The Wrong Mans (2013-2014) is a TV show written by and starring Mathew Baynton and James Corden. There are two seasons, totaling ten episodes. It is on DVD and Blu-Ray region 2, or streaming on Hulu and Amazon Instant.
If you’re looking for an over-the-top, ridiculously unrealistic action movie in TV format, then The Wrong Mans is for you. When Sam answers a ringing phone found at the crash site of a car wreck, the heartbreak he feels over being dumped by his horrible girlfriend should be overshadowed by the ransom money he owes, the Russian spies on his tail, the naked man he finds in the trunk, going under cover as a rent boy, being chased by a helicopter, hiding out in Mexico, breaking out of prison, sabotaging terrorists, and cutting out someone’s eyeball. But it isn’t. Through it all, he keeps his priorities straight. Must win back mean girlfriend (played by Sarah Solemani) who, incidentally, is also his boss.
You get the sense that Mathew Baynton and James Corden have seen a lot of action movies and avoided doing any research to see how these ridiculous scenarios would actually turn out in real life. How do you sneak out of Mexico? With the help of some thugs who live in a cave, of course! Totally normal that you should be able to hide from bombers by climbing inside of a vending machine, or that you can break out of jail by pulling off the jail cell set wall. But you do get the sense, as the show goes from gripping reality to insanity, that this is done on purpose.
Mixed in with it all, the characters are human. Sam (Baynton) is in love, which causes him to do stupid things. He’s an idiot, and he’s hypocritical. When his companion, a mail room guy called Phil (Corden), tries to make similar gestures of love about his new girlfriend in Mexico, Sam brushes off Phil’s affectations as insincere. But it’s really Phil’s relationship with his mother (played by Dawn French) that gives the story heart. Not only do we see that his machismo is hiding an insecurity (he lies to his mother to make him sound more successful), but she is the sole reason he’s willing to take big risks. He needs to get back to his hospitalized mother by Christmas… despite the fact that she, and everyone else, think he’s dead.
There is a confusing procession of bad guys, from Benedict Wong to Corden’s old History Boys buddy Stephen Campbell Moore. It’s sometimes hard to keep track of which bad guys they are being chased by now and which ones are still in the game, have run off, or were killed, but that just adds to the madness.
JAIME POND IS THE EDITOR OF ANGLONERD. SHE LIVES AND WORKS IN NYC. FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER.