Ricky Gervais has released new images from his upcoming film Life On The Road, which reprises the character David Brent from Gervais's hugely popular and well lauded BBC sitcom The Office.
Despite its acclaim, The Office famously ran for only two series and a Christmas special, while the question of whether it would return has dogged Gervais (and co-creator Stephen Merchant) ever since it ended. Brent made the occasional appearance until a YouTube series a couple of years ago and each has been OK, but that's a huge step down from the standard Gervais had established. In all honesty even the Christmas special was pretty weak, but it's like FDR not making it through his fourth term; you did a good job, it's fine, we understand, bye.
It's a bundle of interlinked problems really. Firstly, I think Gervais and Merchant hit an Illmatic conundrum; where do you go when your first big hit goes down as your best? It's living in your own shadow, which must be strange and frustrating when you're still capable of producing alright work.
Secondly, the comedy style they were doing became cliche too quickly. Not just the filming technique or characterisation, just as in that uneasy, disjointed, banal way people relate to each other. If we look back on The Office, Peep Show and The Thick of It as a new pseudo-wave of shit Brits in harried situations, The Office is top because Peep Show went on for too long and The Thick of It became about Tucker's catchphrases too much. As a consequence that voice has become Gervais's signature, so whatever character he writes has that nervous stutter, light ignorance, jabbing passive aggression, to the point it feels like every character is Gervais cosplaying. It's an approach to humour even major adverts have now, which highlight the form's flaws; the dependence on an awkward atmosphere, the obligatory silver lining in every dull character, the conversations that negate any notion of story.
Thirdly, at this point, David Brent's been stretched too far. It was always clear that he was the top boy of the original series and mostly that worked, but it was because he had people to bounce off; the friendly Tim, mad awkward Gareth, spiteful Chris Finch. It let the character breathe and avoid becoming just the myopic interview sections, which is seemingly where the character is going from here.
Ricky Gervais is a hugely successful comedian who doesn't need to return to his former glories; of course he can if it's his choice, but it's a shame to see someone so talented rely - or even ruin - a reputation so well deserved. Anyhow, here's aforementioned film snaps:
Plus some jokes moments from the series: