Gervais said he was happy to ignore any criticism the new episodes might attract. “I do this for myself,” he said. “I do it for the sheer pleasure of it and I always have. I did it cos I loved it when I was poor, and I do it because I love it now I’m rich. I don’t care if you watch, I don’t care if you don’t like it.
“You have to be a complete fascist in art,” Gervais added. “It’s not a democracy at all. You have to do your own thing … people don’t know what they want.”
Gervais did respond, however, to the charge that the character of Derek, which he plays himself, is a cynical exploitation of people with autism or learning difficulties. “I have never considered Derek to be disabled, I never understood it when they started trying to second guess,” the creator of The Office and Extras said. “Some are saying, ‘He is autistic’, ‘No, he’s got Down’s syndrome’, ‘No, he’s…’ If I say he is not meant to be, he is not meant to be, it’s as simple as that. [The series] is sincere, it is down the line.
“People often think my work is cynical. I’m always aware that whenever I launch a new show I feel like I’m landing at Normandy. I can hear the bullets, but you’ve still got to open the door.”