With our love of Britcoms and James Bond movies, we’re surprised we never thought of combining the two, but just like a delicious entertainment trifle, the latest Hulu Original “The Wrong Mans“ became the televised mashup we never knew we wanted so badly. Turning the traditional American thriller on its ear, the show places two average office workers into a world of crime, intrigue and mistaken identity that, due to their Britishness, they’re too polite to extricate themselves from. Catch a glimpse at their conundrum in the trailer below.
“The Wrong Mans“ is already a hit in the U.K., and today, the office thromedy, com-spiracy thriller and Hulu/BBC co-production debuts in the U.S. Hulu Plus subscribers can immediately enjoy all six episodes. On Hulu.com, two episodes of the series are available at launch, with future episodes rolling out each Monday.
As a special offer for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 users, from November 11 to November 26, Episode 1 of “The Wrong Mans” will be available for free with no subscription required. Simply download the app on your PS3 or PS4 game console to gain access to this special experience. Enjoy the first episode for free then sign-up for Hulu Plus at http://www.huluplus.com/ps3 to watch the entire series.
We caught up with the charming series co-creators and stars James Corden (“Doctor Who,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Gavin & Stacey”) and Mathew Baynton (“Peep Show,” “Spy,” “Gavin & Stacey”) and director Jim Field Smith (“Episodes,” “Butter”) earlier this year to discuss the creation of the show, their thoughts on binge-watching and why more action stars don’t fight with tears in their eyes.
HULU: How did you come up with The Wrong Mans?
JAMES: Mat and I were working on a TV show I had created with a friend of mine. We had written a part for Mat in the show. It was during shooting, I think it was the second or third season of that show we talked about half-hour comedy and whether we thought it might be possible to have a half-hour comedy that had the same drama and thrills and high stakes as the box-set dramas that we really loved watching at the time. Plotting across a whole series and that thing where you have those cliffhangers and go, “Gasp! I have to find out what happens,” but is it possible to do that with a comedy? So we came up with this idea of Mat’s character Sam finding a mobile on the side of the road, and it was a question of going, well, what would we do then? If this happened to us, two ordinary guys in an ordinary town, what would happen then? What would we do? And we lucked out, really. We won the lottery when we got a director and producer of Jim’s quality to come on board and fulfill the vision… exceed, rather, the vision we had for the show. That’s how it came about.
HULU: What shows did you use for inspiration?
MAT: A lot of shows. Things like 24. I think one of the first conversations we had when we were just on set doing Gavin & Stacey was about Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers movie. How brilliant that was, how they often marry the kind of plot of film noir thriller with the offbeat comedy that comes from great characterization of the gags. Not the kind of comedy that you could ever try to mimic. It felt like doing that kind of thing, but for TV, would be quite a new thing to do. The episodic nature of it would give us a chance to do like those shows that James was talking about. Like Breaking Bad or even Lost, things like that. Just that moment at the end of the episode where there’s a twist and you, “Gasp! There’s no way I can wait another week to watch the next episode! I have to see it right now!”
JIM: I think that a lot of action comedy, big screen and small screen, tends to be quite physical and slapstick-driven. And though there is an element of that in the show, I think that for me, going into making the show and these fantastic scripts that the guys wrote, the focus has got to be on the action, the drama, the jeopardy being real. So I was very much influenced by Tony Scott, Michael Mann, Michael Bay. The action in the show is big and bombastic and real and tense. We’re not looking to draw comedy from that. The comedy comes from these two guys caught up in that world and how they react to it. Those are the touchstone things for me in making the show.
MAT: Because it’s not spoof. We’re trying to have our cake and eat it, really. To really deliver a plot that there’s nowhere to go but the big fight scene. There’s nowhere to go but jumping off the bridge. The plot has to do that work for you so you put the characters in a situation where the audience aren’t asked to believe that they’re suddenly superheroes, but that they simply have no choice but to do the thing. The comedy comes from, I guess, identifying with them and seeing their pain, as well. We’re not James Bond. If we jump off a bridge onto a moving train, we don’t do a fall and roll.
JIM: It’s going to bloody hurt.
MAT: We just writhe around in agony for a minute straight, because that’s what would happen, and I think the laughter at that is just from recognition. I think we’ve all watched those action films and thought, “Hang on. That had to have hurt.”
JIM: “He just fell off a building! That would really hurt.”
JAMES: Even things like being punched in the face. I’ve only been punched in the face once, and it hurt so much. But people in action films get hit so hard in the face and just carry on.
JIM: You did also get boxed in the face in the scene we shot.
JAMES: That’s true. I got hit with a broom.
JIM: There’s a scene in the show where there’s a big fight. Sort of a crazy brawl takes place, and one character hits James round the face with a broom, and James actually did get hit round the face with a broom.
JAMES: That’s what I mean! It really hurt, and my nose was tingling and my eyes were watering.
JIM: And we had to stop.
MAT: Actually, we finished the take and it was amazing. It was like, “Yes, because he actually got hit.”
JAMES: You never really see anybody in an action film with watery eyes, going “Owwww!”
JIM: That’s what we show.
HULU: Are you guys familiar with binge-watching?
JIM: This show is designed for binge-watching.
MAT: Different strokes for different folks. I love having to wait a week for the next thing.
JIM: Is that how that phrase completes?
MAT: Yes. I quite like having to wait a week, so I kind of force myself on that even if I have the DVD. I’ll break that rule every now and then, but these guys like to watch it all.
JIM: Even with Breaking Bad?
MAT: Breaking Bad, I’ll do two max.
JAMES: I’ve done five in one stretch. I’ve done five Breaking Bads back-to-back before.
JIM: There are only six episodes of this show because it’s incredibly ambitious and it’s a roller coaster ride. It’s not something that can just be dragged out over a long run. In some ways it was a movie broken out into six parts.
JIM: For us, we’d be very happy to hear that everyone has watched all six episodes straight through. It certainly lends itself to that.
MAT: It’s good that people have the option.
JAMES: When we wrote the script, people would say, “This sounds like an idea for a film. Why don’t you do it as a film?” For us, the very nature of doing it episodically was the challenge of it, and it is two guys who belong on the small screen.
JIM: Part of the fun of it is that it isn’t a film. Part of the fun of it is the ambition of it. The cinematography and the score and the performances and the cast are from a film vocabulary, but it’s delivered in this TV medium where people are used to this cliffhanger, binge-watching medium.
HULU: But it’s a British TV medium with six episodes. What do you feel about difference between the lengths of seasons of American versus British shows?
JIM: It’s a different methodology. On a team-written sitcom where it’s not a plot-driven show, it’s a sitcom with a neat, weekly story line that ties up and you can watch them out of sequence and it doesn’t matter or you can miss one and you can touch in the next week and you’re still going to be fine. On a show like this, it’s a very authored show with a real personality and a real voice. I don’t think you could make this show with a team of writers and stretch it across 24 episodes, and deliver it in the same way that we’ve delivered it in.
MAT: From our point of view, so much of the voice is the two of us in a room improvising when we write. And that can only be done by the two of us and that means being in a room, just the two of us.
JIM: It’s a very close-knit family behind the show. It’s me, James, Mat. We have another writer called Tom Basden who’s written two of the episodes, and that’s really it. It’s been a great partnership with Hulu and the BBC because they’ve just trusted us to make the show that we wanted to make, and they’re going to put it out in the best possible way.
I’ve shot an extra episode just about me. Episode 7. It’s called “The Right Man.”