The Offenders

The Offenders shines a light on those who have erred and been forced to pay the penalty for their crimes. Peter Gray reports.

Seven strangers manage to forge a connection while serving a community sentence in Stephen Merchant’s latest drama for the BBC. Part crime thriller, part character study, The Offenders is also a state-of-the-nation commentary on the UK in the 21st century.

A co-production between Merchant’s Four Eyes production company and ITV studios offshoot Big Talk (Mum, Friday Night Dinner, Defending the Guilty), the drama represents something of a departure for the funny man. However, Merchant’s intimate knowledge of the subject matter (his parents worked in community service) means that the drama should ring true.


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Here’s everything you need to know about the series:

What is The Offender about?

When seven strangers meet while serving a community sentence in Bristol, the group soon bond over their reactions to the facility.  

“At first, they seem like archetypes we can easily pigeon hole but gradually we see behind their façades, understand their hidden depths and what made them the people they are today. We are reminded that no one is all good or all bad. Everyone has a story” says the official BBC synopsis for the series.


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However, as the seven become more involved in each other’s lives, they are also forced to confront one of Bristol’s most notorious gangs. Will the new bonds of friendship they have forged be enough to protect them from the gang?

Who is in the cast of The Offenders?

Merchant has pulled off a real coup with the casting for The Offenders. The comedian has used his industry links to attract a really big name: Academy Award winning actor Christopher Walken.

Walken will play Frank in the drama. An inveterate scoundrel, Frank is desperately trying to reconnect with his family in the show, which represents Walken’s first leading role in a British TV drama.


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Joining Walken in the cast is Rhianne Barreto (Honour, Hanna) Gamba Cole (A Windrush Chronicle) and Darren Boyd (Lucky Man) as John, a ‘law-abiding pillar of the community furious at being labelled a criminal’.

Poldark’s Eleanor Tomlinson pops up, too, playing an aristocrat whose life is slowly spiralling out of control.

Who’s behind the camera on The Offenders?

The series is the brainchild of Merchant and Elgin James (Mayans M.C) with Merchant also serving as executive producer on the show, alongside Luke Alkin Kenton Allen and Matthew Justice.

Merchant will also have a hand in directing the show with the comedian sharing the role with Papi Chulo’s John Butler.

The series was commissioned for the BBC by the channel’s Director of Content Charlotte Moore, Controller Comedy Commissioning Shane Allen and Head of Comedy Kate Daughton.


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Merchant says of the show: “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.

“Ever since The Office, I’ve loved finding ways to bring unlikely groups of people together and watch the sparks fly. As a writer I always include humour, 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.


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“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. 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.”

Where was The Offenders filmed?

Principal photography on the show took place in and around Bristol in early 2021.

Is there a trailer for The Offenders?

Not yet but watch this space.


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When can we see The Offenders on the small screen?

The BBC have yet to announce a date for the drama, however, we will update this page as soon as they do.

More information about The Offenders can be found here.

For information on other forthcoming television shows, please click here.


-London's Best Events-
What: new drama
When: tbc
Where: BBC1
Website: BBC Media Centre