It’s been a bit of a week of things coming back from 2003 that hasn’t been seen since; fortunately not Saddam Hussein or Den Watts in EastEnders (a third comeback from the dead would be pushing it a bit). Last Friday, I went to the launch for the new series of Cold Feet, and Monday was the screening of Ricky Gervais’ Office movie reboot, David Brent:Life On The Road. You can guess which one I enjoyed more.
The first episode of Cold Feet saw Adam (James Nesbitt; yes, there is reference to his richly luxuriant barnet) return to Manchester to announce to his friends and son that he’s met a hot, young, beautiful millionaire’s daughter and is going to marry her, such is the power of a hair transplant. Expectations amongst a room full of journalists were high, and fortunately, nobody seemed disappointed.
The new series of Cold Feet isn’t a retread, merely a continuation by the writer and creator Mike Bullen, and feels like meeting old friends again after 13 years. It feels seamless, although of course things have moved on – Pete and Jenny are back together, Karen’s a successful businesswoman, David’s married to his joyless, bossy divorce lawyer, they’ve all got teenage kids. It all bobs along in a warm and witty fashion, on your screens in September.
The David Brent movie is out on August 19 and with that I’m not so enamoured. We’re supposed to feel sorry for the salesman; he’s had a breakdown, he’s now a rep for Lavichem, purveyors of bathroom supplies (cue tampon gags ie ‘One size fits all…oh, no, it doesn’t…’) but still yearns to be a rock star. He hires musicians who hate him for a tour of the Thames Valley with his band Foregone Conclusion, drags along a young mixed race rapper who’s become involved with him somehow, says a million embarrassing things and sings (I did like the line in Native American where he rhymed ‘American’ with ‘a pelican’).
I guess we are now invited to feel pity for Brent, having been ill and now reduced to selling bog brushes, but it’s all a bit late. Even vague flashes of self-awareness don’t make him likeable; I can only draw comparisions with Alan Partridge, who I like more for being an out and out arsehole. Do we really want a cuddly Ricky Gervais…oops, David Brent? Brent’s arseholier-than-thouness makes him the character he is and as a fictional comedy creation, we don’t have to like him, he just has to make us laugh. Ricky, you can want to be loved, it’s only human, but you’re not Brent, yeah?
Did it make me laugh? In parts. Too much cringey stuff that we just know Brent is going to say because he is a copper-bottomed, well-created character. Very little story arc – drama is conflict, and because people generally walk away from Brent, tutting, nobody ever really confronts him about what he does. What would happen if someone punched him? Other irritants including a scene where Brent does a publicity shoot to the accompaniment of Bowie’s Fashion (‘I knew him, you know’) and Gervais’ strange fascination with giving fat women a kicking, in this case, twice in the movie. Being fat makes them unloveable, being an arse still gets Brent a nice lady admirer in the office.
Different critical reactions to both media events, different personal ones as well. Forget the past 13 years, the Cold Feet launch was like the past 25 going past my eyes; it seemed that every writer I’d ever worked with, and the occasional publicist, was in the room. It also made me think about the people who weren’t there, the dead ones in particular. Whilst talking to a PR and having a gush about how good it was, I felt tears in my eyes and had to make my excuses and leave to have a minor bawl in the well-appointed lavatories of the Soho Hotel.
After the Brent movie, I felt nothing but really grim, probably because it too made me think about what had happened in my life in the last 13 years. The Cold Feet characters had had success, sadness, families, relationships and seemed set for a comfortable middle age, bar the dramatic stories that Bullen had planned for them. Brent had none of the above. Guess which one I felt more akin to?
Kill me now. But not before you book me into a blog reading tour of venues in the Thames Valley.