Brash Brit Ricky Gervais turns sweeter in new comedy

Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:33am EST
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By Lisa Richwine

PASADENA, California (Reuters) - Ricky Gervais, the brash Briton who built a career on biting satire, is showing off his sweeter side.

Gervais stars in "Derek," a comedy he wrote about a man who works in a retirement home filled with many characters in their 80s and 90s.

The creator of "The Office" mockumentary said the new program featured flawed characters like the ones that were hallmarks of his earlier works, but was "sweeter."

"It's a show about kindness first and foremost," Gervais told reporters and TV critics on Wednesday at a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

"There's some more dramatic moments than 'The Office' or 'Extras,'" his show about actors looking for a big break, he added. "It's sweeter. It still has the existentialism of 'The Office.' There are still characters being daft, silly, or nice."

The show, which has already aired in Britain, will be released this spring on Netflix Inc, the subscription video service available in the United States, Canada, Latin America and parts of Europe.

"Derek" stirred controversy in Britain when some critics complained that Gervais' character, Derek Noakes, appeared to have a disability and was being mocked.

Gervais has denied Noakes is disabled or that he was being cruel, describing his character as "innocent, he's childlike, and he's in awe of the world. He does the right thing. He doesn't think about it."   Continued...

Cast member Ricky Gervais answers a question during the panel for the HBO television series "Life's Too Short" at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California January 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni