Why Hulu’s ‘The Wrong Mans’ is the Best New Comedy of the Year

We’ve all been waiting for a comedy to break out this year, haven’t we? The network offerings are good for a few chuckles, but nothing has stood up, slapped you in the face with its awesomeness and then took you on a cinematic, bromance-fueled adrenaline ride. Until now. Hulu is rolling out the first episode of their British co-production The Wrong Mans created by and starring James Corden (Gavin & Stacey, Doctor Who) and Matthew Baynton (Gavin & Stacey, Spy) today (November 11th), and having seen all six episodes, I promise this isn’t a show you want to miss.

As the cheeky title implies, The Wrong Mans is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock and the long list of filmmakers he inspired over the years from the Coen Brothers to Edgar Wright. Baynton plays Sam a noise guidance adviser for the small town of Berkshire. He hates his job, his ex-girlfriend who he is still in love with is his boss and he seems incapable of expressing anything other than pleasantness. His kindness is his fatal flaw and the driving force that sends him on a deadly adventure that spirals out of control with an impressive amount speed.

Along for the ride is his hapless and hilarious sidekick Phil Bourne (yes, Bourne), a 31-year-old mail room clerk who still lives at home with his mom (played by the always welcome Dawn French). Phil is utterly alone at the start of the story until he latches onto Sam’s offer to go go-karting with him. This one invitation leads to the two men being entangled in a conspiracy littered with enough twists and MacGuffins to supply a half dozen Hitchcock films. It all begins with Sam answering a phone he finds in the snow only to hear a voice on the other line threatening to kill the owner’s wife.

From there we descend into events that teeter between farcical (see Sam making elevator small talk with a man who only a few hours before tried to kill him) and intense (see all of episode five). Shockingly, the danger always feels real. There may be pop culture gags galore, movie references and perfectly timed quips, but this is comedy with a body count. There’s blood everywhere, an up close and personal bullet-removal scene and lots of dead guys who can’t be saved by being put into the recovery position, much to Phil’s chagrin. It’s the balance between violence, male bonding and laughs that will remind viewers strongly of director Edgar Wright’s hit films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, a loose trilogy with the similarly mismatched duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Well all of that, plus the impressive use of smash cuts.

The comedy’s only flaw is in its over reliance on familiar emotional beats. If you’ve seen the aforementioned movies you know the mismatched best friends must go through certain motions–quiet moments of bonding, a brief falling out–and the show doesn’t put much of a twist on the well-worn tropes. If Phil and Sam’s friendship had evolved in a more creative way, The Wrong Mans would be a full five star event, filled with espionage, suspense and Fight Club jokes.

This small offense doesn’t take away from the show’s overall effectiveness or the inherent chemistry between Corden and Baynton. Baynton’s quiet twitchiness is the perfect counterbalance to Corden’s manic energy. Together they become a classic duo akin to Abbott and Costello (or Pegg and Frost), stumbling through one crazy situation after another. The humor is witty; full of classic slapstick and pratfalls with a heavy injection of smart writing. There’s very little hope of making sense of the plot, but the confusion works in The Wrong Mans‘ favor. Our heroes have no clue what is happening to them so we must go blindly into the dark with them, falling into chase scenes, Russian parties and hostage situations with no game plan in mind besides not dying, and trust me, the ride is worth it.

The Wrong Mans is the perfect antidote to the network sitcom blahs. A comedy with a cinematic heart and two talented actors/writers at its core. We couldn’t ask for more, aside from maybe a breathtaking train scene (oh wait, it has one of those too).

The Wrong Mans is available exclusively on Hulu and Hulu Plus. The first two episodes premiere today, Monday, November 11th.

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