Stephen Merchant makes BBC series The Offenders

Monday 6th January 2020, 2:10pm

Stephen Merchant. Copyright: RDF Television.

Stephen Merchant is making a new comedy drama series for BBC One about a group of strangers undertaking a community payback sentence together.

The Offenders will follow seven people from different walks of life who are forced together in Bristol to complete their sentences.

Producers say: "At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeon hole but gradually we see behind their fa├žades, 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. The show is part crime thriller, character study, and a state-of-the-nation commentary - with humour and heart."

The Office star created the series with Elgin James, the co-creator of US series Mayans M.C.. Merchant will co-star in the series, act as lead writer and serve as director.

Six one-hour episodes are being made for BBC One, with Amazon Prime set to publish the programme across the rest of the world.

Merchant says: "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. 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.

"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."

Kenton Allen, from producers Big Talk, who are making the show alongside Merchant's company Four Eyes, says: "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."

Kate Daughton, Head of BBC Comedy, comments: "The BBC One audience are in for an absolute treat with Stephen Merchant's gripping world rich with heart, humour and stand out characters. Amongst the deftly woven plots, high jinks, unlikely friendships and big belly laughs are very human stories about loyalty, truth and family."

Filming is set to take place in Bristol. Casting details will be announced at a later date.

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