Whilst the purpose of this blog is primarily to talk about fantasy, manga/anime and science fiction related subjects, I thought that I'd take a break from my usual posting to talk a little about the new one off drama/comedy that was shown on Channel 4 last night, Derek, by Ricky Gervais. It is a show about a man called Derek (hence the title) who works at a care home. Alongside him are Kerry Godliman as Hannah (his co-worker) and the legendary man of (somewhat warped) opinions Karl Pilkington as Dougie the caretaker.
Ricky Gervais is one of these celebrities that you either love or hate, given that he's one of the most arrogant and over the top people you're ever going to meet - in some cases downright annoying. But I do have to be honest, I do actually like Ricky Gervais. He's great at doing observational comedy and, whilst his stuff is sometimes offensive (I'll get to that in a moment), I will admit his stuff usually has me in fits of tears from laughing. He's a guy that speaks his mind and isn't ashamed of it. And let's be honest, he did create The Office - which is still considered one of the funniest and exceptional comedies of all time, so you can't blame him for being a little bit arrogant.
But the problem I find with Ricky is that everything he's done since then (with the possible exception of Extras) has felt like a cheap immitation of The Office. Not only that, but every role he's played in every film he's appear in is just like David Brent, leading me to realise that Ricky may be a one trick pony - however, it's a trick that still keeps us laughing. And whilst his last comedy Life's Too Short was met with many negative reviews, I actually kinda liked it. It wasn't his best work but it did raise a chuckle. However, I will admit that it was pretty much like a clone of The Office in terms of the way it was shot.
And this was the problem with Derek. Again I felt like it was shot too much like The Office - even down to the single head shot interviews. Seems like Ricky is pretty much just stealing from himself now. Not a good sign! Also, most of the humour in the show is based on Ricky acting like an idiot, which we've seen before and done to much better effect in The Office and Extras. Here it just feels like he's trying to hard for laughs.
Even before it's release, Derek received much outrage from people, due to his portrayal of an autistic worker at a care home. Many believed that his performance was derogatory and almost insulting to people with autism. Having met some autistic people in my life, I will say that I did take issue with Ricky's performance. That being said, I don't think he was intentionally being offensive - but it did look that way so I can see why he got so much backlash from it. Ricky is no stranger to contraversy and has been known to offend people (especially his jokes about obesity), so it's not surprising that people would attack him for this.
In actual fact, I don't think this show was as bad as people made it out to be. Admittedly, the comedy was very lacking and just didn't work for me. And Karl Pilkington was pretty much just playing himself (and lets be honest he's funny as he is) so if you've seen him on the Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad you know what to expect. Kerry Godliman was very good and had a lot of emotional depth to her - but she was sadly overlooked for most of the show. Also, I had to groan at her line about "Derek is loved by everyone." Could this be a subtle allegory for Ricky Gervais's own feelings of how people seem to worship him? There is a name for characters like that, Mr Gervais - they are called Mary-Sues!
I think for me the biggest problem with me is that, for a half hour show, it tries to cram too much in. It almost feels like an entire series condensed into a half hour and as such, the plot points just feel rushed and don't have time to settle. That being said, there is a geninuely emotional scene at the end and Ricky does actually do some good acting (yes, he CAN do serious, believe it or not!).
Overall, I don't think the show deserves all the hate it has been getting, but it is by far Ricky's weakest work to date. In some ways I'm glad it's a one off as I think a series of it would be a bad idea. There just isn't anywhere to go with it - unless you think laughing at an autistic person is funny (which I don't).
I give this one a low recommendation. If you're a fan of Ricky Gervais, you may want to check it out on 4 On Demand - but if not you're best off staying away.
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