Comedy Review: The Wrong Mans Gets It Right

By Fiona Hardie, Arts Editor

The Wrong Mans, BBC Two’s new comedy, has been quite a while in the making: born of the minds of comedy favourite James Corden, and Mathew Baynton (who both met on the set of Nick Moran’s 2008 film Telstar), it’s a sitcom with a slight difference. I, for one, am very excited about it, having waited for it for ages – and when a show gets a lot of hype as much as this one has, it can sometimes lead to it falling flat – but so far it’s not disappointed. Part comedy, part crime thriller, it tells the story of two fairly ordinary guys in office jobs at Berkshire County Council, suddenly caught up in the whirlwind of a conspiracy.

The first episode opens on a bleak and snowy January morning with Sam (Baynton), waking up after what seems like a riotous night of partying and drunk-calling his ex and, it turns out, boss (Sarah Solemani). He gets ready to leave for work, only to find his bike has been stolen (… but one wheel has been left behind), so he has to walk there – and, en route, witnesses a horrifying car crash. After the wreckage has been cleared away, he hears what he assumes to be the victim’s phone ringing, left behind in the snow.

Throw in a kidnap plot and mistaken identities abound, Sam comes to realise he has been well and truly caught up in the wrong situation. Phil (Corden), another office employee, attempts to convince Sam this is something terribly exciting they should pursue, whereas Sam is clearly wants a quieter life. This obvious comedic contrast between the two leads, added to some good old-fashioned farcical moments, mixed through with some action-esque jump cuts (and an excellent soundtrack so far, including Belle and Sebastian) – all make for a beginning that’s full of potential.

Despite being fronted by now internationally-renowned comedian Corden, the real star of the show is Baynton, who you may recognise as more minor characters in several other comedies such as Gavin and Stacey, and Sky1’s Spy, or from the many famous faces he played in British Comedy Award-winning sketch show, Horrible Histories (I don’t think many people can manage playing Charles Dickens as Morrissey, or Dick Turpin as Adam Ant quite so convincingly). Having admired him for some time, I can say without doubt that his comedic timing is spot-on, and to be in a primetime slot with a comedy he’s co-written as well means that now – hopefully – the rest of the UK will be able to appreciate his talent.

In addition, the rest of the cast set to appear later on in the show include Dawn French, Emilia Fox, Rebecca Front and Dougray Scott – so it definitely seems like it’s going to be quite a high-profile show. I can only look forward to what the rest of the series has in store for us; it certainly promises to be a thrilling ride.

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The Wrong Mans is on BBC Two every Tuesday, 9pm.