Comedy Great? Gervais Is Just a Sniggering Playground Bully; CHRISTOPHER STEVENS LAST NIGHT'S TV

Daily Mail (London), April 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Comedy Great? Gervais Is Just a Sniggering Playground Bully; CHRISTOPHER STEVENS LAST NIGHT'S TV


Byline: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS

Derek * The Call Centre *

RICKY GERVAIS and Nev Wilshire are locked in a contest to decide which of them is the most thoroughly obnoxious man in Britain.

Gervais staked his claim with the return of Derek (C4), an unfunny sitcom set in a nursing home. The weakness of the humour, which mostly consisted of people reciting medical terms for genitalia and looking embarrassed, was the least of its offence.

This show is the most rancid dollop of insincere gloop ever served

up on telly. It's written and directed by its star, a man who thinks the entire population is too gullible to see him sniggering behind his hand.

Gervais encouraged his millions of followers on Twitter to mock people he labelled 'mongs' -- an offensive term short for Mongolism, that was once applied to people with Down's syndrome. He claimed the defence of naivety in his use of the term.

He posted countless selfies online with his hair brushed forward and his lower jaw protruding. He's probably been getting cheap laughs from his cronies with that look ever since, I imagine, he was a grotty little playground bully.

That's still what he is, but now he's learned to be the teacher's pet, too. Thanks to The Office, a classic but short-lived comedy in Britain that spawned a long-running success in America, he thinks he is untouchable.

Derek would surely not have been recommissioned if it weren't for Gervais's fame in the U.S. -- the show has been a major hit with ondemand viewers via Netflix, the internet TV giant which has already bought the second series.

The contempt the comedian shows his audience is blatant, as he shuffles around in Derek with his fringe plastered over his forehead and his bottom teeth plucking at his upper lip.

He thinks he can get away with it by making the character sweet and trusting -- as if we'll forget all the vile language he used to bandy around, because now he's playing gormless and kind.

But I see nothing but bullying -- he still wants to shout: 'Look at me, I'm a moron!' and win applause for it.

He's lazy, though. In the first series, he worked hard to convince people his empathy with Derek was sincere. This time, he can't be bothered.

He slips in and out of character: sometimes he's the gentle, stuttering carer, and at others he's just Ricky Gervais in an acrylic cardigan, with a glint in his eye and a sarcastic quip on his lips.

The rest of the cast do what they can. Kerry Godliman as the home's manager Hannah makes the best of her lines, though her main job is to look admiringly at Gervais and remind us how marvellous he thinks he is. …

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