Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mid-year review: THE WRONG MANS

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

I didn't expect to be enjoying The Wrong Mans as much as I am, but it's doing something incredibly well: the thriller aspect is effective, while the humour is present without overshadowing the drama. It's a very difficult balance to get right, but writers James Corden and Mathew Baynton have managed it.

I've seen all three episodes that have aired of the six made, and I'm interested in the characters, the mystery they found themselves caught, and find each story dramatic and funny. It also has a great feel for pace, as the characters of Sam (Baynton) and Phil (Corden) bounce from one crazy predicament to the next. The story broadens, the mystery deepens, the array of characters increases, and it hasn't put a foot wrong yet.

Great actors are also introduced and discarded after an episode or two, without overstaying their welcome, which is helping keep things unpredictable. I'm also loving how there are plenty of scenes that aren't played for laughs, but feel like perfectly acceptable and cool moments from a cut-price version of 24. Sam and Phil's escape from a scary Chinese gangster (Benedict Wong) using a paper bag and a match being a particularly memorable moment. You can actually imagine many of these scenarios playing out, as nothing feels totally outlandish to me. It's just very unlikely, which is very different.

Oh yeah, and it's definitely funny. Not laugh-out-loud hilarious, but every episode has a few scenes that make me giggle a lot; from Sam attempting to cover a gagged hostage's groans during an office meeting about town slogans, to Sam and Phil playing a movie quotations game while Dougray Scott's MI5 agent was fighting for his life in a multi-storey car park above them.

Unless it goes seriously off the rails next week, runs out of steam before the finale, concludes the story in an unsatisfying way, or ends with an unnecessary trapdoor for a second series, I think The Wrong Mans can be considered an unexpected autumn treat.

If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favour and seek it out.

Tuesdays, BBC2 @9PM. (Hulu from 11 November in North America.)