Update: Gervais mentioned this very article on his blog yesterday and has noted some of the stuff I have wrote isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve since been emailed elsewhere that Stephen Merchant appeared on Something For The Weekend on Sunday and said that he was not involved with the new sitcom. So just like The Invention of Lying, this is Gervais without his right hand man.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have shot a t.v. pilot for a new Channel 4 sitcom called Derek that will be based on the pre-Office Gervias sketch show character Derek Noakes. When initially conceived, Noakes was a middle-aged, mentally challenged man-child who lives with his Nan, is obsessed about collecting animals and has aspirations to become a stand-up comedian, despite not being particularly self-aware or funny.

As you can see from the over a decade old video of a Noakes sketch below, Gervais had many of the ideas from The Office floating around his head at the time (a mockumentary documentary portrait of a middle-aged loser who is totally oblivious about how the world works) but in this case (via the voiceover & music) Noakes was also a commentary on how these kind of real life documentaries exploit and make-fun of those who don’t know better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKSDFU-YZX4

How many of these ideas will be re-tooled in the new sitcom or how Gervais’ view on Noakes has evolved in the past ten years, or whether it will be a straight sitcom (Extras) or a mockumentary sitcom (The Office/Life’s Too Short) is unknown at this point but he is a character Gervais seems to have a fondness for. You can see bits of Noakes in the ‘Finding Leo’ video below…

If commissioned as a full series (is anyone really gonna turn down Gervais?) this would be their fourth sitcom.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s third sitcom Life’s Too Short is currently three episodes in (the fourth airs on Thursday) but has by far and away garnered the least amount of enthusiasm with critics, viewers and praise around the WhatCulture! water cooler. Our very own Tom Barnard wrote a spot-on critique of the show on Friday and it’s sad to see a show with so much potential feel so recycled from The Office and Extras that it is struggling to find it’s own voice.

Having said all that, it’s still a show that is required viewing in my household. All Gervais/Merchant sitcoms are and it’s still so much better than the majority of what is on television. That is why news of a fourth Gervais/Merchant sitcom being in the works is immensely exciting.

Bleeding Cool put the jigsaw pieces together over the weekend and alert us to the fact that Gervais revealed the existence of the new show, the pilot of which has already been shot, on his twitter feed;

Night Twonks. Got to get some sleep as I’m filming a pilot with Karl this week. Ridiculously early starts. Still mustn’t grumble…

Off to play with Karl and some old folk. Couldn’t get through a scene with David Earl being a letch and Karl as a celibate…”I’m not bothered” Everyone corpsing, every take.

Yup, that’s Karl Pilkington, the title subject in Gervais’ travel show An Idiot Abroad who seemingly appears in the pilot. Here’s visual evidence below;

The Sun newspaper also chirped in saying the sitcom would see Derek not with his Nan but in an old people’s home;

They’re filming a pilot in London. It’s early days but it looks brilliant. Ricky is in charge of the project and plays a man called Derek Noakes, living in an old people’s home, while Sean Connery has been asked to play his elderly mate in the home.

Sean Connery of course has been retired for eight years (since The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and it’s unlikely he would be interested in this. Though who knows what The Sun reports as being accurate or not.

Much more reliable is the horse’s mouth himself. Here’s more from Gervais’ blog;

Up ridiculously early today as I’m filming a little pilot this week. Very excited about it obviously. It’s an ensemble piece which includes Karl in his first real acting role. He’s nervous, but he shouldn’t be. He’s great and I’m only bringing out what’s already there, if you know what I mean.

Had an amazing day filming with Karl and loads of lovely old people. Are you allowed to say old? (Yes. Of course you fucking are.)

And then;

Finished filming the little pilot with Karl today. We both had the best time ever. He really got a buzz out of acting. He was playing a complete weirdo div useless miserable bald-headed Manc twat. He nailed it.

Gervais/Merchant shooting the pilot whilst one of their shows is only half way through it’s first series of airing is unprecedented. Usually we have to wait years between these things but Gervais/Merchant seem to be moving fast with this.

As a huge fan of Gervais it’s always great to hear that he is working on something new but I can’t help but wish it was actually something entirely new and not an old character being re-born. For me Life’s Too Short is way to reminiscent of his previous works but having said that, I think there is potential in a Derek Noakes sitcom. And anything with Karl involved is mighty fine by me.

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This article was first posted on November 28, 2011