Can Ricky Gervais return to form with David Brent's revival?


Ten years after he left the office and a Christmas party as excruciating as we had come to expect from Britain’s most cringeworthy paper executive, David Brent is back - fact.

Ricky Gervais has re-trimmed his goatee and dusted off his cheap suit to revive his most famous persona for Comic Relief. He’s previously returned as Brent in brief cameos in the hit US adaptation of The Office.

A trailer for The Office Revisited, a one-off special, shows the former manager at Wernham Hogg in Slough, embarking on a new career as a would-be music mogul.

Selling cleaning products door-to-door to fund his enterprise, Brent and his star signing, a rapper called Dom Johnson, work on a “political reggae” song called "Equality Street".

The return comes after a decade that has seen Gervais’s stock fluctuate with sometimes controversial characters and a flirtation with Hollywood. 

Gervais used his status after The Office to tempt A-list celebrities to send themselves up in Extras. The series was generally well-received, but the comedian’s eye for the mean and the margins of society haven’t always gone down so well.

He shook up Hollywood gentility with edgy turns as host of the Golden Globes, perhaps paving a path for Seth MacFarlane’s divisive Oscars gig on Sunday.

Many critics decided he had crossed that fine line between satire and degradation with Life’s Too Short, starring “showbiz dwarf” Warwick Davis. “Even if you don't find its content degrading, it is simply shoddily derivative,” Robert Epstein wrote in The Independent on Sunday.

Gervais faced similar criticism even before his latest series had aired. In Derek, the comedian plays a care home worker identified by some - but not Gervais - as having learning disabilities. But the series have won praise for showing a sensitivity not always evident in the comedian’s work. 

As Brent, whose one-off return will be broadcast on Red Nose Day, on 15 March, Gervais returns to safer ground. But the salesman-turned-record boss’s capacity to offend with a foray into urban music looks set to remain high, whether or not he revives his trademark dance.

Meanwhile – Brent is ineligible, but what’s the greatest sitcom of the last 30 years?

It’s probably not a question that keeps many people (apart from Ricky Gervais) up at night but New York magazine, the revered home of Tom Wolfe et al is trying to find out who deserves the title.

For reasons not entirely explained, British shows were ineligible but the Sitcom Smackdown is pitting 16 of the greatest sitcoms since Cheers revived the genre (think South Park, The Simpsons, 30 Rock and Arrested Development) against each other to declare a winner, with some of the magazine’s finest writers penning lengthy pieces deciding on the relative merits of Louis CK’s Louie versus Jerry Seinfeld’s Seinfeld. Inexplicably Frasier and Curb Your Enthusiasm aren’t in the final 16.

Last year the magazine did the same with TV dramas since Twin Peaks – the point where American TV drama rose towards greatness - and The Wire (unjustly, if you ask this observer) beat The Sopranos in what New York called the “Drama Derby”.

The idea of arbitrarily facing these labours of televisual love against each other may create spinning in the vicinity of Dennis Potter’s grave. And yes, we all these shows are worth enjoying on their own terms. But where’s the fun in that? And if anything except Seinfeld wins, we’re cancelling our New York subscription…

See the whole Sitcom Smackdown bracket here:

Will Dean

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own