Tag Archives: Ricky Gervais

BBC3 COMEDY REVIEW – THIS COUNTRY (2017 – 2019)

BBC3 COMEDY REVIEW – THIS COUNTRY (2017 – 2019)

Created by: Daisy May Cooper & Charlie Cooper

Written by: Daisy May Cooper & Charlie Cooper

Directed by: Tom George

Producer: Simon Mayhew-Archer

Cast: Daisy May Cooper, Charlie Cooper, Paul Cooper, Paul Chahidi

Original Network: BBC Three

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

“I am Jack’s bitter, failed arsehole!”

In Chuck Palahniuk’s contemporary literary classic Fight Club – and the movie version – the narrator often refers to a third person called, ‘Jack’, to describe inner rage. It’s a nifty narrative device and kind of a foot-in-the-door to explain my feelings when watching BBC3 mockumentary series This Country. Because having watched the two series and extended one-off special I have to say I didn’t get the joke and I’m thinking it must be me and not the show.

Perhaps it’s my ongoing sobriety? I mean, while the acting is sublime, I could not work out why this comedy series has received so much critical praise. Moreover, I could not work out how it has won several Royal Television Society and BAFTA awards. I will perhaps have to accept I am wrong and know nothing about comedy and the television industry. I am just a bitter, failed arsehole.

This Country is a rural sitcom in the mockumentary style. Thus, first and foremost, while it’s nearly impossible to achieve originality in TV and film, the show is derivative of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s classic comedy, The Office. While Gervais was influenced by the Christopher Guest-led ensemble genius of, This is Spinal Tap (1984), one cannot escape the fact This Country is a weaker clone of The Office.

Episodes revolve around an accurate rendition of rural life; somewhere not too far from Swindon, Wiltshire. Comedy and drama derives from issues relating to: boredom, crime, unemployment, failed romances, general village idiot-types and very dysfunctional families. The main protagonists are Kerry and Lee ‘Kurtan’ Mucklowe; cousins in the show but portrayed incisively by siblings, Daisy and Charlie Cooper. In fact, the actors are way more likeable than the characters they portray. Kerry and Kurtan are so moronic and obnoxious at times it was difficult to empathise with them.

It is a testament to the precise conveyance of village life that the programme felt believable as an actual documentary. Unfortunately, for me, the pace was quite slow and, while I guess that was the point, there are only so many dry pauses-for-comedic-effect you can experience without getting bored. Similarly, with the “realistic” pace, punchlines often felt very spaced out, with a reliance on the accents to get the laughs.

There are a number of strong episodes including, Kurtan’s attempts to win a scarecrow contest and also when he worked on a building site. Yet, certain episodes never really went anywhere as character development also suffered inertia in the narrative. Having said that, there is some excellent writing. Daisy’s doomed relationship with her bastard of a father, Martin, does lend a depth and pathos to the narrative. But this is more dramatic than funny overall. Then again, I accept that this is just the opinion of a bitter, sober and over-analytical arsehole and some may find this the funniest show on television.

Mark: 7 out of 11

ALL 4 TV REVIEW – DEREK (2013 – 2014)

ALL 4 TV REVIEW – DEREK (2013 – 2014)

Created, written and directed by: Ricky Gervais

Producer: Charlie Hanson

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Kerry Godliman, David Earl, Karl Pilkington, Brett Goldstein, Colin Hoult, Holli Dempsey, Ruth Bratt, Arthur Nightingale, Doc Brown, Joe Wilkinson etc.

Original Network: Channel 4

**MAY CONTAINS SPOILERS**

So, let’s address the elephant in the room with my review of ALL 4/Netflix bittersweet comedy, Derek. Is it acceptable for a person to seemingly inhabit the character of someone who could be perceived to be mentally challenged or disabled? Not forgetting, the person is a successful TV writer/actor, Ricky Gervais. After all we’re in a progressive age where it is right to be sensitive of perceptions and reactions to the representations of people of colour, religion, race, heritage and mental capacity. Is it in poor taste for Ricky Gervais to ultimately, get seemingly cheap laughs out of a gurning, simple man?

