With a working title of “The Offenders,” the six-part series will follow a group of seven strangers from different walks of life who are forced to together to complete a community payback scheme. Set in Bristol, England, the show will follow the group, revealing their back stories as they are forced to unite to protect one of their number from a dangerous gang.
The producers said it is “part crime thriller, character study, and a state-of-the-nation commentary – with humor and heart.” Merchant will direct and co-star in the series. His shingle, Four Eyes, will produce alongside ITV-backed Big Talk.
The BBC has the U.K. rights and will launch the one-hour show on its flagship BBC One channel and iPlayer streaming service. Amazon has the series for the U.S. and Canada, and Australia.
“’The Offenders’ is a long-standing passion project for me,” said Merchant. “Ever since ‘The Office,’ 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.”
Merchant added that the “mix of light and shade, dark and comic, middle-class angst with inner-city grit” in the series reflects his partnership with 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,” he said. “Despite coming from different sides of the tracks, Elgin and I share a love of convincing characters and authentic, engaging, human stories.”