WHENEVER a celebrity becomes too big for their boots, the biggest pitfall is to join the chorus of knee-jerk criticism, for one very good reason.
They’ll mistake it for jealousy of their success and dismiss anything that isn’t gushing praise as sour grapes. (See Chris Moyles and his amazing technicolour ego).
So before we go any further, let me make two things crystal.
I am not jealous of the publicity-shy, reclusive Ricky Gervais. Good luck to him.
And whatever I might say henceforth is based on the small fact that I have watched both last year’s pilot and Wednesday night’s opening episode of his latest television project, Derek, on Channel 4.
First the good news. It is not a disaster. He has not made a complete turkey of a comedy drama, two words that strike fear into my professional heart.
(You can feel the “but” approaching fast, can’t you?)
The fundamental flaw is Ricky Gervais, the show’s title-role actor, writer, director, executive producer, writes the feem tune, sings the feem tune (okay, those last two aren’t strictly true).
It isn’t so much that it’s impossible not to see Derek, a kind-hearted carer with undefined learning difficulties at a closure-threatened nursing home, as David Brent the wrong side of a mid-life crisis having picked up a persistent gurn, although this is an issue.
It isn’t so much that the show is steeped in controversy, which it really isn’t.
Nor is it the fact that, like anything Gervais has done in the last decade, every new programme he makes is automatically compared with and always falls short of The Office.
No, the remarkable error he’s made is that he’s only gone and created a show revolving around a character who is, after just two outings, completely irrelevant and surplus to requirements.
There is, you see, a lot to like about Derek the programme.
Kerry Godliman who plays the care home’s manager Hannah is excellent.
Karl Pilkington cuts across the overwhelming sickly sweet sentimentality as no-nonsense handyman Dougie, for which his inspiration is clearly Karl Pilkington from An Idiot Abroad.
But Gervais the director/producer’s obvious longing to tug the viewers’ heartstrings with cheap soppy tricks borders on desperation – the melancholic piano classical music of Einaudi, cats and dogs from a pet rescue centre giving old people rare moments of joy, Hannah declaring: “90 per cent of care-home residents die within six months of being re-homed,” every last second of it batters you with a sledgehammer carved from the hooves of crying orphaned baby deer.
Strip all this away and at best you have a half-decent show.
This is Ricky Gervais we’re talking about, of course, so it’s not as simple as that.
The final scene where Dougie launched into a heroic tirade against a council bean-counter who wants to shut down the place was great stuff.
So I’ll give you two guesses who the camera lingered on as the end credits rolled.
Yep, Gervais. That’s the insurmountable obstacle with Derek. It doesn’t need Derek.
The writer, lead actor, director, executive producer has trapped himself.
And let me say for the record in case he’s reading. That is nothing to be jealous of.
This week’s Kate Humble award for the most outlandish BBC foreign junket destination goes to Wonders Of Life’s Professor Brian Cox:
“This lake is effectively its own sealed ecosystem. The marine life in here is isolated. This is the golden jellyfish, a unique sub-species that is only found in this one location...”
Go on, Coxy. Where are you? Dudley? Clapham? Bangor?
“... in the tiny Micronesian Republic of Palau.”
So I was close, then.
Monday’s guests on The One Show’s sofa were Mick Fleetwood and Micky Flanagan.
One’s called Mick and has made a fortune performing the same old material for so long it’s become tiresome (yes, you’re probably way ahead of me).
The other is the drummer from Fleetwood Mac.
This week’s Couch Potato Spudulikes go to:
* BBC2’s Ski Sunday.
* Football Transfer Deadline Day, on Sky Sports, with the perfect combination of livewire Jim White and circuit breaker Natalie Sawyer, and this observation from former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan about Queens Park Rangers splashing out on so many new players: “QPR seem to adopt a splattergun approach.”
* Tony Gubba commentating on Matt Lapinskas’s Dancing On Ice routine: “This is the slam dunk cartwheel followed by some back crossovers, then the towering inferno and the bouncing aeroplane.”
Keep taking the pills, Tony.
* And the sight of Martine McCutcheon being crushed to death by a giant lump of cheese on Midsomer Murders which wasn’t, despite speculation, Phil Mitchell.
