Comedy leads the way this week kicking off with a very bleak comedy-drama from Ricky Gervais entitled Derek
Derek sees Gervais going back to his roots by resurrecting Derek Noakes, a character he first created before the success of The Office, a simple man who works in a old folk’s home. Derek is once again filmed in Gervais’ favourite style that being of the faux documentary obviously that means that characters can talk straight to screen which does help to advance the plot but at the same time some points are a little forced. I feel that the main fault of Derek is that Gervais has cast himself in the lead role so therefore he has received unfair criticism for mocking the mentally handicapped while in fact I see Derek as more of a Frank Spencer character who is fairly innocent to the world around him but it is through Gervais’ performance that this is misconstrued. Thankfully there are saving graces elsewhere notably in Kerry Godliman who plays Hannah who effectively runs the home a woman who is seemingly happy that she works where she works but she wants something more from her life. To me I feel that this was Hannah’s story more than Derek’s as she is almost a mother figure to him despite the fact that he wants to date her and buy her a house. The show is stolen by Gervais regular Karl Pilkington as Derek’s best made and the home’s handyman Dougie the realist to Derek’s idealist to me this is the role Gervais should’ve played if he wanted to star in the programme he wrote. The tone is generally very bleak looking at those who are ostracised by society whether it is slightly strange simpletons like Derek, slightly strange looking men like Dougie and the old people who are put into the home by their relations who can no longer be bothered with them anymore. The humour mainly comes from Pilkington’s pithy comments however there are a few unwise attempts to incorporate slapstick comedy including Derek falling into the pond, stripping off and running naked through the home. It’s seems odd that I’m one of the only people sticking up for a Gervais programme but maybe I went into watching Derek with diminished expectations and enjoyed it despite my reservations about Gervais starring in the title role. Apparently he is now writing a whole series but my advice would be cast someone different in the lead role and give yourself a supporting part as I felt that’s where a lot of the problems lay but this was a quaint if bleak look at characters who are often cast off by most of the members of the public.
Somebody else who is known for playing a lot of characters is Matt Lucas who has stepped out from playing Bubbles and Vicki Pollard to host his own curio of a show the imaginatively titled The Matt Lucas Awards. The programme is based on Lucas’ radio show And The Winner Is in which he welcomes on three guests and gets them to offer up nominations for unusual awards categories such as One Good Song from an Otherwise Rubbish Artist. The Radio 2 programme was very much a panel show however from the transition over to the telly box Lucas has made some amendments. The set is now a mock-up of his house complete with his mum giving a few observations while she’s busy in the kitchen it is in these segments in which the show reminds me of a sketch show/sitcom. There are also chat show elements as all the guests, which in the first episode included Jason Manford and Graeme Garden, are sitting on a sofa together while Lucas quizzes them plus there is an in house one-man band in David Arnold who often steals the show with his bizarre contributions. In the opening introduction to the preview piece Lucas said that he wanted to leave behind the costumes and the make-up however at the end of the show he is dressed as a member of The Village People singing football songs with his guests. It seems that Lucas wants to have his cake and eat it too with this programme which combines several elements which don’t fit together too well. Lucas himself is an affable host and at least is able to get his personality across with both Arnold and his mum providing vaguely surreal input throughout however the majority is a bit contrived or very tired. What you have at the end day is a lovely man hosting a show which doesn’t really have an identity neither being panel show nor chat show and sitting oddly somewhere in the middle which is a shame as Lucas himself is a very genuine individual but it’s just not something that comes across constantly throughout his new programme.
The final part of this comic trilogy is another sitcom from a stand-up comedian namely Lee Mack with the return of Not Going Out. The programme is now in its fifth series which is a marvel seeing as it was briefly cancelled after series three but I feel that the fans of the show saved it. I feel that there is room for a programme like Not Going Out which is as traditional a sitcom as you’ll get in 2012 mainly because it features more jokes than situations and the Minder theme tune is sung twice during episode one. Each episode of Not Going Out follows a simple strategy with Lee trying to do something stupid to win over flatmate Lucy while Tim Vine acts very awkward throughout. So in the first episode Tim joins a band of his fellow accountants with the lead guitarist hitting on Lucy so Lee decides that he wants to join the band but he is upset when they appoint him roadie. That simple plotline is all that you need to know as where Not Going Out succeeds is in its quick fire humour and chemistry between long-time friends Vine and Mack whose duet of I Know Him So Well in this episode must’ve been something that they’ve wanted to do together on T.V. for a while. Essentially if you’ve got an old fashioned sense of humour then you’ll be charmed by Not Going Out however if you’re into edgier stuff then I’d suggest you’d trot on but for me I hope this one doesn’t get cancelled again after this series.
We move away from comedy for our final show this week to witness a bunch of tearful reunions on the second series of ITV1′s Long Lost Family the show which, as you can guess from the title, brings together family members who haven’t seen each other on decades. In the first episode there were two reunions both trying to get mothers and children back together with Stella’s story about giving up daughter Maxine being particularly poignant. Stella had to give her daughter up when she was eighteen months after crumbling under the pressuring of caring for her two brothers as well as her father following the death of her mother. When she starts the search she doesn’t ever think that they’ll be able to find Maxine or if they do that she’ll want to see her thankfully Long Lost Family doesn’t toy with our emotions instead making sure we get the tissues out in the final half of the show where the pairs are finally bought back together. Also on the show was Mark looking for the mother he never knew as he wanted an identity not realising that his mother tried to get him back but the agency wouldn’t let her so again the reunion was a tearful one. Long Lost Family is definitely a type of emotional blackmail zooming in on the participants’ tears at just the right moment and watching their expressions as Davina McCall or Nicky Campbell show them pictures of their lost loved ones. As presenters McCall and Campbell are both fine doing a good job in being a shoulder to cry with both having experience of being separated from their biological parents. This is definitely a well-produced, if not over-produced show, which is designed to make us the audience weep while it does a good service in bringing together people who’ve been looking for each other for forty or so years.
But you won’t have to wait forty years for my return as I’ll be back next week with The 70s, I Woke Up Gay and Grandma’s House