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Karl Pilkington and RIcky Gervais in 'Derek'
Karl Pilkington and Ricky Gervais in ‘Derek’

We first brought you this picture back in March, when it still seemed urgent and important to reveal the very latest puff and scrape from the fountainous comic mind of Ricky Gervais. It’s taken from the pilot show of his new series Derek, which aired on the British Channel 4 at around that time, and received a warm enough reception to secure a whole series.

The plot of the show is that Ricky plays a man called Derek who works in a nursing home. He is not like other people, which has itself been a hot topic of debate. Ricky says Derek doesn’t have a learning disability, he’s just a simple man with a good heart, so any criticism from disability campaigners – and there has been a fair bit of it – is misplaced. He is, however, something of a social outcast, someone whose  difference from other people is a key part of why he is supposed to be funny, so maybe it doesn’t matter if he has a condition or not. He’s the holy fool, and that’s that.

Having seen the pilot, it’s still unclear what Derek is about. Where The Office poked fun at reality TV stars getting ideas above their station, and Extras poked fun at extras getting ideas above their station, and Life’s Too Short poked fun at actors getting ideas above their station, Derek doesn’t really poke fun at anything, unless you count the subtext that different can be nice too, which struggles to be heard amid all the “LOOK AT THE HOLY FOOL!” silliness.

Here’s a weird trailer/outtakes hybrid thing that has been released to promote the new series, and serves to prove three things:

1: Ricky Gervais’s Derek face, y’know, the stuck out lower chin and sagging mouth, is a poor substitute for just acting the character properly.

2: Same with all this “I likes” business. That’s just standard yokel shorthand, and he sounds rightly embarrassed for doing it.

3: When Karl Pilkington in a bad wig is the most convincing presence in an on screen reality, something’s gone awry somewhere.

Oh and 4: Why the outtakes? If this is so great, we don’t need ’em. And if the production team know it’s a flawed presentation, why not fix it instead of nudge-winking to camera?

There again, it’s clearly a different sort of show, perhaps not as immediately appealing as other Ricky Gervais products, but not to be dismissed unduly until we all come to realise what a good heart it has, and learn not to judge TV shows by their trailers.

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By Fraser McAlpine