Sunday 17 November 2013

The Wrong Mans

If you didn't watch The Wrong Mans (BBC2) then I suggest you buy the box set: it's an absolute gem.

At the centre of this 6 part 30 minute comedy (written by and starring Mathew Baynton and James Corden) is the unfolding relationship between the two main characters: Sam and Phil.

Without giving away too much of the plot, here's a taster as to what it's about.

Sam (Mat Baynton) works for the Planning Department of Berkshire County Council. He sees himself as a pretty boring, ordinary kind of guy. A gaunt figure, hunched into his duffle coat, he comes across as a serious, uptight, unsuccessful man.

Phil (James Corden) could not be more different. Small and well-rounded, he is the eternal optimist ... the annoying Labrador puppy ... the rubber ball that continually bounces back, no matter how many times it's squashed. Life is a big adventure to him and he doesn't seem to mind that he is right at the bottom of the pecking order at the Council: the post boy who is either ignored or mocked.

So here we have a comic duo in the style of Morecambe and Wise - Phil is the funny guy, Sam the 'straight' man. It worked for M&W and it works for Corden and Baynton. And like M&W, they are extremely likeable.

Sam is the wrong man in The Wrong Mans: he answered a buzzing mobile phone lying on the road near an accident. What he hears is something like this: "Give me the money or I'll kill your wife." Sam is a decent guy, he feels duty bound to save this unknown woman.

In order to do this, he enlists the help of Phil who is the s in the title, although at this stage they hardly know each other.

And so the adventure begins, as our two unlikely heroes are catapulted from one dangerous situation to the next at breathtaking speed. Kidnap and death threats are just the start.

The plot is beautifully structured and most inventive. I've certainly never before seen anything as clever or spell-binding as this. Perfect timing and editing meant there is a sharp contrast between the behaviour and attitude of Sam and Phil (often like a couple of squabbling big kids) and the ruthlessness of all the villains they encounter.

As well as the outstanding performances of Corden and Baynton, there are delicious cameo roles by well-established actors: Emilia Fox as  the kidnapped wife, Dawn French as Phil's mum, and Rebecca Front as the MI5 boss.

That's all I'm going to say, except if you enjoy quality comedy then buy the box set. And no, I don't have shares in the production company.

(John has typed this in for me - still can't use my computer)