EXCLUSIVE: Amazon has partnered with the BBC on a British comedy drama created by The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant and Mayans M.C. co-creator Elgin James.
The SVOD service and the British public broadcaster have ordered crime thriller-meets-state-of-the-nation commentary The Offenders (w/t) from Mum producer Big Talk and Merchant’s Four Eyes. It is the latest co-production between Amazon Studios and the BBC, which have previously partnered on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning Fleabag and Steve McQueen’s drama Small Axe.
The six-part series, which consists of hour-long episodes, follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol. Although they seem like archetypes, they should not be pigeon-holed. As their unlikely new friendships intersect with their complicated private lives, the group must unite to protect one of their own from Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang.
Merchant, who also created and starred in HBO’s Hello Ladies, will co-star in the series and also directs.
The series will air on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Canada and Australia and on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK. Global distribution will be handled by BBC Studios, which brokered the deal. Filming will take place in Bristol, UK. For the BBC, it was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content, Shane Allen, BBC Controller, Comedy Commissioning; and BBC Head of Comedy Kate Daughton. Executive Producers are Stephen Merchant for Four Eyes, Luke Alkin, Kenton Allen and Matthew Justice for Big Talk, and Kate Daughton is the Commissioning Editor for the BBC. The Producer is Nickie Sault (The Virtues).
“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,” said Merchant. “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, Big Talk Chief Executive, said, “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, said, “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.”
“We’re so excited to work with Stephen on a series with his signature razor-sharp wit and distinctive, delightful characters,” added Brad Beale, Vice President, Worldwide Content Licensing for Amazon Prime Video. “Stephen is such a gifted actor and creator, and we know our Prime Video customers will love The Offenders.”
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