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Stephen Merchant’s The Offenders heading to BBC One

Stephen Merchant

Story by Jack Foley

STEPHEN Merchant is to bring a new six-part comedy series called The Offenders to BBC One.

The singer 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 pigeonhole, 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. The show is part crime thriller, character study, and a state-of-the-nation commentary – with humour and heart.

Originally created by Merchant and Elgin James (co-creator of US series Mayans M.C.), The Offenders is a co-production between BBC One and Amazon Studios. It was commissioned for the BBC by Charlotte Moore, Director of Content; Shane Allen, Controller Comedy Commissioning and Kate Daughton, Head of Comedy.

Merchant, who also directs and co-stars in the series, said: “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’ve loved 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.”

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

Filming will take place in Bristol. The series will premiere on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Amazon Prime Video in the United States, Canada and Australia.