Ricky Gevais’ pilot episode of Derek on Channel 4 is potentially controversial and potentially funny but ends up being neither.

A man with learning difficulties who works in an old people’s home doesn’t sound like a recipe for a hilarious comedy and, of course, it’s not.

In this Mockumentary he is one of the members of staff who are working with those who, not to put a fine point on it, are waiting to die.

It’s quite a brave topic and shows that Gervais is not interested in glitzy lives of the rich and famous. The difficulty is that Gervais is now rich and famous himself and it’s always harder for a somebody to play a nobody.  Karl Pilkington as the dour “I can’t see the point” caretaker Douglas doesn’t have this problem and  as a result his character is more believable.

It has something in common with the plays and monologues of Alan Bennett whose portraits of old folks always managed to find some funny-sad detail that made you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

I suspect this is the effect Gervais wants but,while I don’t doubt his compassion for the subject matter , he’s simply not such a gifted writer and his acting here is too mannered to make you forget you’re watching a successful comedy performer pretending to be loveable nerd who’s “not clever or good-looking but kind”.

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