Series: The Wrong Mans

The Wrong Mans is a 2013 dark comedy / dramedy made for The BBC, which focuses on two well-meaning idiots who end up entangled in a world of crime. The protagonists are Sam Pinkett (Mat Baynton), an unambitious office worker in Berkshire County Council; and his friend Phil Bourne (James Corden), who works in the county building, but not for the county. Both of their lives take a turn for the interesting - yet also perilous - when Sam picks up a ringing mobile phone, and answers it, which serves only to draw him, and his friend, into a massive conspiracy of kidnapping, murder and sushi.

A second season has been ordered by BBC Two; Filming began in August, 2014, as James Corden has a new job in America starting early next year, and both episodes aired in December 2014.

This show provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Sam and Phil.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The triads, while threatening and disproportionately cruel, do appear to be genuinely polite when they're off the job, or conducting friendly trade. Mr Lau even chats to Sam about their both commuting, though this comes back to bite Sam when Phil messes things up.
    • Marat may go too far with his advances and can be ruthless if he thinks he's been double-crossed, but he actually turns out to be fairly respectful when he realises he has gone too far and genuinely seems to like the duo, even telling them to run just before Paul Smoke has him killed.
    • A double subversion with the Amoral Attorney. Initially it appears that his use of pop culture phrases, such as "Hashtag no filter", and general demeanour are an act. However, when he runs into Phil again back in England and he gets what he wants, he calms the hell down and lets him leave without a fuss.
  • The Alcoholic: In Series Two, Sam hasn't become a full-blown alcoholic, but he's caught drinking on the job a few times and has become incredibly bitter about life. It's not hard to see why.
  • Amoral Attorney: Sam and Phil have one in Series 2, although in a rare twist of events they aren't the ones who hired him and they'd much rather he wasn't there, since Espinosa hired him to ensure they wouldn't squeal.
  • Back for the Dead: Paul Smoke gets offed fairly early on in the second season, to establish that loose ends are being tied up.
  • Badass:
    • The first series gives us Jack Walker and Paul Smoke, a pair of British intelligence agents who can hold their own in a fight.
    • The second series gives us Kalil, a mercenary that is capable of killing three equally trained people in about ten seconds. The rest of his crew are equally skilled.
  • Badass Crew: Sam and Phil end up with a group of badass mercenaries in the second series.
  • Big Bad: The first series appears to have the triads, but it later turns out the main threat is Paul Smoke, a Russian spy who has infiltrated the British intelligence services.
  • Big Bad Ensemble:
    • The first series has the triads, Scarlett's father and Paul Smoke, a Russian agent, though the last of those is the most serious of them and the groups don't actively come into conflict.
    • The second series brings us drug baron Carlos Espinosa, a mercenary group seeking to raid a chemical facility and a presently unidentified figure tying up loose ends from the last series. Unlike Series One, the groups all come into conflict at some point. Kalil turns out to be the biggest threat.
  • Bigger Bad: Paul Smoke becomes this in Series Two. He dies fairly early on, but his murder of a random mook under his command cause said mook's brother to try Avenging the Villain, putting the duo at risk from beyond the grave.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Scarlett starts as a Damsel in Distress. However she attacks her husband due to problems with the ransom and kills him, then frames Sam and Phil for it, forcing them to recover the MacGuffin for her.
    • Carlos Espinosa initially appears to be reasonable for a drug baron, but unsurprisingly this turns out not to be the case. He uses Sam and Phil as drug mules, gets them imprisoned and then tries to get them to murder a fellow inmate, threatening them with a violent death.
    • Kalil appears to be quite affable, but his job as a secret agent mean that he can be quite ruthless. Nope, that was a well-fabricated cover story. He's a greedy mercenary that backstabbed his crew for a chance to get all the profits.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Episode five. Helicopters and agents pointing guns at them and Phil is all ready to go out with a bang.
  • Book Ends:
    • At both ends of the first series, the protagonists fist bump, and both times Phil berates Sam for not exploding it.
