Press Clippings

Here is a collection of the latest previews, reviews and articles related to British comedy which have been published by newspapers and blogs from around the world. Don't forget to look at our news section for the significant stories - these won't be repeated here.

Trying Again

Screenwriter reveals what it was like to tackle more personal and emotive subject matter in Sky Living's Trying Again - and how the process became even more intense when he was doubly bereaved.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Radio Times, 24th April 2014

Ricky Gervais is out of his depth playing a character that isn't based on his own worst foibles, and things are not helped by a script that is not funny or smart enough.

Written by Sam Wollaston. The Guardian, 24th April 2014


Jolly, though not a lot more original, GameFace (Channel 4) stars and is written by Roisin Conaty. She's Marcella, an "actor" (postal worker), struggling to get her shit together. You know: work, driving licence, love, what she eats and shouldn't be eating, all that. Life, basically. She's clumsy and disorganised, not one of life's winners in the traditional sense, but funny in a self-deprecating kind of way. There's something of Miranda about her, though with more of an edge and attitude - swearier, more real, more now, less cosy, less annoying.

GameFace isn't breaking any new ground. A lot of it feels at least medium to well-done - a little self-loathing, the comfort eating, the life coach (usually a shrink), the denial, saying she's "in communications" about delivering the mail, the book group, not having read the book ... But I did enjoy the irate explosion of the book-group woman who actually wants to discuss The Scarlet Letter. And Marcella's "Don't be an arsehole" talk to her old school. Moving almost, as well as good advice. I'll certainly give it another go.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 24th April 2014


There's a massive spider on the wall in the men's toilet at the nursing home where Derek (Channel 4) works. Is it after the fly perhaps? No, because this is Ricky Gervais wobbly hand-held mockumentary style. Who is this camera operator supposed to be though? A recovering alcoholic? A resident? Maybe with Parkinson's? Certainly with no previous experience of camera operation - it's lurching all over the place, zooming in and out, I'm feeling a bit airsick to be honest. Oh for a bit of fly-on-a-wall steadiness.

And what are these amateur documentaries supposed to be, do you ever ask? I suppose a residential care home is a more likely subject than a Slough-based paper company, but I'm wondering if the whole mockumentary idea is a little tired?

Anyway, the reason for the big spider is of course to demonstrate Derek's nature. He's terrified of it but he certainly doesn't want it killed. "Go and get a cup, catch it," he tells Dougie (Karl Pilkington). "Make sure you catch it, and let it go free." Derek may not be the brightest tool in the box, or the bravest, but he's a good guy, kind and gentle, and he loves animals.

You can tell that Derek's not so bright, a bit backward, because of the way RG plays him. He hunches over a little, tilts his head to one side, darts his eyes around, grimaces idiotically, and he holds his hands in front of him, like some kind of rodent. Plus, he's not so good at declining his verbs. "Animals always tries their best," he says, demonstrating his selflessness and love of animals as well as confusion over the third person. It's the same on Twitter: "I loves animals," tweets @MrDerekNoakes. It's always a dead give away, poor verb declension ...

That's the biggest problem with Derek. Not, as some have said, that it mocks people with learning difficulties (it's too kind for that, and tries to be sympathetic). Just that it's a very crude portrayal. Gervais's previous characters - David Brent and Andy Millman - are not, I suspect, so very different from RG himself, kind of grotesque caricatures. Here he's trying to be someone else completely, and it's awful.

It may not be fashionable, but I'm a fan of Ricky Gervais. I used to like him on the radio with Stephen Merchant. Then The Office pretty much changed comedy on television, invented awkwardness. Extras was bold and bloody hilarious. I also very much enjoyed his Golden Globes hosting - baring a cheeky British arse to humourless Hollywood. But he's no Tom Hanks himself (and Derek's not Forrest Gump). Karl Pilkington also - I enjoy his Idiot Abroad show but he's no great actor.

Derek's father has moved in. He's a ladies' man, and he likes a drink (well, he seems to be Irish, maybe Derek isn't totally lazy-stereotype free). But the old man is a good 'un too. He's got a photo album, pictures of himself on holiday - France, Germany, Morocco, Spain - with a different lady in each place. "That's the point in travelling, boy: nookie." "Newquay?" says Derek, darting his eyes around, shaking his head. "I haven't been to Newquay."

A pun! Nookie, said a bit drunk and a bit Irish (same thing innit?) sounds a bit like Newquay. Especially if you're a half-wit ...

