Amazon and the BBC have joined forces on new British comedy series The Offenders (working title) from Stephen Merchant.
Merchant, best known for being behind The Office with Ricky Gervais, but also for recently directing Fighting With My Family and playing an SS officer in Jojo Rabbit, originally created the series with Mayans M.C. co-creator Elgin James.
Produced by the ITV-owned Big Talk (Cold Feet, Defending the Guilty) and Merchant's own Four Eyes banner, The Offenders will follow seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence. At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeonhole but gradually we see behind their facades, 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 and that everyone has a story. The show is billed as part crime thriller, character study and a state-of-the-nation commentary, but with humor and heart.
"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," said Merchant, who directs and will also star in the series.
"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 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.”
The series was commissioned for the BBC by Charlotte Moore, BBC director of content; Shane Allen, BBC controller, comedy commissioning; and Kate Daughton, BBC head of comedy. Executive producers are Merchant for Four Eyes and Luke Alkin Kenton Allen and Matthew Justice for Big Talk, with Kate Daughton as the commissioning editor for the BBC.
The U.S., Canada and Australia deal with Amazon was brokered by Phil Sequeira, BBC Studios. Global distribution will be handled by BBC Studios.