    • The start of the second series starts at a church during a funeral. It ends at the same church. The start has the coffins of Sam and Phil dragged out, the end has them walking back in now that they're done Faking the Dead.
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • This is how Marat Malankovic dies in the penultimate episode of Series 1.
    • How Paul Smoke meets his end in Series Two. Later inflicted by Kalil to a fellow member of his crew.
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to Scarlett when she is kidnapped. Later Sam and Phil do this to Jason when holding him hostage. Happens to a cleaner so an agent can infiltrate the building. Finally happens to Lizzie.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Scarlett ends up killing her husband, then framing Sam and Phil for it.
    • Kalil basically is required to do this in his role as an undercover agent. That itself turns out to be a lie when he backstabs his team for profit and kills them, reveals that he's not a hero at all, then tries killing Sam and Phil.
  • The Comically Serious:
    • This is what saves some of the villains from total Knight of Cerebus status.
    • The higher-ups in the intelligence services.
  • Comically Small Bribe: When Sam and Phil are refused information on the car crash victim. Needless to say it doesn't work.
    Phil: How about now? That's £2.20, right there.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Subverted. Scarlett is set up as one when she is kidnapped until she jumps across from one building to another with relative ease and kills her husband to frame Sam and Phil.
    • However played straight with Lizzie, who is held hostage so Sam delivers the documents.
    • The second season implies this will happen again with Lizzie. Subverted when it turns out the unnamed Russian mook was simply using the bus to travel, and gets off without doing any kidnapping.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy:
    • Kalil turns out to be quite the mastermind when he enacts his plan. Gives the rest of the team unloaded weapons so they can't fight back when he makes his move? Check. Decides to simply hand over the chemicals rather than forge a bomb and use it for his own ends? Check, although since he can't make a bomb using the chemical he can't make quite as much money. Ends up with a standoff, when someone threatens to drop the case if he shoots them? Simply threaten to shoot their best friend, who doesn't have the same leverage. Leaves a tracker on the containment device? Check.
    • Espinosa is a fan of reminding people what happens if they fail him, and when he thinks someone is going to testify, he sends one of his lawyers on their behalf to try and convince them that they are making a bad decision.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first series, while dark in some places, started on a humorous note and kept the stakes lower. The second, by contrast, opens with an attempted car bombing, forces the characters to fake their deaths and migrate to the States, and then continues with Phil's mum at risk of dying from heart problems.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Marat Malankovic, sort of. What he does to Sam comes close to molestation, although his sexual advances become more respectful once he learns that Sam is not, in fact, the prostitute he hired.
  • Dirty Cop: In Series 2, when an inmate prepares to try and stab Sam in the telephone line, a guard puts his hat over the security camera.
  • The Dragon:
    • Scarlett is this to her father.
    • The Amoral Attorney is this to Espinosa in Series 2.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Played for Laughs in the final episode of the first series, when the right-hand man emerges and shouts "I'm not dead", then tries shooting at Phil.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted. When Scarlett attacks her husband she accidentally kills him.
  • Embarrassing Password: Phil speculates that Lizzie's password is 'samhasnopubes'.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Mr Lau is pissed off when he finds out that his nephew is being held hostage.
    • Paul Smoke has a Villainous Breakdown when he realises that his family are screwed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Mr Lau may kidnap, but he tries to keep to his bargains. A case of Poor Communication Kills means that Phil accidentally screws them over, forcing them to run when Lau gets pissed off.
    • When Phil tells the other inmates at a prison Sam killed a kid they seem horrified, so he quickly says it was a goat.
  • Evil All Along:
    • In Series One, Scarlett turns out to be capable of murder and tries framing the duo for an Accidental Murder she committed. Later, Paul Smoke turns out to be working for a foreign agency.
    • In Series 2, Kalil reveals his backstory is fake and that he's a mercenary like the others.
  • Eye Scream: The Neo-Nazi Nathan Cross in the second series has a glass eye in place of his missing left one. Obtaining it becomes a plot point when Espinosa orders the two to kill him and steal it, and during a prison riot Phil cuts it out (after said prisoner had been mortally wounded).
