The Wrong Mans
|The Wrong Mans|
|Directed by||Jim Field Smith|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||24 September 2013– present|
The Wrong Mans is a BBC Television comedy drama series, co-produced with the American online television provider Hulu. It premiered on BBC Two on 24 September 2013 and in the United States on 11 November 2013. It was co-created and written by Gavin & Stacey alumni James Corden and Mathew Baynton. In April 2014, BBC Two confirmed that The Wrong Mans will return for a second series.
Sam Pinkett (Mathew Baynton) and Phil Bourne (James Corden), undistinguished Bracknell council co-workers, abruptly become entangled in a far-fetched – but deadly serious – web of crime, conspiracy and corruption after Sam answers a ringing phone at the site of a car crash.
- Mathew Baynton as Sam Pinkett
- James Corden as Phil Bourne
- Sarah Solemani as Lizzie Green
- Tom Basden as Noel Ward
- Paul Cawley as Alan
- Chandeep Uppal as Sabrina
- Dawn French as Linda Bourne
- Nick Moran as Nick Stevens
- Emilia Fox as Scarlett Stevens
- David Calder as Mr. Reid
- Benedict Wong as Mr Lau
- Andrew Koji as Jason Lau
- Christina Chong as May Wu
- Dougray Scott as Agent Jack Walker
- Stephen Campbell Moore as Paul Smoke
- Karel Roden as Marat Malankovic
- Duncan Pow as Petr
- Alec Utgoff as Yuri
- Rebecca Front as Cox
On 9 October 2012, BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow announced The Wrong Mans as a co-production between BBC In-House Comedy and Hulu. The series was commissioned by Janice Hadlow and Cheryl Taylor. A pilot based on Baynton and Corden's initial series pitch had previously been shot in 2010; some elements were retained for what eventually became the first episode of the full series, including a pre-Homeland cameo from David Harewood. Principal filming on the series began in January 2013, at the same time as the cast was announced. Jeremy Dyson was the script editor for the series.
The idea for the series initially arose out of a conversation between Corden and Baynton on the set of Gavin and Stacey, four years earlier, regarding the apparent scarcity of TV sitcoms with the same level of intricate, meaningful plotting as then-current dramatic hits 24 and Lost. As a starting-point for their own half-hour comedy show pitch to the BBC, the duo were further inspired by the Coen Brothers' film Burn After Reading, with its central concept of ordinary characters obviously out of their depth in a standard action-movie scenario. The humour in their new TV series, Baynton and Corden decided, would arise not so much from deliberate jokes as from the sheer realistic ineptitude of the heroes' attempts to cope with a high-stakes melodrama constantly snowballing further out of their control.
Once they began actually writing the series, the two quickly realised this would mean carrying through a much more ambitious project than they had anticipated, eventually leading to a significant amount of effort spent attempting to work out a believably complex, well-paced thriller plot. Producer/director Jim Field Smith described the result as a "movie broken into six parts", and in filming aimed for a likewise ambitious fusion of the realistic and cinematic, insisting that the thriller elements be played entirely straight.
Regarding the apparently awkward title, Corden explained that the extra and ungrammatical "s" was deliberately placed "to let you know it's a comedy show. If it was a drama, it'd be called The Wrong Man."
In April 2014, BBC Two officially announced that a second series had been commissioned. As of the midpoint of the first series, they had already confirmed that "there is a desire to bring it back and discussions are ongoing". Post-finale, Corden announced during an appearance on Alan Carr: Chatty Man that a second series was "definitely" planned, which he, Baynton and Field Smith had also previously suggested via Twitter. Baynton further clarified to the Press Association that a second series would be dependent on the co-creators' ability to find a suitable story; "that having been said, we've got an idea now which we're progressing and we feel like it's worth doing." In February 2014, Baynton provided another update, saying that he and Corden had finished plotting the new series and were about to start work on the individual scripts: "Sam and Phil are going to be in a lot more trouble – a lot more!"