Well, on the surface and initial watch Derek, could be deemed offensive for reasons of poor taste. However, having watched series one, two and the final hour-long special for the third time, I have decided that, while it may have puerile and childish humour, Gervais has created a positive, and in some cases, heroic role model who promotes kindness to the elderly, animals, friends and basically everyone, whether they are horrible or not. The comedy and pathos derive not simply from cheap shots, but, organically from a set of outsiders and forgotten people inhabiting a care home. Lastly, Gervais is a talented actor and while he’s no Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot (1989), his character of Derek Noakes is a genuinely fine human being worth spending time with.

Moving past the controversial issues of taste the most important question remains: is Derek funny? Well, it is both funny and very moving, encompassing themes relating to life, death, grief, romance, love, redemption, depression and memory. Set in a care called Broad Hill it features a collection of disparate ensemble of characters who are existentially trapped within their day-to-day lives. These include hard-working Hannah (Kerry Godliman), gruff handyman, Dougie (Karl Pilkington), alcoholic wastrel, Kev (David Earl), and the titular, Derek. Furthermore, the care home becomes a haven for characters doing community service such as Vicky (Holli Dempsey) and of course the elderly residents who are cared for at Broad Hill.

Shot in Gervais’ often used mockumentary style, each episode unfolds in a gentle slice-of-life style as the Broad Hill employees go about their business. A common theme running through the series is the pressure the staff, notably Hannah, find themselves under looking after old people who have been dumped by their family and society at large. Moreover, the children or grandchildren of the residents are mostly represented as greedy, callous or self-absorbed. Gervais has commented that the show is a tribute to family members who worked in care homes and Derek succeeds in that context.

In representing the working classes and societal outsiders, Derek also works very well. I’ll be honest there is some easy humour to be had from the sexual perversity and drunken antics of Kev, portrayed with greasy acumen by David Earl. However, in Season 2, Kevin’s sad decline comes into focus as his alcoholism causes his health to fail and the friends he has alienated have tough choices to make. Nonetheless, the comedic interactions between Pilkington, Gervais, Earl and Kerry Godliman are priceless. These, plus Brett Goldstein as Hannah’s boyfriend, Tom, are all gifted performers and they shine throughout the episodes.

Gervais faced much critical controversy when Derek was first released. But having watched it again I actually think this was undeserved. Derek is not a figure of fun but rather a complex human being and richly empathetic character. If you find it offensive or do not enjoy Gervais’ performance then I understand that. Ultimately though, the series has some childish humour such as characters writing obscenities on crabs at the seaside, Dougie’s stupid hair, and Kev crapping himself at a staff meeting. However, it also has some fine comedic set-pieces as occurs when Derek, Dougie and Kevin put on a play about Duran Duran at a talent night. Plus, the scene where Kev and Derek try and sell their autographs of “famous” people is pure comedy gold.

Overall, Derek is a life-affirming comedy full of eccentric characters on the fringe of society. Somehow, they all band together to create this weird dysfunctional but very caring family. It’s a show about life, death, gain, loss and the human spirit. Moreover, through Derek’s homespun philosophical musings we get a lot of simple, yet effective life lessons. Yes, it’s full of toilet and school-playground humour, and at times is really mawkish and sentimental, but it is also full of heart and poignancy all performed by a fantastic ensemble cast.

Mark: 9 out of 11

“YOU’RE FIRED!” – SOME GREAT TV/CINEMA SACKINGS

“YOU’RE FIRED!”  – SOME GREAT TV/CINEMA SACKINGS

“I was looking for a job and then I found a job. Heaven knows I’m miserable now!” Stephen Patrick Morrissey

**CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**

Cinema and television is often about reflection. What happens on screen reflects the dreams or loves or nightmares or hates of the audience.  There is no greater scene in a movie I love more than a good sacking or resignation scene. Indeed, I’ve had many jobs I’ve hated. I’ve had many jobs which hated me. Plus, in my “career” as a wageslave I’ve been constructively dismissed, made redundant and resigned from various places of employment.

