In the world of Internet streaming, Hulu's original programming is something of a little brother to Netflix, which, in the past year, gained both a solid reputation for original programming (and a Primetime Emmy Award). But with The Wrong Mans, Hulu deserves credit for bringing completely enjoyable oddball British comedies to our TV or, well, computer screens.
Earlier this year, we fell in love with Moone Boy, Hulu's sweetly simple import from the UK's Sky 1, and on Monday, Hulu launched The Wrong Mans, which they co-produced with the BBC. The Wrong Mans stars co-creators Mathew Baynton and James Corden as a couple of regular guys who get caught up in a conspiracy they have nothing to do with when Baynton's character picks up a phone on the side of the road after witnessing a car crash. The premise of some hapless idiots getting in way over their heads is fairly familiar, but it's the performances from Baynton and Corden that make it worth a watch. Corden, in particular, is an actor possessed with the gift of perfect timing, the type of person who opens his mouth and something funny comes out. His character is a 31-year-old "mail distribution assistant" living with his mother, who sees his sort-of friend's misfortune as an opportunity for adventure. The character is bizarre and blustering, though not so much so that he becomes alienating.
For Corden, this show comes on the brink of U.S. stardom. At Brent Lang wrote at The Wrap, Corden's star is huge in the U.K., but he hasn't entirely translated here, even though he was a surprise, yet totally deserving, Tony winner in 2012 for his hysterical One Man, Two Guvnors. (Honestly, this writer has never laughed so hard in a theater.) To further his crossover effort, Corden has the lead role in One Chance, a biopic of Britain's Got Talent winner, Paul Potts, which opens in the U.S. next year. He also has a part in Can a Song Save Your Life? a film that set off a bidding war at the Toronto International Film Festival, and plays The Baker in Rob Marshall's upcoming film adaptation of Into the Woods, arguably the the most important element of that show's huge cast.
Corden, by all means, deserves to be a star here, and from what we've seen so far—the first three episodes, or half the series—The Wrong Mans seems to be a good crash course in just what he does so well, using his whole body to create characters who don't necessarily know their limits but remain sweet at their core. In the second episode, he takes the time to care for his mother while his friend waits outside in a car with an unruly hostage. Corden's character isn't being stupid, he's being kind.
Besides serving as a launching pad for Corden, the show is good enough to earn Hulu a spot on your browser next to Netflix. While the big red giant is currently trouncing its competition, for both Hulu and Corden, it's just a matter of people taking the time to watch.