Karl Pilkington is one of my favourite people. I listen to the XFM shows and subsequent podcasts and audiobooks he did with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant CONSTANTLY. Recently he filmed a Channel 4 pilot/one off comedy with Ricky Gervais called "Derek", where he plays a staff member in a care home occupied by a variety of strange characters. It's Karl's first proper acting role and I've been looking forward to seeing it since it was first mentioned.
I forgot it was on tonight, until my mate Gaz reminded me. The joys of Channel 4 +1 means I can watch it tonight instead of having to wait until it appears online. I'm going to live blog the shit out of it.
I'll point out now that I don't hold particularly high hopes for this (Maybe because it's on Channel 4 and not the BBC who Gervais usually works with and rumours circulated that it wasn't going to be commissioned for a series. Also the fact the trailers were a bit meh), but seeing as how I'll watch anything featuring Karl and usually enjoy it, there's no way I'm going to avoid it.
11.05 - Ricky appears as "Derek" and gives a tour of the day room, thinking the camera crew could be from Secret Millionaire and introduces a nurse he's infatuated with. It follows the mockumentary style Gervais and Merchant are famous for.
11.06 - THERE'S KARL. Not wanting to be on the telly as usual. It's instantly apparent he's pretty much just playing himself. The perks of the job he lists out is pretty funny... slippers, 3 meals a day and a dead man's glasses.
11.08 - Derek is annoying as fuck... and, so far, not in a particularly funny way. I do like the "Hamster on a Piano" video he shows the camera men.
11.10 - The guy who plays Brian, the sometimes incomprehensible café owner in Cemetary Junction shows his face. He's amazing. I wish I knew him name.
11.11 - DEREK SPAZZES OUT WHEN HE SITS ON CUSTARD!!! LULZ
11.12 - Bit of back story from the nurse/assistant Derek is obsessed with. I can't place where I know the actress from but she's pretty good
11.13 - She laments the lack of eligible men in her life and it cuts to a shot of Dougie (Karl) and previously mentioned lad from Cemetery Junction looking like two right sorry cases.
As you can see in the above picture, they're both wearing amazing glasses and not-Dougie's delivery of the line "Fungus... in me hip" is brilliant. He plays a certain kind of character very well this guy. I'll wiki his name during the break. They're Derek's two best friends and refers to themselves as "the in-crowd". Dougie wants no part of it.
11.15 - I don't think anyone else will see it this way but in my mind this is all about Karl, and the few minutes he's been on screen so far is all I've cared about.
11.18 - Derek falls into the water and hilarity ensues. It might be the most physical piece of acting I've seen Gervais do. He legs it through the day room bollock naked. Karl just lifts up his head and says "normal" and goes back to what he's doing. He's just playing himself and I love it.
11.19 - Break. Time to wiki this lad...
11.20 - David Earl is his name. I think his character in this is called Arthur. He's an autograph hunter and has over 35,000 apparently. He does it because he love the rush.
11.22 - And we're back... Derek is jealous of the nurse (Hannah) having a cheeky look at a new patients grandson. They're trying to figure out if he's gay. Derek takes a run over to chat to him and blurts everything out. Lad takes the piss out of him. It's enjoyable so far, and I could see this working as a series but it's nothing overly hilarious.
11.25 - Derek and Hannah take to the pub. No Karl so far... I need more of his face. The pub is full of knackers who take the piss out of Derek in a cruel manner. Hannah has enough and goes to confront them, something I initially read as a dodgy attempt at depth, which was about to make me squirm until Hannah headbutts one of the knackers and saves the day.
11.27 - MORE KARL. He's upset about the amount of shit the old folks hold on to.
11.30 - Dougie loses it with Derek on the bus while he's trying to drive. It's brilliant. I love seeing/hearing Karl annoyed.
11.32 - Someone dies in the home and Derek gets upset. If this was to be made into a series it would probably be a critical piece of character development, but if it's only going to be a one off I don't know if it was worth going so "heavy" with everything.
11.34 - There's a funeral scene where the heaviness continues... until Dougie shows up and saves the day. Karl should have been in this a lot more. Then Derek actually succeeds in getting Hannah together with the previously mentioned "dreamy grandson". It ends with some slow piano music.
Verdict? It was good, but not great. Hardly Gervais' best work, and is just another source to cite when arguing Gervais is much less of a "comedy genius" when he doesn't have the criminally underrated Stephen Merchant writing with him. Less funny than I thought it would be. I have a few criticisms of the show starting with the fact that the trailers suggested that there'd be more great lines throughout the course of the episode. While that isn't a make or break factor, it slightly irked me.
As the main character in the show I thought Gervais could have done a lot more with the character of Derek. I think he captured certain traits of adults with learning difficulties quite well; the enthusiasm and kindheartedness (which I found difficult to buy... knowing how much of a prick Ricky is. I use the word prick affectionately - I think) Derek possessed was apparent and by the end of the episode it was hard not to like him. On the other-hand however, if someone were to accuse the show of merely being a vehicle for Ricky to slick his hair in a ridiculous manner and make one of the ridiculous faces he's constantly posting on twitter, I wouldn't accuse them of being a complete cynic.
If the show were to be developed into a series (which I wouldn't be overly confident of) I think it could work and be very good. There's a lot of room left for character development, especially with the character of Hannah. The actress who played her was excellent for the role. I must investigate as to who she is... the classic "I recognise her from something" line was running through my head throughout the course of the episode.
Also... it goes without saying that it could have done with a lot more Karl and David Earl.