The Wrong Mans

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The Wrong Mans
The Wrong Mans.png
Created by
Written by
Directed by Jim Field Smith
Composer(s) Kevin Sargent
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 6 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Charlotte Koh
  • Mark Freeland
  • Jim Field Smith
  • Charlie Leech
  • Lucy Robinson
  • David Webb
  • Victoria Boydell
Location(s) Berkshire
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel
Original run 24 September 2013 (2013-09-24)  – present
External links

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.[1][2] 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.[3]


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.



On 9 October 2012, BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow announced The Wrong Mans as a co-production between BBC In-House Comedy and Hulu.[4] The series was commissioned by Janice Hadlow and Cheryl Taylor.[4] 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.[5] Principal filming on the series began in January 2013, at the same time as the cast was announced.[4][6] Jeremy Dyson was the script editor for the series.[4]

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,[4] regarding the apparent scarcity of TV sitcoms with the same level of intricate, meaningful plotting as then-current dramatic hits 24 and Lost.[7] 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.[8] 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.[5]

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.[8] Producer/director Jim Field Smith described the result as a "movie broken into six parts",[9] and in filming aimed for a likewise ambitious fusion of the realistic and cinematic, insisting that the thriller elements be played entirely straight.[5]

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."[7]

In April 2014, BBC Two officially announced that a second series had been commissioned.[10] 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".[11] 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.[12][13] 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."[14] 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!"[15]

Episode list[edit]

# 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 (2013-09-24) 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 (2013-10-01) 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 (2013-10-08) 3.23
4 "Inside Mans" Jim Field Smith James Corden and Mathew Baynton 15 October 2013 (2013-10-15) 2.86
5 "Wanted Mans" Jim Field Smith Tom Basden and Mathew Baynton 22 October 2013 (2013-10-22) 2.93
6 "Running Mans" Jim Field Smith James Corden and Mathew Baynton 29 October 2013 (2013-10-29) 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.[17][18][19] 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%.[20]

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.[21]

Critical response[edit]

Initial UK reviews for the series were generally positive.[22][23][24][25] It was ranked #5 in Radio Times' annual critics' Top 40 TV series for 2013[26] and the first episode was an iTunes UK Editor's Choice as the same year's Best TV Episode.[27] 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.[28]

Praise for the "darkly comic caper", as Keith Watson described it for Metro,[29] 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.[30] 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."[31]

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."[32]

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."[33]

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.".[34] 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?"[35]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Baynton and Corden, with Tom Basden, won a 2013 Royal Television Society (RTS) Programme Award for Best Writer – Comedy.[36] 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.[37][38]

Home media[edit]

DVD and Blu-ray Disc editions were released in the UK on 4 November 2013.[39]


  1. ^ "BBC, Hulu team on James Corden laffer". Variety. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Wrong Mans". Hulu. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Wrong Mans series 2 officially confirmed by BBC Two". Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "BBC Two announces new comedy, The Wrong Mans, starring James Corden and Mathew Baynton". BBC. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "We ditched funny scenes because they felt too much like jokes". Chortle. 4 September 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Cast announced for The Wrong Mans on BBC Two". BBC. 28 January 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "'It's like 24, but funny,' says James Corden on new show The Wrong Mans". Evening Standard. 12 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Seale, Jack (7 June 2013). "Mathew Baynton on The Wrong Mans, Horrible Histories and Yonderland". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Martin Moakler (11 November 2013). "The "Wrong Mans" for the job". Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "BBC Two celebrates 50th birthday with ambitious new commissions". BBC Media Centre. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "James Corden & Mathew Baynton in Talks for a Second Series of the Wrong Mans". Radio Times. 16 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Corden Hints at Second Series of The Wrong Mans". Digital Spy. 31 October 2013. 
  13. ^ "James Corden Confirms The Wrong Mans Series Two on Alan Carr's "Chatty Man"". Digital Spy. 1 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Baynton: Adult fans are more shy". Yahoo! News UK. 6 November 2013. 
  15. ^ Jefferey, Morgan (18 February 2014). "The Wrong Mans series 2 in the works, confirms Mathew Baynton". Digital Spy. Retrieved 24 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "BARB Top 30s". 
  17. ^ Eames, Tom (25 September 2013). "James Corden's 'The Wrong Mans' attracts over 3 million on BBC Two". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  18. ^ "The Wrong Mans gets best ratings for BBC2 comedy since Extras". Metro. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Wrong Mans gets right ratings". York Press. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  20. ^ "Ratings roundup: Dracula has some bite". Broadcast. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "Hulu to reach $1 billion in revenue in 2013". Los Angeles Times. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Stephenson, David (29 September 2013). "Elixir of strife in Downton". Daily Express. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  23. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (20 September 2013). "Television choices: The cast are all right in James Corden's comedy The Wrong Mans". The Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  24. ^ Callaghan, Kate (17 September 2013). "The Wrong Mans". Time Out. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  25. ^ Deacon, Michael (28 September 2013). "Michael Deacon: Julian Fellowes is really an anarcho-communist". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  26. ^ "Radio Times top 40 TV shows of 2013: 10 to 1". Radio Times. 27 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  27. ^ "Best apps, music, films, books, TV and podcasts of 2013 listed by Apple on iTunes". MacWorld UK. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  28. ^ "Aggregate Score: The Wrong Mans". Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  29. ^ Watson, Keith (24 September 2013). "James Corden was on the right track with The Wrongs Man". Metro. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  30. ^ Hogan, Michael (24 September 2013). "The Wrong Mans, BBC Two, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  31. ^ Jones, Ellen (25 September 2013). "Last night's viewing – London Irish, Channel 4; The Wrong Mans, BBC2". The Independent. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  32. ^ James, Clive (3 October 2013). "Clive James: I’m not sure I trust this science rock star". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  33. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (11 November 2013). "Review: Hulu's The Wrong Mans, a comic thriller with laughs and suspense". Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  34. ^ Cooke, Rachel (3 October 2013). "The Wrong Mans: James Corden laughing in the face of danger". New Statesman. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  35. ^ Wollaston, Sam (24 September 2013). "Being Paul Gascoigne, The Wrong Mans – TV review". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  36. ^ "Winners Announced at RTS Programme Awards 2013". Royal Television Society. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  37. ^ "Peaky Blinders, Broadchurch win BAFTA TV Craft Awards nominations". The Stage. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  38. ^ "Television Awards: Nominations Announced". BAFTA press release. 7 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  39. ^ "The Wrong Mans (DVD)". BBC. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 

External links[edit]