Ricky Gervais had the last laugh - last night's pilot show Derek confounded his PC critics by playing the simple-minded title character in a manner sympathetic and at times moving.
Unfortunately it was the only one. We have a clearer definition of a Gervais comedy-drama - a sitcom without laughs. Gervais is at the height of his career and can write his own cheques. No one but he could have got the half-hour aired and likely be commissioned for a full series. Derek, the odd, gentle old people's home worker shows Gervais is ready to move on as a writer-actor. The pity is he can't break entirely free of the roots of his success. Hence rolling out the tired faux documentary format again; crude attempts to inject slapstick humour are best forgotten. Gervais's dilemma put me in mind of Tony Hancock's The Punch and Judy Man. Both men were unsatisfied with being recognised as comic geniuses and wanted to say more about the 'human condition.' Audiences, however, for the most part want escape through laughter rather than insight amid tears. They demand their funny men be funny. The failure of Hancock's film marked the beginning of the decline in his career. Gervais, too, is at a crossroads but fortunately lacks the former's self-destructive drive.
I’m not going into that good night – gentle or any other way – for as long as possible. Hence the launch of this blog in December 2009 a month before my 65th birthday.
Why the blog's name? When my doctor temporarily prescribed statins to reduce my cholesterol levels she told me to exclude grapefruit from my diet. I received the profoundest sense of my own mortality.
I’ve never liked grapefruit but now banned they called to me siren-like from supermarket shelves.
Forbidden grapefruit, it can only be a short step until my body was denied solid food and then oxygen itself.
Originally a cultural blog subtitled last stop before the abyss, after building a large archive, I re-launched in a new guise in March 2012 and again in April 2014.
My interests are widespread; by nature I prefer to look forward rather than back. I’m male; divorced with grownup children; a retired national newspaper journalist; and a Londoner. GC