“Imagine the Mission Impossible team but they are British, completely inept, and no way as cool”
Distributor Endemol Shine International
Producer Shiny Button
Length 6 x 30 minutes
Broadcaster ITV2 (UK)
Styled like a James Bond movie, but with a sitcom budget, this spoof action-thriller follows the attempts of a team of British special agents to thwart various plots by Russian villain Vlad.
Created by Shiny Button’s Tom Davis, Andy Brereton and James De Frond – the trio behind BBC3’s Broadcast Digital Award-winning Murder In Successville – Action Team balances drama, comedy and stunts.
Davis, who co-wrote it with De Frond, stars as both hero and villain, supported by a cast that includes Line Of Duty’s Vicky McClure and Hard Sun’s Derek Riddell.
Action Team has the traits of an action-thriller but delivers plenty of humour from moments such as a villain struggling to conduct a video call, or an inept intern training to go undercover.
De Frond, co-writer and director, says: “The aim with Action Team was to make a brilliantly daft James Bond parody: super-slick and cinematic, but totally absurd. Imagine the Mission Impossible team, but they are British, completely inept, and no way as cool as Tom Cruise and co.
“However, as well as undercutting the modern-day action movie, we wanted to create a solid espionage thriller that keeps you hooked until the end. So when there is action, it is proper action and the teams’ adventures are full of surprises.”
Brereton, co-managing director of the Endemol Shine Group indie, says he wanted it to be “British in humour” but global in appeal.
Shiny Button employed various techniques to make it look like a multimillion-pound feature film, including CGI explosions and a widescreen format achieved using an anamorphic lens – a technique also used in Two Brothers’ Fleabag.
Shot in Bulgaria with producer Vessy Banzourkova, who worked on The Expendables 2, each episode is set in a different location, ranging from Vienna to Morocco.
Endemol Shine International chief executive Cathy Payne says the global setting helps to give it international appeal. “Comedy does not always travel because it tends to be quite domestic,” she says.
“The bestselling comedies have always been those with broad audiences: relationship comedies or very authored pieces.”
However, she adds that international sales will ultimately depend on whether the show’s spoof style resonates with audiences. “I think it will appeal to markets that have typically liked that tongue-in-cheek comedy,” she says.
Payne names Australia, New Zealand and the Nordics as examples of these markets and says she also plans to target US streaming services, which have demonstrated an appetite for British comedy. “Look at the success of formats like Catastrophe, Fleabag [both Amazon] and My Mad Fat Diary [Hulu] in the US,” she says.
“The SVoD operators are all looking at British comedy but each has particular strengths in particular forms of comedy.”
Payne anticipates the show will prove most popular in English-speaking markets as a finished tape, accepting it is “uncommon” for comedies to be re-versioned.
She adds that it is likely to appeal to younger viewers. The show aired to an average of 376,000 (2.3%) across its first three parts on ITV, with around one third aged 16-34.
Other shows Endemol Shine will be taking to Mip include Australian cookery series Family Food Fight, Diagonal Televisión’s historical drama La Catedral Del Mar and Dragonfly’s factual series Surgeons: At The Edge Of Life.