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The Wrong Mans: “Inside Mans”

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I'm not averse to the tone and mission of The Wrong Mans, but "Inside Mans" is pretty uneven. Last week's "Dead Mans" had a snappier pace and rhythm to it—a pace that made the show funny and entertaining, despite its other flaws.


"Inside Mans" doesn't really get there, though it's still funny, in unexpected ways. The humor mostly comes from Mathew Baynton and James Corden, who are used to playing these characters, and manage to imbue them with a personality that the rest of the show usually lacks. The problem is, the joke of The Wrong Mans is that the joke is always on our main characters, which means that the show's success or failure always rides on them. And even though Phil and Sam are both pretty great, they're not comedic heavyweights in quite the way the show needs.

And that is the major flaw with The Wrong Mans—it's just not heavy enough. It's not something I thought I'd say about a comedy. But where "Dead Mans" made a joke about kidnapping, death, and international espionage, "Inside Mans" is a pulled punch, focusing instead on the humor of Baynton's Sam gyrating for the pleasure of a vaguely drawn foreign criminal. It's funny, but it's also obvious. Wrong Mans' humor derives from two truths: Phil is a bumbling but cheerful idiot, and Sam is a romantic but clueless straight-man. They've both seen enough movies to grasp the general outline of how an action-comedy works. And that's about it. They're the less handsome, less moral, more confused by MacGuffins Boondock Saints.

The show goes through the effort of shifting the Object Of MacGuffinal Quality, episode-to-episode—this week, the cellphone, which then became the money, has now become a music box. It's valuable to someone. Obviously, just as Sam says, "I think things are looking up," we pan out to see how they are actually still pretty screwed. What else is new?

The only thing that changes is Sam's relationship with his current boss and former girlfriend, Sarah, and forgive me, but that's now the only part of the show I look to with interest. The rest of it feels like a cartoon. Seriously—the consequences never quite stick, the deaths are played up for laughs, and our main characters have an elasticity to them that means they never quite learn anything new. The Wrong Mans feels like watching a Roadrunner cartoon, except with two Wile E. Coyotes, and a thousand Roadrunners on the horizon.


Stray observations:

  • "I can't swim!" "Why do you have a pool?" Sam, with the important questions.
  • Lau, the Asian gangster: "You two. I'm going to miss you guys."
  • Phil's mom is my favorite character.

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