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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Does Ricky Gervais' David Brent film risk tarnishing perfection?

Ricky Gervais as David Brent in 'The Office'
Ricky Gervais as David Brent in 'The Office'

Pat Stacey

Who in their right mind would want to be Ricky Gervais?

All that money, all that success, all that creative freedom to make just about anything he wishes.  And let's not forget the upmarket homes in London and New York, the A-list celebrity friends, the Hollywood movie appearances and, most prestigious of all, the place in history as the co-creator and star of The Office, a game changer for television comedy that featured, in David Brent, one of the great comic characters of our time.

Really, who would want any of that?  Probably a lot of people - which is probably why a lot of people, and particularly British people, who often seem to resent success even more than the Irish do, profess a loathing for Ricky Gervais.  That loathing found a new outlet this week when Gervais announced he's making a David Brent movie.

Life on the Road, which begins shooting next year, will follow Brent, now a travelling salesman, as he makes a last-ditch attempt at become a rock star.  The Gervais-haters had their knives out of the sheaths in record time.

The criticisms in various newspaper online comment sections branded Gervais a washed-up one-trick pony who's frantically trying to claw back some credibility by milking his one true success (which was probably a fluke anyway).

Oh, and he's an arrogant, egotistical b****** into the bargain, don't you know.

There's a name for this sort of stuff.  It comes out of the back end of a horse, and it's very, very smelly.  A cursory glance at Gercais' record in the 15 years since The Office finished doesn't in the slightest support the claim that he's a spent force desperately in need of another hit.  If anything, the hits have never stopped coming.

Extras was an excellent series.  Its parade of big-name guest stars gleefully sending themselves up also changed the course of TV comedy, albeit in a more modest way than The Office.  If it wasn't for Extras, we most likely wouldn't have Episodes (although that wouldn't necessarily by a bad thing).  Derek, which was badmouthed by some lame-brain critics before anyone had actually seen it, won most of them over when it turned out to be a warm, gentle, if overly sentimental comedy-drama about a simple, uncomplicated man with a good heart.

In between, the Hollywood movies Gervais has appeared in have received mostly positive reviews and done well at the box-office.  Back on television, Life is Short was undoubtedly a dud, but An Idiot Abroad, in which Gervais and Stephen Merchant take backseat driver roles to Karl Pilkington's reluctant traveller, is extremely popular.  He and Merchant also managed to squeeze in the warmly-reviewed movie Cemetery Junction, a coming-of-age tale set in Gervais' hometown of Reading in the 1970s. He's revealed another string to his bow with the bestselling Flanimals books for children.

If this qualifies as being washed-up, most of us would be happy to be beached on the same stretch of coastline as Gervais.

As for the arrogance, it's always struck me as a mischievous put-on designed to wind up his critics.  He's certainly succeeded in doing that.

If Gervais has a chink in his armour, it's his limitations as an actor.  David Brent was a character that fit him like a glove, and few of his other roles have really stretched him. 

All that apart, I'm not crazy about the idea of a David Brent movie.  Lighting could strike twice.  The film may work brilliantly.


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