BBC One has handed out a six episode series order to The Offenders, a comedy drama series from Stephen Merchant (The Office) and Mayans M.C. creator Elgin James. While originally commissioned by the BBC, Amazon Studios has since boarded as co-producer and serve as the broadcaster in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The Offenders follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a Community Payback sentence in Bristol. At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeon hole but gradually we see behind their façades, understand their hidden depths and what made them the people they are today.
We are reminded that no one is all good or all bad. Everyone has a story. As their unlikely new friendships intersect with their complicated private lives, The Offenders must unite to protect one of their own from Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang. In addition to creating, Merchant will also co-star in the series.
The Offenders was created by Stephen Merchant and Elgin James and is being produced by Big Talk and Stephen Merchant’s Four Eyes. It was commissioned by the BBC’s Director of Content Charlotte Moore; the BBC’s Controller of Comedy Commissioning Shane Allen; and the BBC’s Head of Comedy Kate Daughton. Nickie Sault is the series producer, while Merchant is the lead director. The executive producers are Stephen Merchant, Luke Alkin, Kenton Allen and Matthew Justice. Filming will take place in Bristol.
“The Offenders is a long-standing passion project for me. My parents used to work in the Community Service world and I was always intrigued that the many and varied people they dealt with only had one thing in common: they’d committed a crime. Ever since The Office, I love finding ways to bring unlikely groups of people together and watch the sparks fly”, Stephen Merchant said in a statement.
“As a writer I always include humour but with The Offenders, I also get to add drama, pathos, crime genre thrills and say something optimistic about the common humanity that unites us all, whatever our background”, he continued. “The Offenders’ mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit, reflects the unlikely partnership of me and Elgin. I grew up in suburbia whereas Elgin spent his early life building a national street gang until a police investigation landed him in prison. Despite coming from different sides of the tracks, Elgin and I share a love of convincing characters and authentic, engaging, human stories.”
While Big Talk’s Kenton Allen added: “Having long admired Stephen’s phenomenal work as a writer, director and actor we’re thrilled to be working with him on his first one-hour TV series and to continue our long relationships with the BBC who have been incredibly smart and supportive from the moment we mentioned the idea. We’re also equally thrilled to be working with Amazon for the first time on an original production and can’t wait for UK and US audiences to see what I think will be a very distinctive and eye-catching show.”