In a perfect world, Ricky Gervais wouldn’t see a need to keep futzing around with David Brent. In a perfect world, he’d leave him where we all left him, back in the exquisite last 10 minutes of The Office: jobless, lonely, loitering at Wernham Hogg for no discernible reason — but armed with just a little bit of hope. Alas, friends, as you may have noticed by now, this is not a perfect world. And so, since first reviving him last year, for the charity drive Red Nose Day, Gervais has continued to parade around his greatest creation. And the latest news may be the most dastardly of all: Apparently, both the BBC and Netflix are interested in a full-fledged David Brent series. Oh, dear.
In an interview with the Radio Times, Gervais explains that he got “hooked again” on Brent after bringing him back last year, and that he’s now certainly weighing his options: “I love David Brent but I can’t just do it as a vanity project because the BBC and Netflix are up for it. I don’t know whether to do an on-the-road special or make that the whole series.” On-the-road special, you ask? Oh, yes, that’s right: Gervais has been playing gigs as Brent, with Brent’s band Foregone Conclusion. And he might even play the massive Glastonbury Festival: “It would be amazing for Ricky Gervais,” says Ricky Gervais, “but I don’t know if I can justify it. He can’t play venues outside the story.”
See, Brent thinks he’s being true to the character, by staying in-character as he’s playing these gigs. The point is, it’s all supposed to be very pathetic: “the instant tragedy of a 50-year-old wannabe pop star in a shiny suit,” as he puts it. So playing Glastonbury doesn’t make any sense, right? But take a look at these live videos, and ask yourself if this is all anything much more than Brent just really wanting to front a band.
Not helping matters: Gervais bragging to the Radio Times that Brent “sells out venues faster than the Rolling Stones at the moment.” Yikes. The “narrative” is already smashed to pieces, my dude.
Ricky Gervais, these days, is an increasingly dicey proposition; the Derek debacle certainly didn’t make him any friends, and I defy you to find anyone who enjoys him smug’n it up in that Audi commercial. But it’s not like he’s been flailing since The Office. He’s produced a voluminous amount of content — movies, TV series, stand-up specials, award show hosting, etc. — and some of it (I’d point specifically to Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show, and Life’s Too Short) has been very, very good.
So, why go back to the well? For what might end up being a David Brent concert movie? Well, because he can, and because people, apparently, want him to. Also, let’s not forget: It could be good? Maybe? Perhaps? At least technically possibly?
As The Guardian‘s review of one of these gigs puts it, “So is this worth risking the Brent legacy for? For Gervais, almost certainly – the spectre of self-indulgence is never far from the stage, as the former singer/lyricist of unheralded 80s synth-pop band Seona Dancing finally gets to play rock god. And for the rest of us? Well, let’s not be precious — it is great fun. I defy you to love The Office – as I do – and not experience a shiver of pleasure to see its naff anti-hero swagger onstage here in aviators, nasty waistcoat and with a silver ring in his ear (‘fashion, innit’).”
Yeah, yeah: Some of us may still want to remember David Brent a certain type of way. Ricky Gervais disagrees. For better or for worse, he gets to make the call.