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on 12 October 2015
There's an interesting convsersation around "Derek" that invites a logical mis-step. That if you criticise a harmless tale of a chap with clear learning difficulties and his love for kindess and animals, you're by implication some kind of unfeeling monster. I'm sure there have been genuinely moving and interesting explorations of disability, of old age and of the precariousness of being sensitive, selfless or vulnerable in an unfeeling society. This isn't one of them.
The whole thing feels like a tortured riposte to an argument someone had already lost. That argument, I feel, was probably Mr Gervais's choice use of the word "mong" in one of his comments before this series was really even thought about. This is evidence of a state of denial that can only be borne from a monstrous ego being pricked. If you can be bothered, watch the original genesis of the "Derek" character on Youtube, and see if you can detect any of the subsequent pathos, "kindness" or gentle, feel-good sensibility that has tried to be injected into this. It's not there, but then there wasn't an argument to win back then; there wasn't credibility to rescue. If the original barb had been aimed at gay people, you know for a fact that Derek would have been a flamboyant but lovable homosexual. "See?" invites Gervais, "I can't fear them! I played one in my show. I'm on their side!".
Trying desperately to focus on the product rather than the context, it does raise a few smiles here and there. So did "On the Buses". In the absence of any real invention or wit, you end up with a series of willy jokes, and contrived plot devices against the backdrop of some old people who bravely wrestle some dignity out of the often head-patting script. Karl Pilkington, presumably on seeing the direction this ship was sailing, hopped out at the first available port and took with him any genuine humour or integrity. The plot veers between saccharine, pointless, boring, grotesque and bewildering, and appears to have been made up as they went along in places.
The world would not be any worse if this had never existed. It's not any better for it either, which is surely the most damning assessment you can make of any creative endeavour.