was revived in 2016. It originally starred three couples and the ups and downs of their lives, but I think so many of the couples have got divorced and re-married, I have no idea how many couples there are now! It’s always got great reviews, though.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Cold Feet | almostginger.com
© Big Talk Productions

3. The Royle Family (1998-2012)

Another show I’ve never really watched (we’re doing well, aren’t we?) because, again, I was really young when it first aired. In fact, I wasn’t going to consider it on my list of TV shows set in Manchester, because I wasn’t 100% sure it was.

To be honest, The Royle Family always struck me as a ‘silly’ comedy show, and I’m not really about that. It literally follows one family living in Manchester and the ups and downs of their lives. The Christmas Special was always a big hit every year, and it’s been named one of the best British TV shows of all time.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including The Royle Family | almostginger.com
© ITV Studios

4. Queer as Folk (1999-2000)

I bloody love Queer as Folk! It was the first TV show set in Manchester produced by Red Productions, quite possibly the only (but definitely the best) TV drama production company in Manchester.

If you don’t know, Manchester has an amazing gay scene. That seems a bit weird to say, but it really does and it’s a great source of hometown pride. Manchester holds a huge LGBTQ+ Pride Parade every year and there’s a neighbourhood called the ‘Gay Village.’ Queer as Folk essentially follows three gay men (do you recognise Littlefinger, sorry, Aiden Gillen and Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy?) and their lives in Manchester.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Queer as Folk | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

5. Cutting It (2002-2005)

Cutting It was a TV show based in Manchester focusing on the lives of… Yes, hairdressers. How did you know?!

It ran for four seasons and was a very successful drama. Of course, the meat of the show was based around marriage, affairs, illegitimate children and all the juicy details that TV dramas are usually based on, all under the roof of a hairdressing and salon business.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Cutting It | almostginger.com
© BBC One

6. Shameless (2004-2013)

This is the last of the TV shows set in Manchester that I’ve not really watched, promise. I tried to get into Shameless but it was just finishing it’s run and it was a daunting prospect to try and catch up.

Shameless was set on the fictional Chatsworth council estate and was a highly-acclaimed comedy-drama, winning a BAFTA award for Best Drama Series in 2005. Yes, that is James McAvoy and ex-wife Anne Marie Duff starring in the TV show that brought them together. Aww.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Shameless | almostginger.com
© Company Pictures

7. Life on Mars (2006-2007)

Life on Mars is possibly one of the best TV shows set in Manchester and definitely has the most interesting premise. I’m not even kidding when I say Life on Mars still holds up over ten years later.

John Simm stars as a police officer who suffers injuries from a bad car crash and wakes up in 1973. He still works for the police in the exact location as his present-day precinct, so the series largely follows the work he does as a Detective Inspector in the 1970s. Throughout both seasons, we’re left wondering whether or not he died as a result of the car crash, is hallucinating/in a coma or has actually time-travelled back to 1973!

As far as gritty British TV dramas go, this has the most bonkers narrative yet its genius. Imagine trying to turn Manchester into a 1970s version of itself on a low, TV budget; they pull it off so well.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Life on Mars | almostginger.com
© Kudos Film and Television

8. Fresh Meat (2011-2016)

This TV show was absolutely perfect for me because it was based on students living in Manchester. And you know what I was doing the week Fresh Meat first aired in September 2011? Enjoying my first Fresher’s week at the University of Manchester! What are the odds?!

The students in Fresh Meat attended the fictional University of ‘Manchester Victoria University’ but I recognised a lot of my university buildings in the shots, especially the exterior to the John Rylands University Library. So yeah, I loved Fresh Meat: I loved the quirky characters and all the things they were getting up to that I definitely wasn’t in my Uni days.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Fresh Meat | almostginger.com
© All3Media

9. Scott & Bailey (2011-2016)

A kickass, all-female Detective show? Sign me up! This is the second TV drama produced by Red Productions on this list and it’s nowhere near the last. Scott & Bailey was about two Detectives solving crimes and murders and cleaning up the scum of Manchester while battling their own private lives at the same time.

Proper gritty stuff with excellent murder twists, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp who are just such talented actresses. Of all the TV shows set in Manchester, I’m most upset that Scott & Bailey isn’t on anymore…

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Scott & Bailey | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

10. The Driver (2014)

Another Red Productions entry (I’m just going to say it now, the rest of the TV shows set in Manchester on this list are Red Productions. Just so I stop bringing it up) but this is an extra special one. In January 2014, in my third year of University, I completed a few days work experience on this TV show!

Storytime: I briefly met the star, David Morrissey, when I helped the Production Runner deliver his post. And I also had to refuse to shake the director’s hand when he offered it because I hadn’t finished licking off the sugar and cinnamon I’d got all over my right hand after eating a cinnamon bun from the catering van. If I’d ate the bun with my left this never would have happened.

Still one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I still think about him kindly holding out his hand in slow motion and how it stays suspended in the air for a horrific amount of time.

Anyway, it’s about a taxi driver who wants to purge New York City of evil… NO wait, that’s the plot of Taxi Driver (1976) and I’ve already allowed this synopsis to go on long enough. It’s actually about a taxi driver who, bored with his mundane life at home, unintentionally starts working for an old friend who has just been released from prison. As you can guess the work isn’t exactly “legal.”

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including The Driver | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

11. Cucumber (2015)

Another gay TV show set in Manchester! Yay! In 2015, Channel 4 did something a lil’ bit different and commissioned three limited series about what it means to be a gay man in Britain today. Cucumber aired on Channel 4, accompanying drama Banana aired on sister channel E4 and Tofu was a documentary series about attitudes towards sex on Channel 4’s on-demand service at the time, 4oD.

Cucumber focused on a middle-aged, gay man whose nine-year relationship breaks down after one mad night. He discovers a gay culture he got to experience with his young, gay colleagues and naturally, trouble ensues.

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Cucumber | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

12. Safe (2018)

The most recent TV show filmed in Manchester and one of the best and most accessible. There aren’t many TV shows made in Manchester that is also a Netflix original, I’m pretty certain of that.

Safe is adapted from the Harlen Coben book and it’s the best. If you have Netflix and haven’t already watched it, I really don’t know what you’re doing. Set in a gated community in Manchester, a teenager and her boyfriend go missing and a tragedy that was once buried twenty years ago is about to be unearthed… It’s got murder, twist after twist, suspect after suspect and honestly, just watch it. If you’re vaguely into crime dramas or thrillers, you need to watch Safe. 

And it was shot in Manchester and surrounding areas and features some amazing British actors! Happy viewing!

12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including Safe | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

Have you watched any of these 12 TV shows set in Manchester? Let me know in the comments below! 


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12 of the Best TV Shows set in Manchester, UK including The Driver, Shameless, Scott & Bailey, Safe, The Royle Family, Queer as Folk, Life on Mars, Fresh Meat, Cutting It, Cucumber, Coronation Street and Cold Feet | almostginger.com
© Red Production Company

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