Hands Down, The Best TV Comedy of the Fall That You're Not Watching
While Netflix has been dazzling us with new television series all year long, Hulu has also gotten into the game (along with Amazon) with its own slate of original programming, though I had not yet seen any of their new content. Co-produced with the BBC, Hulu’s The Wrong Mans, however, was intriguing for two reasons: First of all, banner ads have been all over the Internet for the series (I’d even written a quick promotional list of the 5 Best and Worst US Adaptations of UK TV Series for The Wrong Mans over on Uproxx), and second of all, it was only 6 half-hour episodes, so if I test drove the series, I could still finish it in under 3 hours.
I watched all six episodes in a single sitting.
There’s nothing that remarkable about the premise itself. The series stars Mathew Baynton as Sam, a slacker office drone who is at the wrong place at the wrong time when he picks up a ringing cell phone discarded on the side of the road. The man on the other end of the line says something to the effect of, “Meet me here at 5:00 or your wife dies,” setting off a huge chain of events. Soon thereafter, a co-worker in the mail room in Sam’s office, Phil (James Corden, with whom I’m only familiar as from a delightful turn on Doctor Who) buddies up with Sam to save the woman’s life. One mishap adventure leads to another, and before you know it, Sam and Phil are involved with a huge criminal conspiracy local politicians, a land deal, and double agents in MI6.
Essentially, The Wrong Mans is a television version of an Edgar Wright thriller-satire starring Corden and Baynton (who co-wrote the series) in the Nick Frost and Simon Pegg roles. The buddy chemistry between the nerdy and neurotic Sam and the schlubby earnestness of Sam is what fuels the entire series, as it subverts its way through dozens of thriller tropes. It’s basically the “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” scene in Office Space blown up into a three-hour series with a massive governmental conspiracy, lots of gun play, and amusing romantic side-plot. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the top-notch production values are better (or at least, better looking) than most of what we see in American action-adventure series.
The Wrong Mans is not exactly groundbreaking television, but while heavy dramas have increasingly become more cinematic, it’s nice to see the same approach be taken with a stylized comedy. It’s a quick binge-watch, entertaining as hell, and instantly addictive, though you will need a paid Hulu subscription to watch the final two episodes (the first four eps are free, but the last two I assure you are worth the $7.99 monthly subscription fee, which you can cancel at anytime, though I’m sure that Hulu is banking on the fact that you won’t). If you’re looking for a way to fill some time during the rerun hiatus, check out the slick and engrossing The Wrong Mans.