Derek, TV review: It's time to see the funny side of Ricky Gervais' kind character
They're getting a bit tiring, all these losers. Of course, no one liked Reggie Perrin because they thought he was an alpha male but at least he had a bit of vim to him when he got mad. Likewise, Fawlty, Trotter, Partridge and Brent all thought they had a bit of something going for them. Which is why we're happy laughing at them.
There's been a run of British sitcoms in the past year or two, Man Down, Drifters, Uncle, where the protagonist is, frankly, a bit of a loser. The joke's on them. And don't they just know it. Which is fine – all three of those shows were rather good. It's just that their genesis was more Mark Corrigan than Jez Usborne. But sometimes you want someone to rage against the dying of the light a bit more. Even if it's a misplaced rage.
The genius of David Brent, of course, was the disconnect between his idea of himself as a chilled-out entertainer and the reality. In Ricky Gervais's Derek, which returned to Channel 4 for a second series tonight, the disconnect is there all right, but for nursing-home helper Derek Noakes, it's a disconnect between being normal and "lucky" and the fact that he is a little intellectually below par. But Derek isn't raging, he's coping. Just about.
The debate over whether Derek was mocking disabled people dominated the show's first run on Channel 4, with the actor suggesting that, with Derek being his fictional creation and all, only he could decide whether or not he had a disorder like autism. A fair argument, but one that sidesteps the basic subjectivity of art. It's not like if Van Gogh insisted that no, actually, that's a vase of rhododendrons, we'd be obliged to agree.
The trouble isn't Derek's condition, or lack of, it's Derek himself. He feels like a cartoon in a world of verisimilitude. His insights ("You never see, like, a lazy ant") are funny and call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf observations on Gervais's podcasts but the way his slowness is translated into his sweet and kind character ("I thinks of", "I wishes I") feels more at home in a teenage theatre workshop than in primetime.
There's certainly a good show here, though. Where better to mine pathos than a financially struggling old people's home? Karl Pilkington is brill as eagle-haired handyman Dougie ("Don't kill it? What do you want me to do with it, deport it?" he asked Derek of a huge spider). Colin Hoult, too is fantastic as a possibly deranged ex-squaddie Geoff, who we witnessed explaining "humanzees" to a bewildered Derek.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1, review: Cosy familiarity and real surprises are perfectly in step
Game of Thrones named most-pirated TV show of 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE over 'religious mistakes'
Marilyn Manson breaks silence on Lana Del Rey rape clip: 'I wouldn't make a video of that nature'
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Douglas Carswell tells Ukip to stop blaming foreigners as youth poll shows Nigel Farage is even less popular than Nick Clegg