Ricky Gervais was front and center at this year’s Golden Globes, but it’s not like his Office co-creator Stephen Merchant was home waiting for the phone to ring.
Merchant is teaming up with Elgin James (Mayans M.C.) on a new series called The Offenders, which is a BBC/Amazon Prime co-production. It could be considered a workplace comedy, except in this case, the workers don’t have a choice on the matter. The series revolves around seven strangers, thrown together, as part of a “payback sentence” in Bristol, England.
Merchant released a statement about how he came up with the idea, saying, “The Offenders is a long-standing passion project for me. 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 kept The Office in mind when fleshing out the concept, saying, “I love finding ways to bring unlikely groups of people together and watch the sparks fly. As a writer, I always include humor but with The Offenders, I also get to add drama, pathos, crime genre thrills and say something optimistic about the common humanity that unites us all, whatever our background.”
His and Elgin’s different backgrounds are reflected in the script, with Merchant growing up in suburbia and Elgin being a part of a street gang in his youth, which landed him in prison. The two pull from their experiences to show both sides of the story.
In addition to writing, Merchant will also direct and star in the six-part series. There’s no start date as of yet, but as mentioned above, The Offenders will air in both the U.K. and U.S. (hoorah!).
Since The Office, Merchant took the lead in HBO’s Hello Ladies (2013-2014). We also saw him in a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory (2015). He popped up on the big screen in 2018’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web and 2019’s Jojo Rabbit.
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