New series of Derek begins

Ricky Gervais as Derek

Ricky Gervais’ comedy/drama Derek returned to UK television last week, this time for a full series. The pilot had apparently been controversial for some, but I just remember being pleasantly surprised by Gervais’ kind but coarse treatment of delicate issues such as disability and the care profession. He did so in a way that was both heartwarming, without ever becoming saccharine, and simple, without ever being boring. A lot of critics seemed unconvinced, but I think they were missing the point, assuming that Gervais was either taking cheap shots at vulnerable people, or that he was attempting some sort of ‘clever’ post-modern ‘so-shit-its-cool’ maneuver.  But this is a sitcom only in the loosest definition of the term, and the only people Gervais is deliberately mocking, are those who get offended mainly as a cover for their own thinly-veiled prejudices. I read a rather scathing review of Derek in The Daily Telegraph today. Nuff said.

The first episode had me laughing out loud a few times, it is definitely very funny – but as with the pilot, the new material is as much to do with empathy as it is to do with cracking jokes. Maybe this is where some of the show’s critics are left wanting. They don’t seem to understand that Gervais is taking the piss out of them. He’s having a go at how, when we see someone we perceive to be different to ourselves, we feel the need to categorise them, and that that category can stop us seeing them as real people – with interests, passions, quirks, humour and emotion.

Coupled with his genuine love for the character, it is palpable that Gervais has created Derek in order to get across his statement about society’s attitudes. When the pilot of this show aired in Spring 2012, a lot of people (critics and newspaper columnists in particular) speculated that the character is Autistic – something which Gervais has denied in the press previously (stating in an interview with The Sun in March last year, ‘I’ve never thought of him as disabled’) and which he brazenly referenced towards the end of the first episode of this series. When a Council representative visiting the retirement home insensitively questioned Derek as to whether he had ever been tested for Autism, Derek offered a stream of questions about what would happen, should he be Autistic, such as, ‘Would I die?’, ‘Would I have to go into a hospital?’ and ‘Would it change me in any way as a person?’. Having received a ‘no’ to all of these queries, our eponymous hero simply said ‘Don’t worry about it then’. In this small dialogue, which lasted no more than a minute, Gervais perfectly summed up his feelings: so what if Derek is Autistic? Can’t we just enjoy him for the unassuming, kind-natured person he so clearly is without questioning whether he has a disorder or not? For Gervais to reply to his critics so concisely through the mouth of Derek was perfect and ingenious. From: http://uktvreviewer.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/derek-episode-1-1-review/

Gervais isn’t scared of getting political either – the main theme of the first installment is public sector cuts. The care home is threatened with closure due to shrinking budgets, and Gervais does a very good job of humanizing this modern problem. It makes for compelling viewing and a very effective strike against this current trend for passing the world’s economic woes onto those who struggle to look after themselves.

All of the characters in Derek represent those at the very bottom of the modern economic food chain –  low-paid public sector workers, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the unemployed – sections of our communities that have been hit hardest by the Tories’ austerity drive, and subsequently demonized by politicians to justify the attack. Derek forms a much needed antidote to this insidious propaganda, and does so simply by being gentle and honest.

Derek is by no means perfect, and some of the criticisms that have been made of it in other reviews are justified – but I would counter that by noting many may be slamming it because they don’t like the politics. Empathy may be a dirty word now in Tory Britain, but this show is chock full of it – which is exactly why I like it.

Check the first episode out here on 4od:

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derek/4od

The Revolution Will Be Televised

The Revolution WILL Be Televised (Screenshot)
The Revolution Will Be Televised vs. George Osbourne

New BBC comedy series The Revolution Will Be Televised is actually rather good! Like Dom Joly with some more balls, or the Love Police with actual jokes; it is great anarchic fun for all the family, down to earth but with a surprisingly satirical left-wing edge.

Recommended light relief for all those suffering from Tory-itis in these challenging times. If you can’t beat em, laugh at em 😉

Episodes should be up on iPlayer for a few weeks I would’ve thought – here’s a link to their BBC page

Big up the beeb! (and I don’t say that very often)

Rap News 14

That bruise-coloured ceiling of floating misery

“Apologies for swearing in an opening sentence, but have you seen the shitbastard sky we’ve been having lately? In case you don’t recognise it at first glance, it’s that bruise-coloured ceiling of floating misery that has been remorselessly flinging cold water over everyone and everything in the nation for weeks now. There’s moss growing on the inside of clouds up there. The British summer has long been a work of bleak fiction but this year it morphed into full-blown dystopian satire…”

Charlie Brooker is back to full form with a miserablist masterpiece on the shitty british summer. Cheered me up anyway!

Have a goose

The Absurd Contradictions of Capitalism

Absurd Contradictions of Capitalism

Rap News 13

Religulously Funny

Pretty late to the game as always, I know, but I’ve only just seen this film. A no-holds-barred comedic assault on all organised religion, it is both poignant and hilarious (just what you’d expect from the director of Borat, Larry Charles). Bill Maher travels around talking to various religious types, ruthlessly takes the piss out of them and reveals the gaping holes in their beliefs in the process. It is refreshing to see this sort of thing, as religion is considered a no-go area for such treatment by many, and you can rest-assured, Religulous is as deeply offensive as it sounds! I like that kind of thing it must be said. If there’s one thing holding back social progress (aside from the relentless pursuit of profit, of course) it is irrational belief. If you are an Atheist or Agnostic, or you’re just having theological doubts, you definitely should watch this. Or is that just ‘preaching’ to the ‘converted’?

Wiki on the film

This rip is a bit weird as it has been flipped, but it’s still pretty watchable. Que up all 10 parts and enjoy 😉