|#||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||UK viewers
|1||"The Wrong Mans"||Jim Field Smith||James Corden and Mathew Baynton||24 September 2013||4.45|
|A very hungover Sam Pinkett is on his way to work at Berkshire County Council when he witnesses a car crash and ends up answering what seems to be the driver's phone, left ringing by the side of the road. Before he can explain, a menacing voice informs him that "If you are not here by five o'clock, we will kill your wife." Confused and frightened – and by now very late for work – Sam waits to check on the phone again in the office toilet and finds a further voicemail brutally confirming that a woman has been kidnapped. That voicemail is also overheard by Phil Bourne, 'mail distribution assistant'. Phil sees the whole scenario as an opportunity for them to become heroes and manages to convince Sam of the same. Unfortunately Lizzie, Sam's ex-girlfriend and current boss, doesn't believe him when he tries to explain why he's now making mysterious phone appointments instead of talking to her. Later, Sam and Phil arrive at the hospital to find the car crash victim; only to be told, after a series of mishaps, that the phone doesn't actually belong to him. They leave the hospital, puzzled – and are promptly kidnapped themselves.|
|2||"Bad Mans"||Jim Field Smith||James Corden and Mathew Baynton||1 October 2013||3.24|
|Apparent secret agent Jack Walker captures a fleeing man with a duffle bag full of money. Elsewhere, Phil and Sam learn they have been kidnapped by Nick Stevens. He had given the same man the mystery phone and the £800,000 to pay off Mr. Lau, the menacing caller and an underground casino boss, who is holding Stevens' wife to ensure repayment of the debt. Having traced the phone to Sam, Stevens demands his money as well, and isn't impressed by Phil's attempt to bluff. He decides that instead of killing the duo himself, he will send them to meet the kidnappers with the empty suitcase. While Walker interrogates his captive regarding the money and its possible connection to a larger conspiracy, Sam and Phil are engineering a daring escape from an enraged Lau. As they rush to a nearby car, the escapees are chased by Lau's nephew, Jason, and end up driving off with him in tow. They manage to smuggle their accidental hostage into the council offices just in time for Sam to attend an important planning meeting, where his efforts to cover the noise result in an unexpected triumph – until Mr. Lau shows up to 'return' Sam's work ID.|
|3||"Dead Mans"||Jim Field Smith||Tom Basden and Mathew Baynton||8 October 2013||3.23|
|4||"Inside Mans"||Jim Field Smith||James Corden and Mathew Baynton||15 October 2013||2.86|
|5||"Wanted Mans"||Jim Field Smith||Tom Basden and Mathew Baynton||22 October 2013||2.93|
|6||"Running Mans"||Jim Field Smith||James Corden and Mathew Baynton||29 October 2013||2.86|
Overnight figures showed that the first episode was watched by 13.5% of the UK viewing audience at the time, or 3.08 million, making it BBC Two's most successful comedy debut since Extras eight years previously. Consolidated audience was 4.5 million, or 16%. Series consolidated viewing average was 3.3 million viewers or 12%, while the Sunday 10pm repeat averaged 494,000/2%.
In the US, Hulu initially launched the series by making either the first two episodes available to regular subscribers with one episode subsequently released each week, or all six immediately available to Hulu Plus subscribers. CEO Mike Hopkins confirmed that each episode ranked among the ten most-watched on the online service upon weekly release.
Initial UK reviews for the series were generally positive. It was ranked #5 in Radio Times' annual critics' Top 40 TV series for 2013 and the first episode was an iTunes UK Editor's Choice as the same year's Best TV Episode. On making its Hulu debut, the show received an aggregate score of 80/100 from Metacritic based on seven major reviews, placing it in the top ten highest-rated series of the US fall season.
Praise for the "darkly comic caper", as Keith Watson described it for Metro, centred around both the moody, heavily stylised visual feel of the overall production and the contrasting comic chemistry between its two leads. "The mismatched buddy dynamic between the pair – nerdy, neurotic everyman and chubby gung-ho sidekick – was reminiscent of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Britcoms or a Coen Brothers flick," wrote Michael Hogan in The Daily Telegraph. Ellen Jones from The Independent said: "Thanks to slick direction and, one suspects, a large chunk of the BBC's autumn budget, it certainly looks as good as a Hollywood thriller."
Veteran TV writer Clive James of The Daily Telegraph said The Wrong Mans is "highly recognisable, as if it had been designed to fulfill all the requirements of British screen comedy... Remember Morecambe and Wise on the Riviera? This is the same thing, but better done. Having watched one episode, I vowed to watch another: instead of, as I usually do when a British comedy series is concerned, vowing to emigrate back to Australia."
Writing for the entertainment website HitFix, American veteran reviewer Alan Sepinwall noted that "I expected to be tired of the joke behind "The Wrong Mans" within an episode or two. Instead, I found myself engrossed enough in the story of who wanted Sam dead at any particular moment, and why, to keep watching until I made it all the way to the end and could appreciate just how well Baynton, Corden and company stuck the landing."
Several reviewers nevertheless felt the show's attempt to seamlessly mesh the comedy and thriller genres wasn't entirely successful, including Rachel Cooke in the New Statesman, who wrote that "I didn’t hate it... but all the same, I’m not sure that it quite works. Thirty minutes seems too short a time to accommodate both the tropes of a thriller and a tonne of jokes. I think they should have given themselves an hour, the better that the audience might get its ear in.". Sam Wollaston in The Guardian wrote that he was "not convinced" by the series' tone, "nor that performers (mainly) necessarily make the best writers. Oh, and what's with that title? There's something wrong with it, isn't there? Grammatically?"
Awards and nominations
Baynton and Corden, with Tom Basden, won a 2013 Royal Television Society (RTS) Programme Award for Best Writer – Comedy. Baynton and Corden also received a BAFTA TV Craft Award nomination in the same category, and both were also nominated for Best Male Performance in a Comedy Programme in the same year's BAFTA Television Awards.
DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions were released in the UK on 4 November 2013.
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