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.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Suicide Squad: Leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote