Derek teasers: give me a minute to decide if I'm morally outraged
Posted by Ed Williamson at 14:30 on 07 Apr 2012
However much he's always been intentionally controversial, I do believe Ricky Gervais to be genuinely well-intentioned for the most part. But it's difficult to watch these teasers for his latest comedy Derek, whose pilot airs on Channel 4 on 12th April, and not feel a little uneasy. The character he's playing seems to be mentally disadvantaged in some way.
At the launch he told The Independent:
So why the jutting jaw? Tony Robinson and Ardal O'Hanlon didn't need to pull faces to show their characters were stupid: it was all in the dialogue and the delivery.
I've never thought of him as disabled. He's not that bright but he's cleverer than Baldrick, he's cleverer than Father Dougal ... he hasn't got as big a problem as Mr Bean.
But it's easy to be oversensitive. Even if you conclude he's playing someone with a disability, doesn't mean he's taking the piss out of him. There's no one more capable of creating pathos in comedy, and he's always been a good enough actor to back it up.
And he made a very good point in his own defence.
Which is true: he's always addressed disability through comedy. When David Brent pulls his colleague's wheelchair out of the way to get to his own seat, we're laughing at the character's - and yes, probably society's, if you like - insensitivity to disability, not at the wheelchair-bound themselves.
When I portray a disabled person I get a disabled person to play them - the woman who was wheelchair-bound in The Office, the guy in Extras with Down's syndrome was a Down's syndrome actor.
So I'm more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. Not least because it looks like Karl Pilkington is actually a good actor, which can only benefit mankind.