Ricky Gervais’ not-quite-comedy Derek (Channel 4, Wednesday, 10pm) has been given a bit of a kicking. And perhaps rightly so. Set in retirement home Broad Hill, Ricky stars in the show as a man with learning difficulties – making for uncomfortable moments all round. Set up with the now-very-familiar documentary-style format, it’s a bit like a much more dislikable version of The Office. It’s pretty distasteful that Ricky is playing a man with learning difficulties, perhaps mainly because there are so few disabled actors on TV. This aside, Derek is poignant and thoughtful and sad. In large part, this is down to Kerry Godliman, who is sublime as the head carer of Broad Hill. Acting as the “Dawn” of the programme, her performance beautifully puts forward the argument that, actually, there are thousands of people working in care homes across the country to make sure that our elderly are looked after. If Ricky Gervais’ gurning-to-camera and Karl Pilkington (and Karl Pilkington’s bewildering bald-patch hair piece) were given less screen time, Derek would be something I’d be less ashamed of enjoying.
But low expectations can be good. Edgy Channel 4 dark comedy/drama Black Mirror (Monday, 10pm) was a bit of a let-down. The dystopian programme about our obsession with technology – the “black mirror” of our reflective computer, phone and TV screens – was surreal, and edgy, but a little robotic. The high-concept show is back for a second season, and the first episode of the three-part series had a proper smarty-pants premise. Based on the idea that you could bring a loved one back from the grave with the debris of information they left on their social networking accounts, the episode saw grieving girlfriend Martha communicating with dead boyfriend Ash via a programme for her smartphone. It’s only about 45 minutes in, when the plots picks up pace, that the programme slightly loses its way, and the clever story has to be clumsily explained in the dialogue. This means lots of colour and emotion is lost, and quickly made up for in lots of yelling and thousand-yard stares. Expect shouting and crying and the occasional tear, but not many LOLZ.
LOLZ were few and far between on the Great British Menu Comic Relief special (BBC2, Friday, 7.30pm). The poor man’s MasterChef is back for it’s eighth time around the block, but this time the winner will get to cater a banquet celebrating Comic Relief. Which meant that the food competitors Aiden and Mary-Ellen were serving up had to be “funny”. Dishes were marked down for a “lack of humour”, and comedian Rowland Rivron was on the tasting panel making jokes about Pru Leith needing dentures, and the chefs had no idea how to make their dishes funny because they were given the world’s most confusing brief. And anyway, when was the last time you ordered a burger because you wanted it to make you laugh? An odd mix of sweet and savoury, Great British Menu will at the very least encourage us to start arranging food in a smiley face before serving.