That's the other big problem with Derek. That it's not very smart. Or very funny. Or very good.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 24th April 2014


Cult comic character Frank Sidebottom has inspired a film starring Michael Fassbender, while a documentary and biography are also in the works. Four years after his creator Chris Sievey died, why is Frank's legend growing and who was the man behind the mask?

Written by Ian Youngs. BBC News, 24th April 2014

Trying Again

Chris Addison and Jo Joyner leave behind The Thick of It and EastEnders respectively and make a left turn. They come together to star in a romcom about a young-ish couple in Kendal, who are bearing up after her recent affair and attempting to rebuild their relationship.

The premise is meant to make Trying Again edgier and more emotional than comedy dramas like Stella and Mount Pleasant, which it resembles on the surface. This doesn't come through much in these first two episodes, since they're too busy being funny: writer Simon Blackwell fills them with strong gags and neat plotting (the callback pay off at the end of episode one is a killer), while Alun Cochrane, Elizabeth Berrington and Alex MacQueen are all on form as cartoonish, traditional-sitcom supporting characters.

The show's identity problem scarcely matters. In particular, Joyner is a revelation as the funny, energetic foil to Addison's nervous, cowardly weed. A new comedy star is born.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 24th April 2014


Would this have been recommissioned if it had been anybody but Ricky Gervais behind it? Probably not. Is the TV schedule better for it being included? Definitely.

Written by Caroline Frost. The Huffington Post, 24th April 2014


This show is the most rancid dollop of insincere gloop ever served up on telly.

Written by Christopher Stevens. The Daily Mail, 24th April 2014

Trying Again

Sky Living is carving out a niche for likable if low-stakes British comedy. Following on from Doll & Em, which wistfully captured the decay of a friendship, comes this Lake District-set effort about a couple trying to keep their faltering relationship afloat. Jo Joyner plays Meg, still trying to repair things with her partner Matt (Chris Addison) after having an affair with her boss. In the first of a double bill, Meg goes job-hunting, while the second has the pair adopting scare tactics in their attempt to sabotage the sale of their rented flat.

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian, 24th April 2014


Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington are back for the second series of Derek and we've already learned some pretty important lessons.

Written by Emily Hewett. Metro, 23rd April 2014

A Dundee screenwriter's "anti-romantic comedy" movie will hit her home town next month. Jill Mannion, 34, and co-writer, fellow Dundonian Kevin McComiskie, 31, wrote Random Acts of Romance at film school in Vancouver in 2006.

Written by Graeme Ogston. The Dundee Courier, 23rd April 2014


It's a fine start overall, with numerous emotional responses neatly housed within an ultimately safe environment.

Written by Julian Hall. Chortle, 23rd April 2014


The trouble isn't Derek's condition, or lack of, it's Derek himself. He feels like a cartoon in a world of verisimilitude.

Written by Will Dean. The Independent, 23rd April 2014


The new series of Derek opens with brilliant comic scenes about spiders, electrocution and sex between clowns and chimps but, by the end of the half hour, viewers just might be quietly weeping.

Written by Julie McDowall. The Herald, 23rd April 2014


My issue with Derek is that I can never really relax into it and believe that I'm actually watching a group of characters who live and work in a care home.

Written by Matt D.. Unreality Primetime, 23rd April 2014


A second series does give Gervais the chance to explore the characters more deeply, but with Karl Pilkington leaving in this opener the series instantly loses its main comedy draw.

The Custard TV, 23rd April 2014


Yes, Normcore. The 'theory' proposed by American trend forecasting collective K-Hole and picked up by New York Magazine as a fashion (or anti- fashion) movement that has become such a 'thing' that it's even been given a full page explanation in The Sun. The idea is that rather than trying to be different with what you wear, you try to be 'ardently ordinary' or 'endearingly awkward', and, for a character rarely seen out of his zip-up polyester cardigan and sweat pants, it means Derek is not just riding a Normcore wave, he's the king of the movement.

Written by Tom Atkinson. The Huffington Post, 23rd April 2014


Roisin Conaty shoves a series' worth of plot into 22 minutes.

Written by Will Dean. The Independent, 23rd April 2014


There are reports that a third series is being considered. My advice, for what it's worth, is: don't do it. It is possible to have too much of a sloppy, sentimental, embarrassing thing, you know - even when it stars Ricky Gervais.

Written by Terry Ramsey. The Daily Telegraph, 23rd April 2014


A quietly intriguing column from the brains behind QI, the BBC quiz show. This week: QI's defences are up.

