Stephen Merchant to write and star in BBC One crime thriller The Offenders

The Office co-creator will also direct the series about seven strangers completing community service

Stephen Merchant

BBC One and Amazon Studios have picked up The Offenders – a six-part crime drama created by Stephen Merchant and US writer Elgin James.

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The scripted series, based in Bristol, will follow seven strangers from different walks of life who must complete a Community Payback sentence together. The group soon find themselves facing off Bristol’s most dangerous criminal gang to protect one of their own.

Since co-creating The Office, Merchant created HBO series Hello Ladies and has acted in numerous films, including Logan, I Give It a Year, The Girl in the Spider’s Web and Jojo Rabbit. Elgin James co-created US crime drama Mayans MC and was a member of an anti-fascist gang in the 1980s.

The Offenders is a long-standing passion project for Stephen Merchant, who is both the lead director and co-star of the series. “My parents used to work in the Community Service world and I was always intrigued that the many and varied people they dealt with only had one thing in common: they’d committed a crime,” he said.

“The Offenders’ mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit, reflects the unlikely partnership of me and Elgin,” Merchant added. “I grew up in suburbia whereas Elgin spent his early life building a national street gang until a police investigation landed him in prison.”

“Despite coming from different sides of the tracks, Elgin and I share a love of convincing characters and authentic, engaging, human stories.”

BBC One will broadcast The Offenders in the UK, and Amazon Prime Video will distribute the series in the US, Canada and Australia.

Big Talk and Merchant’s company Four Eyes will produce the series, led by The Virtues producer Nickie Sault.

Big Talk Chief Executive Kenton Allen said the company is thrilled to work with Merchant on his first one-hour TV series and continue its long relationship with the BBC. “We’re also equally thrilled to be working with Amazon for the first time on an original production,” he added.

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Kate Daughton, Head of BBC Comedy said: “The BBC One audience are in for an absolute treat with Stephen Merchant’s gripping world rich with heart, humour and stand out characters.”