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Recommended: The Outlaws on Prime Video

Stephen Merchant's intriguingly off-kilter crime drama benefits from Christopher Walken and the artist Banksy.
  • Stephen Merchant and Christopher Walken in The Outlaws (Photo: Prime Video)
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    The Outlaws Season 1 | Prime Video
    Hourlong Crime Drama (6 Episodes) | TV-MA

    What's The Outlaws About?

    The stakes escalate quickly for seven petty scofflaws in Bristol, UK, who couldn’t be more different but are forced to pull together for their survival.

    Who's involved?

    This BBC One production comes from Stephen Merchant, co-writer with Ricky Gervais of The Office UK and Extras. He plays one of the seven Bristolians serving a community-service sentence cleaning up a trashy playground. (Merchant said he got the idea from real life, as his parents both did community service while living in the southwest England city.) He co-wrote The Outlaws with Elgin James (Mayans M.C.) and plays an unsuccessful lawyer who kicks the series off on a characteristic note by making an awkward faux pas.

    Don’t be fooled, though — this lightly comical situation reminiscent of Alice’s Restaurant soon evolves into a thriller through the effective use of flashbacks involving every character in this solid cast, many of whom will be familiar to fans of UK TV. The standouts are Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) as a spoiled party girl with a dark side and Christopher Walken as a rogueish American who scores some of the funniest observations on the show.

    Rounding out the motley crew are Rhianne Barreto as a “brainy” Indian teen with bad-girl aspirations, Gamba Cole (Hanna) as a young man trying to escape gang life, and Clare Perkins (The Wheel of Time) as a lefty activist who’s pitted against a right-wing-bromide-spewing businessman played by Darren Boyd. Jessica Gunning (In the Dark) plays the supervisor of the work crew and seems to be there as a sop to Merchant fans longing for a character resembling Gervais’ hapless David Brent.

    And oh yes — those Banksy illustrations you see in the opening credits are the real deal. The secretive artist and Bristol native provided art for The Outlaws, including the mural that figures in the first season's jaw-dropping final scene.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    Well-written and engaging, The Outlaws will appeal to viewers who like where television is heading these days — towards more character-driven, tonally varied narratives. Through their backstories we learn that each character has much deeper flaws than their petty offenses suggest, which sets up nicely the payoff in the concluding hour. Ironically, the show that spends much time making fun of conservative talking points reveals a strongly moralistic tone in the end. The stakes may be high for the “outlaws” of this series but, at just six episodes, it’s an easy, low-stakes call for fans of British dramedy.

    Pairs well with

    • Hello Ladies, Merchant's short-lived HBO comedy in which he played a website designer on the prawl in Los Angeles. 
    • We Are Lady Parts (Peacock), an appealing Britcom about an all-teen, all-Muslim punk rock girl band.
    • Barry (HBO Max), the acclaimed dark comedy starring Bill Hader as a hit man and Henry Winkler as his acting coach.

  • The Outlaws (Season 1)
    Complete first season drops on Amazon Prime Video Friday, April 1
    Co-written by Stephen Merchant and Elgin James.
    Starring: Christopher Walken, Stephen Merchant, Eleanor Tomlinson, Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Jessica Gunning, Darren Boyd, and Clare Perkins.

    TOPICS: The Outlaws, Prime Video, Christopher Walken, Clare Perkins, Darren Boyd, Eleanor Tomlinson, Elgin James, Gamba Cole, Jessica Gunning, Rhianne Barreto, Stephen Merchant, Stephen Merchant