The Wrong Mans: 101 & 102 Review
Reviewed by Tyler Davies.
Comedy-thrillers are tough to come by, especially on the small screen, which is mainly due to how profoundly hazardous it can be to counterbalance humour and thrills. BBC Two’s new six-part series endeavors to strike this balance as the affable pair of Mathew Baynton and James Corden don the leading roles of Sam Pinkett and Phil Bourne.
To be honest, The Wrong Mans doesn’t have a novel concept and the characters aren’t strictly imaginative either, but it offers a sturdy dose of entertainment. The story (Baynton and Corden helming affairs here as well) follows the humdrum bloke Pinkett who gets propelled into a malignant game after he is mistakenly believed to be someone else. Soon enough, his council office co-worker Phil gets entangled in the commotion too and hence the series’ blundering title.
In terms of quality there isn’t much secluding the two opening episodes, but The Bad Mans is discernibly more high-octane. A lot is brimmed into those 29 minutes and this turns out to be successful, in contrast to the opener where one would have wished for a steadier pace and more gags. Which brings me on to the comedy; or rather the balance of comedy and thrills. The introductory episode has the precise amount of tension and suspense to get the ball rolling, but its humour is largely deficient. This is majorly down to Phil’s witticisms not prevailing and instead just coming across as dry humour. Luckily his gags hit the mark in the following episode and the comedy in general improves manifolds. Though there is an unexpected amount of puerile humour to be found in the second entry, which is decidedly jarring when its thriller elements are taking into consideration. A larger presence of dark comedy would have been more apt for this genre, something the opener managed fairly well.
A series such as this is laboriously reliant on the interplay between the leads and, luckily, Corden and Baynton bounce off each other adequately. Baynton is steadily becoming a recognisable face within television and rightly so. He has an infallible comedic timing and he holds his own in front of the more seasoned James Corden. You do get a sense that both are enacting a part reminiscent to quite a few other characters in their repertoire, but that doesn’t deter from their pleasant performances. Although, the fact that the characters are indolently written does deter from the show. Phil is a particularly trite character with a personality that mirrors almost every role played by the likes of Jack Black. In these first two episodes he does nothing outside of the predictable for such a character and remains boxed within his clichéd persona. Then there’s Pinkett’s boss who serves as the clichéd ex-girlfriend who struggles with Sam due to his ineptitude and adolescence. This is a scenario which has been seen and executed innumerable times before and it does nothing to justify its presence.
The Wrong Mans’ assortment of supporting actors is quite an impressive acquisition with heavyweights like Dougray Scott, Dawn French and David Harewood roped in. Admittedly, all three merely have a fleeting appearance, but, with the exception of Harewood, they do have a recurring role promising us that there’s plenty of time for the writers to make use of these distinguished actors.
One notable aspect of the show is its direction which transforms the series into a modern noir. The director Jim Field Smith has the ability to make the most common ambiance highly picturesque and his direction gives the show a crisp feel. The apposite cinematic sequence at the inauguration of the first episode is a strong focal point, with another filmic opening in the second episode. As quite a few people will have noticed, his direction resembles that of Edgar Wright’s, which is no mean feat.
The Wrong Mans – 7/10
Bad Mans – 7.5/10
Headlined by two refined comedians and an avant-garde director – BBC Two’s The Wrong Mans gets off to a satisfying, yet erroneous, start with considerable room for improvement.