Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington in Derek – video preview

See the first clips of the potentially controversial new Channel 4 comedy

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Channel 4 has released a series of video teasers for Derek, the new one-off comedy drama by Ricky Gervais.

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Derek, which airs on C4 on 12 April at 10pm, centres on the character Derek Noakes, played by Gervais – who also writes and directs without any input from his creative partner, Stephen Merchant.

First conceived by Gervais even before the comic’s first TV appearances on The 11 o’Clock Show, Derek is a sweet, innocent man whom most people would recognise as mentally vulnerable or having learning difficulties – although Gervais insists he is “normal” and does not have a disability. 

Derek works in an old people’s home – the pilot episode introduces him and his friends on the staff. Among those friends is Dougie, played by Gervais’s sidekick on The Ricky Gervais Show, Karl Pilkington. 

This is Pilkington’s acting debut, and Dougie features heavily in the clips released today by C4, which generally do not focus on Derek himself. In the first two we see that Dougie is similar to Tim, Martin Freeman’s character in The Office: while those around him may be happy with their surroundings, Dougie isn’t.

These extracts also see Gervais making use of the idea that all the characters are being filmed for a documentary – a device familiar from The Office and Life’s Too Short, but which elsewhere in Derek can feel superfluous.

Another clip shows Douglas venting his frustration at having to humour Derek all day, as Derek shows he might have a little in common with Maggie from Extras and Gareth from The Office.

The next clip introduces, but sadly does not give much time to, Kerry Godliman as Derek’s other work friend, Hannah. Godliman’s brilliant performance is one of the highlights of the programme, but this extract focuses on her reaction to Derek’s pratfalling, as he sits in some custard.

Finally, there’s a glimpse of what you might see if Derek becomes a series: another friend of his, Kev – played by David Earl – talks to Derek and Dougie about his hobby, autograph-hunting. Gervais has said that this would be expanded in future episodes, with each one to feature celebrity cameos from stars being chased for their signature. Emma Bunton and Dermot O’Leary were filmed for the pilot episode but were cut from the finished version.

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Read RadioTimes.com’s full review of Derek here.