Written by Molly Oldfield and John Mitchinson. The Daily Telegraph, 23rd April 2014

But the comedian and actor insists "I am no libertine" and warns people tempted to follow his example to be "careful with their souls" on documentary Love for Sale.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Radio Times, 23rd April 2014


The comic insisted that he will round off his Channel 4 comedy with either a full third run or a one-off special.

Written by Morgan Jeffery. Digital Spy, 23rd April 2014


The controversial sitcom about a mentally disabled man in a care home is back for another series. But are there signs that the creator has taken on board the vociferous criticism?

Written by Mark Lawson. The Guardian, 23rd April 2014

David Mitchell is compiling a humorous book titled Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse And Other Lessons from Modern Life.

British Comedy Guide, 23rd April 2014

The Unbelievable Truth

Here is what I had to say about dogs, together with some extra nonsense which didn't make the edit. But to find out four of the five unbelievable truths hidden therein, you will have to listen to the show... The fifth unbelievable truth I am going to tell you now.

Written by John Finnemore. 23rd April 2014


Game Face has the potential to become a hit if it gets the green light.

Comedian Roisin Conaty and Mike Wozniak, who played Greg Davies's best mates in the hit C4 comedy Man Down, are reunited in this sitcom pilot, written by Conaty herself. She plays Marcella, a chaotic under-achiever and compulsive liar who's hoping to make a fresh start with the help of a life coach, a wonderfully straight-faced Wozniak.

Alcohol, fried chicken and an old enemy from school somehow conspire to derail all Marcella's best-laid plans. If you've caught Conaty's stand-up show or any of her panel-game appearances you'll know she's a natural (she won the Best Newcomer award at Edinburgh in 2010).

So while this pilot boasts flashbacks, bad country and western and even a cameo from East 17's Brian Harvey, it's Conaty's own brashly unsinkable personality that pulls it all together.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 23rd April 2014


Life isn't exactly turning out as planned for 20-something Marcella (Roisin Conaty). She wants to be an actor, but has ended up in "communications" (she delivers post) and spends her weekends overindulging in fried chicken and sambuca.

However, with a birthday on the horizon, she decides that something needs to change. Cue enrolment with a strait-laced life coach who believes that all her problems would be solved if she found the right man.

Happily, our fiery protagonist isn't having any of it, preferring to mastermind her own, alternative fresh start in quick-witted, raucous fashion.

Ellie Austin, Radio Times, 23rd April 2014


The pilot episode of Ricky Gervais's comedy set in a retirement home provoked a firestorm. The series that followed proved to be Marmite, so it's a surprise to find it back for a second outing. Critics protest that it mocks people with learning difficulties because Derek, the careworker of the title, shuffles around with his lower jaw stuck out and asks childlike questions. Naturally, Gervais - who also writes and directs - denied any such thing, arguing Derek can hold his own against Baldrick, Father Dougal and Mr Bean.

Like The Office, Derek is a mockumentary. The difference this time round is it's not obvious at whom we're supposed to be laughing. The result can be poignant, especially the scenes with Kerry Godliman, who is magnificently understated as put-upon manager Hannah - sometimes almost unbearably uncomfortable.

Tonight Derek's father moves in and is soon batting his eyelashes at the female residents, to his son's horror. Meanwhile, new member of staff Geoff bickers with the caretaker (Gervais's pal Karl Pilkington in ludicrous wig and gigantic NHS specs).

Claire Webb, Radio Times, 23rd April 2014


If MasterChef was about comedy instead of food, it's easy to imagine what John Torode and Gregg Wallace would make of this Ricky Gervais sitcom as it comes back for a second series.

"You've got tinkly piano music and genital warts," John would tell him. "Mate, those two things should never be on the same plate."

To which Gregg would add: "I'm getting the lovely light sweetness of Hannah and Derek, the sharpness of handyman Dougie played by Karl Pilkington, but then all I'm left with is this nasty, sour aftertaste in my mouth from Kev and that grubby pornographic gravy.

"There's a time and a place for sexual language like that and it just doesn't belong in a pudding."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

This week a new member of staff regales Derek with tales of strange creatures that are half-men, half-chimp, and Derek's father, Anthony (Tony Rohr) moves into the nursing home.

It's genuinely heart-warming to see him getting to know his son better.

Even if he is more interested in getting acquainted with all the female residents.

Jane Simon, The Daily Mirror, 23rd April 2014

Trying Again

The Thick of It favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series Trying Again? Alice Jones finds out.

Written by Alice Jones. The Independent, 23rd April 2014



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