I like Ricky Gervais. I loved The Office and Extras. I think An Idiot Abroad is a work of art, although that is mainly down to Karl Pilkington. I even think he hits the spot now and again with his stand up comedy.
In thirty five confusing, pea brained, mealy mouthed, poorly thought out minutes last night he undid all that good work with his latest offereing 'Derek'. Thirty five minutes of confusing, poorly acted nonsense that was billed as a 'comedy / drama'. Unfortunately this mean spirited and unlikeable piece of television offered neither. As far as i could make out it was Gervais in a comedy cardigan, with a comedy comb-over, jutting his chin out and shuffling around the place. The problem with that is Gervais is just not a good enough actor to pull it off. Dustin Hoffman as Rainman? Yes. Ricky Gervais as Derek? No. It says something about your limited ability when you're acted off the screen by Karl Pilkington in a wig.
As far as I'm concerned if you're going to portray an eccentric and obviously mentally disabled middle aged man and try and play it for laughs you at least have to try and appeal to the viewers sense of pathos. Gervais was as far away from hitting the spot than a Fernando Torres potshot at goal. Therefore i sat there perplexed as to exactly what he was trying to say. Were we meant to laugh at Derek? Were we meant to laugh with him? Were we not meant to laugh at all and realise halfway through that the joke was on us for finding any of it amusing? If anyone can offer an answer to these questions I'd be intrigued to hear it because i still can't fathom it out. Perhaps Gervais should have treated himself to a DVD copy of 'That Peter Kay Thing'. The Episode 'Leonard' where Kay plays an old eccentric man and Britain's oldest paperboy was dripping in pathos. He knew where to play it for laughs and where to stop it in it's tracks and tug at the heartstrings. Gervais decided that doing a comedy fall into a garden pond was the level he wanted to pitch Derek at. The only time he came within a mile of showing a delicate touch was when he arrived back at the old peoples home with his lottery tickets only to be informed that his old lady friend had died. For a brief moment we saw what might have been before he reverted to hamming up the comedy walk and jutting his comedy chin out even further.
The signs were there with 'Lifes Too Short' which i managed to persevere with for one episode. Not because i found it particularly offensive but because it was achingly shit and unfunny. At the moment watching Gervais trying to be edgy and difficult is like watching your favourite band put out a double album of freeform jazz and white noise. He appears to have no-one around him to say 'Ricky, that is absolute bollocks and if you commit it to film you're going to undo ten years of undeniable brilliance'.
Gervais has said in the past ‘just because someone is offended it doesn’t mean they’re right’ and he's absolutely correct. Although if you're going to try and offend people at least do it with a sense of style and panache and at the very least be funny.
Rob H - 2012