  • Faking the Dead: Both Sam and Phil have to do this in Series Two, after an attempted car bombing.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Carlos Espinosa appears to be a fatherly drug baron, saying that he'll help Sam and Phil back to the UK because he's sentimental and likes the challenge. This, unsurprisingly, turns out to be false.
    • Nathan Cross is an unpleasant Neo-Nazi and a violent criminal, but he can come across as surprisingly polite when he wants to.
  • Foreshadowing: The animations that run alongside the end credits recap the events of the episode, but conclude with a hint to what happens next. Edges into Trailers Always Spoil.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Episode four: some characters are speaking in Chinese with English subtitles. One character exclaims "f**k" in English, with Chinese subtitles.
  • Gambit Pileup: Series one has the triads, the town council conspiracy, and the Russian mole Paul Smoke. They are linked, but only tangentially. Given the tone of the series, it's a parody of overcomplicated thriller plots.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Phil understands the clichés of the thriller and spy genre, although sometimes he goes into Wrong Genre Savvy.
    • When Paul Smoke is asking Marat Have You Told Anyone Else?, Marat gets defensive and asks why the former needs to know.
  • Good Is Not Nice:
    • Agent Jack Walker and Cox are both firmly on the side of good, but they aren't entirely pleasant. Cox in particular is willing to force two individuals to go into hiding and leave their lives behind for good, rather than put them under surveillance and try to let things return to normal.
    • Agent Miller is willing to let the duo testify about their dealings with Espinosa and ultimately is committed to taking him down, but until their story is vetted they go into jail, where they both get some bad injuries and nearly killed.
    • Kalil is working with French intelligence services to stop terrorists from stealing dangerous chemicals, but has no objection to killing guards to maintain his cover. Nope, he's Evil All Along.
  • Harassing Phone Call: One of these at the start of the first episode sets up the whole narrative when Sam answers it. Another in the second episode kindly asks Phil to lie down or be shot.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Paul Smoke asks this to Marat in the penultimate episode of Series 1, though ultimately Marat is too Genre Savvy to reveal this. He still dies anyway.
  • Hospital Gurney Scene: In the first episode, in an attempt to find Mr. Stevens, Sam pretends to be a patient, and Phil a doctor pushing him along. It goes inevitably wrong; two gurneys get accidentally swapped. When Phil finds out that as a result, Sam is going to get his leg amputated, a mad rush ensues when Phil and his new patient try to get to the operating table in time.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Wise Mans, Running Mans, Wanted Mans, Dead Mans, etc.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Pretty much everyone who reviews the show starts by commenting on how irritating the title is to say. One reviewer stated that it sounds like 'you've turned into a LOLcat halfway through'. James Corden confirmed that this was to remind people of the show being a dramedy, not a straight-up drama.
  • Karma Houdini: Even at the end of the second series, the triads have seemingly gotten away scot-free.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you're an American and try to watch the series on Hulu, the website gleefully advertises that at the beginning of series two, the main characters are in witness protection in Texas.
  • Matrix Raining Code: Shown on the military intelligence display in S1E5. It appears to be in JavaScript with the purpose of rendering a web page, and is printed in a woefully unsuitable font for coding.
  • Mistaken for Badass: The team of mercenaries that break out Sam and Phil in the second series think that they are a pair of expert bomb-makers. In reality, the two bomb-makers were moved to somewhere else in the prison for their protection.
  • Mistaken Identity: Hoo boy, where to begin...
  • Mood Whiplash: Being a dramedy, this happens a fair amount. It's particularly jarring in the first series, but the second manages to make it less so.
  • Mugged for Disguise: A cleaner in episode 3. However the agent is already mostly in disguise and only takes their hat.
