Yesterday, Ricky came out with some news that I’m honestly not thrilled about. He’s said, on his blog, that he doesn’t plan to continue with the Ricky Gervais Show, Life’s Too Short or with An Idiot Abroad after this year.
I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, as this past year was the first time he ever did any project that lasted beyond two seasons and a Christmas special. As for the Ricky Gervais Show, which takes bits from his popular podcast with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, he claims he has gone through the best stuff from the original podcasts for the show, so it’s really about running out of material.
But I think it’s mostly about a fear of commitment. He wants to have these perfect little runs with everything he does, so he backs out just as they’re sort of hitting their stride. Going out on a high note I guess. And I think some US shows could maybe take a page from his book (Veronica Mars, I’m looking at you), but it also is a bit annoying to constantly get attached to a project he’s doing and then it’s over two minutes later.
Ricky said he will do two specials to end An Idiot Abroad. I’m not 100% clear on whether these specials are the same as the ‘Short Way Round’ project he is working on, where Karl and Warwick Davis travel about on a scooter. I suspect they are one in the same, because how long can you film those two on a scooter? First of all, it’s a scooter, so they’re not going to be traveling the world at a very high rate of speed. It’s meant to be a spoof on the popular British shows Long way Round and Long Way Down, which featured Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman on motorcycles doing epic trips around the globe. But they could go a proper 80 miles per hour on good roads. How’s a Vespa going to fair in the Sahara? We’ll have to wait and see. Even if they’re epic trek is from London to the Cotswolds, I’ll be tuning in.
As for Life’s Too Short, they have confirmed a second season and Ricky said he has written a finale, so it will follow the two seasons and a
Christmas Easter special pattern. To be expected, really.
Ricky did mention a lot of new projects he’s working on. The main one is a show called Derek, which he shot a pilot for Channel 4 in the UK earlier this year, and he will be producing a few more episodes later in the year. He has said he wants a US airing, and I’m sure it’s in negotiations. My guess would be with HBO, as aired his comedy specials, Ricky Gervais Show, and Life’s Too Short. Plus, you can swear.
My only concern with this show is that it doesn’t seem as accessible to an American audience as the others he’s made.
The show features Ricky as Derek, a potentially intellectually sub-normal retirement home worker, and also has Karl in his acting debut as the janitor/handyman type at the retirement home.
There was a lot of controversy when it first came out because people have accused Ricky of playing up a mental disability for laughs, but Ricky says that Derek is not disabled, only a bit slow. I think a lot of the criticism has died down since the pilot aired.
My concerns with an American audience are that:
a-it seems very entrenched in an aspect of British society that doesn’t usually make it to this side of the pond. The lives of the uneducated, the decidedly not-posh, the poor. The type of people you see in the supermarket or something and you know they are either not trying to live an active life, or they are unaware of the impression they’re putting out. Usually, the shows that make it to the US feature at least educated professionals, if not the out and out wealthy.
b-We are a lot more sensitive to p.c.-ness on this side of the pond. I remember being absolutely shocked at the blatant sexual harassment in the Office, and I know that’s not something that would fly on an American show. Ricky himself has said that for the US Office all the characters had to be much more likeable than they were in the original show. So I think the controversy over Derek in the UK will be more of a big deal here.
Even if he is not purposefully portraying a disabled man, he is obviously portraying a man of sub-par intelligence, and he is walking a very thin line between making that character loveable and heartwarming, and playing up his stupidity for a laugh. Ricky likes to toe that line in all of his work. But I think there’s a big difference with this. In Life’s Too Short, you would find yourself laughing at Warwick Davis’ character. You wouldn’t be laughing at him for being a little person, but for being a smart person doing incredibly stupid things. In Derek, you have someone of normal intelligence playing someone of below average intelligence, and you are meant to laugh at him for being a bumbling moron. There’s a big difference in that, for me. You’re meant to care about him, and like him, but also laugh at him. I think that we Americans find that much harder than the Brits. Maybe that’s just me?
But I have watched the pilot, which is up on YouTube. I’m not sure the legality of that, but I’ll risk incarceration to give you my opinion.
I really love the Hannah character, who is sort of a female Tim (Martin Freeman from the Office UK)–the everyman of the show that we can relate to and we genuinely root for.
Karl Pilkington’s ‘character’ seems to me to be just him being himself, with a bit of fake hair and some glasses. He complains a lot, likes to fix things, doesn’t know why he’s friends with Ricky. Check, check, check.
I did find it very difficult to laugh at Derek, because he is obviously a bit odd and not very clever. What shocked me the most, I think, is that I cried. I cried more than I laughed, which is certainly a departure from a lot of stuff like An Idiot Abroad.
I think the bottom line is that I trust Ricky as an auteur, as a story-teller. I don’t think that Derek will be a huge hit here, but I do hope it airs on HBO or similar. I will definitely watch it, but I’m sad that all of his other projects are ending, all in the next year. And I’m going to miss Stephen Merchant being on my TV!