For his next TV comedy trick, Ricky Gervais will try to make Americans laugh not via cable TV nor TV at all, but rather, Netflix.
The online streaming service announced late Wednesday that it had acquired the U.S. rights to broadcast the upcoming Gervais series, Derek, in 2013.
Gervais plays a misfit who works in a retirement home. His co-workers include his long-running comedic target, Karl Pilkington, in Pilkington’s first “acting” role. And like The Office before it, the main characters offer commentary to a documentary crew on set for reasons unexplained.
Also unexplained is the reason for the look and mannerisms Gervais displays as Derek. The comedian had incurred criticism over the past couple of years for his frequent use of the term “mong,” often accompanied by photos he’d post of himself making demented faces. At a screening of the Derek pilot this spring, Gervais denied any link between his new titular character and a handicap of any kind, and said Derek would fare better in comparisons with other TV characters such as Mr. Bean. “I’ve never thought of him as disabled,” he said in March.
Indeed, Gervais describes the show and Derek as “a bittersweet one-off comedy drama about a group of outsiders living on society’s margins. Derek Noakes (played by Ricky) is a tender, innocent man whose love for his job and the people he cares for shines through.”
After about three million viewers tuned into the pilot in April, Channel 4 awarded Gervais with a full season of Derek. It finished shooting this month, and will air early next year in the UK before showing up online in North America later in 2013.
Of the Netflix deal, Gervais told his Twitter followers that he’d earn “28 times” the amount of money he was paid for the initial season of The Office, the series that catapulted him to stardom.
From the press releases, Gervais added this offiical statement: “Netflix is the future. TV habits have already changed drastically over the last 10 years and this is the next phase. People want their favorite shows on demand whether they are homegrown or not. As an artist you want the fruits of your labor to be seen by the largest number of people possible without having to compromise the product. This deal gave me the freedom and the huge potential viewers of the Internet but the production values of film and TV. They also made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Come on, an artist gotta eat man.”
And this from Netflix’s Ted Sarandos: “We are thrilled to be working again with Ricky. We were the first online subscription service to license The Office several years ago and this brings us full circle.”
Here is the pilot. Roll it while you can.