Poor thing, she’s gone to a Feta place. (And no, in case you’re wondering, four hours staring at Wikipedia’s entire list of Types of Cheese for a lame pun was not a waste of time).
And to think, some people said Trinny and Susannah’s television careers were dead in the water.
Not a bit of it. Because, one text from a mate last Saturday afternoon and...
Why, if that isn’t Susannah, from Trinny and Susannah, on QVC shopping channel, a vision confirmed by the programme information: “TV stars Trinny and Susannah have designed a collection exclusive to QVC.”
Except Trinny was poorly, so Susannah was left to plug the pair’s clothing range, to within an inch of its life, for both of them: “When you’re wearing velvet, it’s important to show a bit of flesh, otherwise it can be very overpowering, but this is a very light velvet and it has this kind of sheen which bounces off and reflects on your face.
“Purple is an empowering colour, it’s regal, it’s a kind of papal colour, and people in power have traditionally worn purple.”
Right you are, chuck.
What really made the hour, though, was the QVC presenter on screen with her, who, it turned out after 50 minutes, had been giving out the wrong catalogue number, insisted: “There is nothing worse than a chiffon that doesn’t feel good on the skin,” with the possible exception of human rights abuses, genocide, and ITV2, and ended by teasing viewers with this beauty:
“Stay tuned. After the break I’m going to be cleaning next with some household helpers.”
Trinny and Susannah. They’re back.
Wackiest guest of the week on This Morning was Jonathan Royle who can: “Read people’s belly buttons to reveal their secrets,” which began with Phillip Schofield announcing that it was specially for a TV critic who spends too much of his time watching This Morning’s 11.30am wacky-guest slot (not me, but it might as well be).
So I shall adopt the Harry Hill approach when EastEnders’ writers dangled a carrot of Tiffany Butcher saying she liked one thing, but on the other hand she liked another thing too, in attempt for the scene to be shown on TV Burp’s “FIIIIIIIGHT!” section.
The harder you try, This Morning, the less likely I am to feature you.
This week’s Spuduhates go to:
* BBC2’s Great British Menu organising a banquet at the Royal Albert Hall to mark “25 years of Comic Relief” which, as we all know, began in 1985.
* Mastermind giving the green light to Red Dwarf as a specialist subject, whereas it’s actually more suited to a DVD quiz game, called Beat The Geek.
* Take Me Out: The Gossip co-host Mark Wright failing to give viewers the gossip that he used to date one of the girls.
* Top Gear’s moronic Dragons’ Den spoof destroying both shows at once.
* ITV’2’s The Big Reunion narrator Andi Peters lying: “Six of the most iconic bands of a generation are reuniting for an epic concert,” when it’s actually 5ive, Liberty X, B*Witched, 911, “FHM magazine’s sexiest band in the world in 1999” Honeyz, and Atomic Kitten, playing the Hammersmith Apollo.
* Voiceover man at the end of Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute: “If you can’t wait until next week, there’s a wealth of birth videos online at channel4.com.”
Speaking as a dad of two, believe me, I can wait.
* And the memory of Dermot O’Leary, hosting the National Television Awards, announcing: “Jeremy (Kyle) is poorly so he can’t be here. That’s karma for you,” a week before it emerged he has battled testicular cancer, which was made even worse when Phillip Schofield told This Morning’s viewers on Wednesday: “It’s something that all of us in daytime ITV have known about for some time.”
Just a pity, then, that nobody at daytime ITV thought to tell nighttime ITV.
The Big Reunion narrator Andi Peters, speaking of the six 1990s boybands and girlbands featured on the show: “Record label bigwigs threw millions at them and scored platinum hits, from Derby to Doncaster.”
Which, by my calculations, is all of 52 miles as the crow flies.
’Twas the night before Football Transfer Deadline Day, and not a creature was stirring, apart from Sky Sports’ Soccer Special anchorman Julian Warren who was hearing through his earpiece the goal flash, on Wednesday evening, that Reading had clawed back a 2-0 deficit at home to Chelsea:
“Oh! We’ve got to go to the Madejski Stadium! Late comebacks aplenty for Reading, and here’s another one. Chris Kamara.”
Kammy: “You’re not going to believe this, Jules...”
I think you’ll find he will.