So, when I see it occur on screen I thrill at the idea of a character NOT being in work; of leaving employment; of being free and damning the consequences. Of course, this is all wish fulfilment and projection as I am a responsible person and continue to punch the clock. Nontheless, if you have a desire for a certain level of existence and especially if you have children you need to pay your way.  But a sucker can dream and have the mirage of hope play out on a big screen. For your consideration I have pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed, and ordered some cracking sacking or resignations scenes from television and film.

For your consideration I have pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed, and ordered some cracking sacking or resignations scenes from television and film.

AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)

This brilliant ensemble drama confirmed Kevin Spacey as an actor of some force and the scene where he turns the tables on his boss in just magnificent. I also love it when he’s interviews for the job at the fast food place because he wants a job with as little responsibility as possible.  A mid-life crisis has never been so much fun!

BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF (1982)

A tragic and darkly comic “poster-man” for Thatcher’s Britain, Yosser Hughes became synonymous with the catchphrase “Gissa job!” A pale, ghost of a man who would essentially get hired and fired on the spot due to his uncontrollable anger and violence. The whole series is classic British TV at its best and in Yosser’s Story I’m both laughing and crying inside at the same time.

BRIDESMAIDS (2011)

I’ve used this scene before on a previous blog item about great dialogue scenes and happy to use it here again. Kristen Wiig and the teenage nemesis exchange verbal blows ending in a cracking payoff right at the end. The scene has wonderful performances and cracking comic timing as they take the comedy staple of battling one-up-woman-ship right up to eleven.

“DO I NOT LIKE THAT!” ITV DOCUMENTARY (1994)

One of the greatest sporting documentaries ever!  The tragi-comedy of Graham Taylor’s ill-fated attempt to get England to the 1994 World Cup is a brutally honest and painful to watch.  Taylor is a fine football man but this whole documentary is one big sacking waiting to happen. David Brent doesn’t manage football teams; but if he did.

FIGHT CLUB (1999)

One of my favourite films of all time this is a wonderful, wonderful scene which captures the mood and violence of the thematics in a heartbeat.  Smashing yourself up AND blaming your boss is just a magnificent way to leave a job. Awesome!

THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)

While not one of the Coen Bros more celebrated films The Hudsucker Proxy has many wonderful visual tricks up its sleeve. The opening set-piece where the Chairman of the Board “resigns” is a wonderfully constructed sequence edited and shot with their usual flair, humour and precision.

KILL BILL: VOL. TWO (2004)

I really felt sorry for Michael Madsen’s Bud in this scene.  Here’s a guy who is a part of infamous assassin team called The Viper Squad, in a deadbeat backwater town bouncing to make ends meet with a coked-up-douche-bag-boss to boot. For being late he is catigated in the most humiliating way and yet doesn’t react.  Perhaps he’s above it all but I really wanted Bud to thump his scumbag boss but he just takes it and walks out.

NEED FOR SPEED (2014)

Great driving and car stunts do not save this video-game adaptation from being an also-ran as a narrative. However it does have a very memorable resignation scene which transplants some much needed humour in the over-serious petrol-headed plot.  Here mechanic Fin quits his job in hilarious fashion.

NETWORK (1976)

“I’m mad as hell!”  Stunning Paddy Chayefsky script holds a burning mirror up to the news media governed by a desire for ratings in Network. The film reflects flaming ire and wide-eyed fury via Peter Finch’s Howard Beale who not only is under threat of the sack but actually promises to “resign” permanently on live television.  It’s a stunning film which in many ways is just, if not more, relevant today.

THE OFFICE (2001-2003)

Even though he probably deserved his sacking/redundancy for his somewhat eccentric management style I still felt sorry for David Brent. His self-delusion knows no bounds as he offers his resignation believing him to be irreplaceable only to find it accepted by the management.  It’s made all the more amusing because he’s adorned in ridiculous fancy dress for Comic Relief. Priceless.

THE PRISONER (1967 -1968)

This TV show from the 1960s is an enigmatic masterpiece. Set in the mysterious Village we follow one-can-only-presume-a-former-spy called Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan) as he attempts to escape from his nefarious captors. Kafkaesque to the extreme it begins with one of the great resignation/credit sequences ever.

“BE SEEING YOU…”