  • Neck Snap: Paul Smoke finishes off a mook this way. This prompts his brother to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: In episode 4, the music box has been placed in a room full of music boxes. It's not intentionally hidden, but as Phil has no idea what the music box he's seeking looks like, it may as well be.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Inverted. The series is set in the very real Berkshire area of Bracknell but was actually filmed in neighbouring county, Surrey. It should also be noted that Berkshire hasn't have a County Council since 1998.
  • Oh, Crap:
    • The third episode when Scarlett realises that her husband sold a music box of vital importance.
    • The duo have this reaction when the mercenary team that break them out have nothing to do with Espinosa.
  • Police Are Useless: While the titular duo end up doing a fair bit, this is averted at points. A pair of police officers save Sam and Phil from a car bomb in the opening of the second series, the service manages to catch Kalil with some help, and then a random officer tasers the Russian in the back, before he can shoot Sam. They also have a role in taking down Espinosa.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In the second series, Nathan Cross is a Neo-Nazi and proud of it. Phil lampshades it and uses it as reason to advocate his potential murder.
  • Prison Rape: Discussed seriously in the second series, when the duo end up imprisoned in Texas, USA, on suspicion of being willing drug mules.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Cox, while a classic case of Good Is Not Nice, is not entirely heartless and is willing to listen to an argument if lives are on the line. When she forces Sam and Phil to relocate to Texas, she at least gets them in a job that they can survive in and has an agent drop off things from home they might be missing, such as tea and biscuits.
    • The police officers in the second series save Sam and Phil from a car bombing. Later, they notice the fact that the two are in the city centre despite being legally declared dead, save Sam again and buy him ample time to escape, so he can return to life as normal.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Phil gets to the operating table just in time, he gives an incredible speech to the doctors who nearly amputated Sam's leg which nearly makes the situation seem serious for a brief moment.
  • Running Gag:
    • Phil's insistence on CPR even when it becomes clear that the victim is too far gone for it to be any use.
    • Phil doesn't work for the council, he just works in the building.
  • Sequel Hook: The car bomb at the end of series 1.
  • Slashed Throat: How Nathan Cross dies in Series 2.
  • Snow Means Love: Phil's relationship with his new girlfriend Rosa gets cemented when she contacts him at the end to tell him she never believed his lies but loves him anyway and it starts snowing on his end of the phone call (though not on hers because she's in Texas).
  • Taking the Bullet: Sam does this for Phil in the final episode of Series 1, though it turns out that Phil was wearing a bulletproof vest.
  • Title Drop: In the finale of the second series, the brother of the unnamed mook in Series One asks Sam if he is "the wrong mans", in this case referring to who the real killer is.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sam and Phil. Pretty standard for this type of plot. By episode 6, they have beat up several people, dodged numerous bullets, escaped pursuits from several spy agencies, leapt onto a moving train, and taken out an assassin on a motorcycle—just to name a few. They manage to look badass even with go-carting apparel on when they walk into the Black Tie event.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The two protagonists work in Berkshire County Council (now fictional; it split into six unitary authorities in 1998). This works against them when they hide a hostage in a large, rarely used room; a meeting is held there later that day which neither of them are aware of.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Well, "saccharine" would be the wrong word, but the villains are still taken rather seriously, even by Black Comedy standards.
  • Wham Line:
    • "This isn't my phone", from the first episode.
    • The end of the first half of the second series has "Who the hell is Carlos?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Even by the end of the second series, what happened to the Triads is not fully addressed.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: This actually becomes a plot point in the second series, when one part of the Big Bad Ensemble turns out to be the brother of the mook that had his neck snapped courtesy of Paul Smoke. When he finds the person that he believes to be responsible, he furiously asks why they did what they did. In an ironic twist, he actually killed the person responsible right at the start.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Cox is furious when she discovers that Sam and Phil are trying to use a potentially lethal chemical as leverage to make sure they can return home. The two are by this point so angry that they call her out in turn and point out that, all things considered, she's not one to talk.
  • Working with the Ex: Sam and Lizzie both work at the Berkshire County Council. It is made even more awkward when Lizzie is also introduced as Sam's boss on the Bracknell project.