BBC One Slates New Series from Stephen Merchant


The Offenders, a new series created by Stephen Merchant and Elgin James (Mayans M.C.), is headed to BBC One.

The series follows seven strangers from different walks of life, who have been forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol. Over the course of The Offenders’ six episodes, the hidden depths and the circumstances that shaped them are revealed. Together, the group of unlikely friends unites to protect one of their own from Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang.

Commissioned by BBC Comedy and BBC One, the BBC One and Amazon Studios co-production is produced by Big Talk with Merchant’s Four Eyes. The series is slated to premiere on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the U.K. and on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Canada and Australia.

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 humor, 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.

Merchant added: “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 U.K. and U.S. 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 is in for an absolute treat with Stephen Merchant’s gripping world, rich with heart, humor and stand out characters. Among the deftly woven plots, hijinks, unlikely friendships and big belly laughs are very human stories about loyalty, truth and family.”

Brad Beale, VP of worldwide content licensing for Amazon Prime Video, said: “We’re so excited to work with Stephen on a series with his signature razor-sharp wit and distinctive, delightful characters. Stephen is such a gifted actor and creator, and we know our Prime Video customers will love The Offenders.”