Ricky Gervais is known for going closer to the bone than a dad to a chicken carcass – but has he gone too far this time?
Last night, I went to see a pilot screening of Rickly Gervais' latest sitcom Derek.
Derek Noakes is the protagonist in what can only be described as a touching comedic portrayal of a simpleton who works in a retirement home.
Derek will no doubt cause controversy if or when it gets commissioned, as some people may see it as Ricky poking a stick at the mentally ill. However, this is very much not the case.
The cleverest part of the comedy is the thinly-veiled double entendre; on one hand, you might find cheap laughs in a mentally challenged man falling into a pond, but on the other hand you might find more rewarding comedy concealed in Derek's interpretations of the world that surrounds him. Either way, it doesn't take long before all threat is dispersed and you've established a tenable connection to Derek.
The comedy does flirt heavily with slapstick which, although felt at times a tad old-hat, did get big laughs from the audience and also helped to lighten up the grotesque overtone.
I was very interested to see how Gervais would handle playing the part of Derek. He has always been nothing short of brilliant at reaching into the far corners of his own psyche, plucking out egos and natural vulgarity before turning off all social filters and and laying them out in all their vile, unrelenting glory – so how would he play the polar opposite?
Derek is devoid of ego, and his naive lack of self-awareness and selflessness is what strongly endears the viewer to him so effectively. Gervais is adept in ensuring the comedic darkness is prevalent in the context, and never in the apparent questionable mental health of Derek. You'll laugh at his circumstances, warped interpretations and opinions, but never at him.
This must have been a challenge for Gervais, both in the writing, directing and acting, but he pulls it off.
Karl Pilkington also plays a leading roll as a janitor called Dougie. He retains his signature disdainful outlook which transcends perfectly into his character.
In summary, Derek is an interesting and somewhat provocative comedy that will no doubt whip up a bit of a storm when it airs on the 12 April…