We here at Stylist love a meaty crime thriller as much as the next person (take another look at our feverish Line Of Duty fan theories, if you don’t believe us). However, there’s no denying that this grittiest of TV genres can get a little… well, a little too dark at times.
Thankfully, Stephen Merchant and Elgin James have joined forces to bring us a suitably twisted new crime drama – albeit one with (surprise!) added humour and heart.
“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,” promises Merchant.
Here’s what you need to know, then, about The Offenders.
What’s the plot of The Offenders?
The Offenders follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a Community Payback sentence in Bristol.
“At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeonhole,” explains the show’s official synopsis, “but gradually we see behind their façades, 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. Everyone has a story.”
Naturally, it’s not long before their unlikely new friendships begin to intersect with their complicated private lives. And the drama really ramps up when the septet is forced to unite to protect one of their own from Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang.
Who stars in The Offenders?
It’s an all-star cast in this BBC drama, with Academy Award-winning actor Christopher Walken taking on his first lead British television role.
He’s joined by Honour’s Rhianne Barreto, Hanna star Gamba Cole, Killing Eve’s Darren Boyd, Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson, and Clare Perkins of EastEnders fame.
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As if that weren’t enough star power for you, though, the series also boasts the talents of Charles Babalola, Richard E Grant, Julia Davis and, of course, Merchant himself.
What are people saying about The Offenders?
Merchant, who also directs the series, says: “The Offenders’ mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit, reflects the unlikely partnership of me and [co-creator] Elgin James. 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.”
Kate Daughton, head of BBC Comedy, adds: “The BBC One audience is in for an absolute treat with Stephen Merchant’s gripping world, rich with heart, humour and stand out characters.
“Among the deftly woven plots, high jinks, unlikely friendships and big belly laughs are very human stories about loyalty, truth and family.”
And Brad Beale, who is vice president of Worldwide Content Licensing for Amazon Prime Video (this is, after all, a joint project between the Beeb and Amazon Studios), says: “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.”
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When will The Offenders be available to watch in the UK?
The series is currently filming in Bristol, and will premiere on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK – although an official release date has yet to be confirmed. We suspect it’s likely to be late 2021 or early 2022, when the weather is cold, the days are dark, and all we want to do is curl up indoors with a seriously compelling TV dramedy.
The series will also be released to international audiences via Amazon Prime Video.
Images: BBC/Amazon Studios
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.