As part of BBC Three’s new slot on BBC One, the first episode of Jerk got its broadcast premiere on Monday (March 4), having been available on BBC iPlayer since February 24. The seriously dark comedy now deserves to find a bigger audience.
Created by Tim Renkow and expanded from his one-off pilot in 2016, Jerk sees the comedian (who has cerebral palsy) play a heightened version of himself. The Tim in the show is an art-school dropout who knows he can use his disability to get away with doing just about everything, from being lazy at work to taking advantage of a refugee charity.
Jerk sets its stall out in the very first scene. In a cafe, Tim notices a douchebag go into the disabled toilet, so he intentionally spills a glass of water on his trousers and stands outside the toilet to prank the guy as he comes out.
You’d be forgiven for describing Jerk as Curb Your Enthusiasm with a disabled lead. Tim often isn’t remotely likeable, revelling in making people around him feel uncomfortable and saying things like he won’t lose his job because his hiring means “they don’t need to hire a transexual”.
But that’s the point. With Jerk (and his own stand-up comedy), Renkow wants to show that disabled people, like anyone else, can be utter douchebags too.
“Often with disabled people [on TV], that’s what defines them,” he told Joe. “That’s why the character is such a lazy piece of shit – because every other sitcom character is. I feel like disabled people are never allowed to be human. So he is just a human, with a lot of flaws.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Renkow explained that he also made Jerk as he’s “trying to find a group of people that I’m not allowed to make fun of”. And he definitely takes aim at a lot of different people and cultures.
Episode two, for example, sees Tim pretend to be a Syrian refugee called ‘Mohammed Ali’ (who also happens to be an ex-skateboard champion), just to get some free food. The breathtakingly un-PC episode sees Tim end up in a charity campaign video, led by a fame-hungry charity worker, and finishes with a final scene that’ll leave you stunned.
Jerk isn’t just about Renkow taking potshots at other people, though, as he happily turns the spotlight on himself.
Largely this comes from a wonderful performance from The Sopranos star Lorraine Bracco as Tim’s mum, who regularly mocks him for his laziness, but Britain’s Got Talent winner Lee Ridley also gets in on the act in episode three as Tim’s nemesis.
Alongside Bracco, the small regular cast features My Mad Fat Diary‘s Sharon Rooney as Tim’s dreadful carer Ruth and Rob Madin as the hapless Idris, one of the few nice guys in the show, although even he gets his moment to be selfish in the final episode.
And while the series does come to a fitting conclusion, we really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Tim and his horrible ways.
Jerk is available to watch in full on BBC iPlayer and continues on Monday (March 11) at 11pm on BBC One.
BBC Three has come up with a pocket-sized gem in Jerk. Following a one-off pilot in 2016, this is only a four-part series but there’s a surprisingly pleasing arc to it as we go from squirming at the main character Tim’s behaviour to cheering him on at the end. As they say, we laugh and we learn.
Stand-up Tim Renkow plays Tim, who, like Renkow, also has cerebral palsy. But that doesn’t mean the real Tim is quite as inappropriate as the fictional Tim. In the first episode, for example, he lands a job with a trendy card agency called Anarchy Hamster – think Moonpig for hipsters – and although he is clearly a talented artist he can’t resist talking about and drawing shit and discussing other bodily functions. Inevitably this gets him into trouble and eventually the sack, when he says of a breastfeeding colleague that “I didn’t think you could eat lunch at your desk.” This gives him the perfect chance the berate his brief boss for only employing him to tick diversity boxes.
Episode two has something of a Curb Your Enthusiasm feel to it as the perpetually barefoot Tim accidentally ends up pretending to be a middle eastern asylum seeker when he sneaks into a food bank for refugees to grab a free meal. Inevitably he has to keep up this pretence much longer than is actually necessary, eventually inventing an entire backstory when an entitled hooray Henry wants to make a documentary about him.
In episode three we have a bit of a cerebral palsy face-off when Tim meets Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy) who plays a rival artist. Their spat in the street in particularly hilarious as they hurl insults at each other, Ridley via his iPad, Renkow while wobbling about in his walking frame. Things look up for Tim, however, when he has a date, but when he takes her to Ridley’s art opening things don’t pan out as expected. Just to make things even more awkward, Tim’s American mum – played by Lorraine Bracco from The Sopranos – has come over to visit him.
In the final episode it turns out that Tim may have to be deported. His visa has run out and, unless he can very quickly get married or find a long-lost Egnlish relation, there isn’t much chance of him being able to stay in the UK. Will he be able to set up home here? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Tim seems like an unlikely hero at first, but one soon warms to him. The ruder he is, the funnier he is and weirdly the more amiable he is. He uses his disability to take advantage of people who dare not answer back. If there is a message here it is that people with cerebral palsy can be arseholes too.
Renkow, who wrote this with Shaun Pye and Stu Richards, is well-supported by Sharon Rooney as his gobby carer Ruth, Rob Madin as the wimpish Idris, whose thankless job is to fix Tim up with a job. Familiar comedy faces Luke McQueen, Lauren Pattison and Karl Theobald also pitch up. It would be good to see more of this – unlike Tim’s boss, let’s hope the BBC hasn’t commissioned this to tick diversity boxes.
Watch the full series of Jerk here and weekly on BBC One on Mondays at 11pm.
Jerk review: Tim Renkow has created a Larry David for a new generation
The conceit of this dark comedy is that having cerebral palsy means you can get away with anything – which our antihero duly does …
Tim Renkow is my new hero. He doesn’t get out of bed until his mum shouts him into action over Skype. He turns up to work barefoot and in pyjamas. He foments staff dissent by opening payslips and blabbing about who gets paid what. He sets off the fire alarm, causing mass panic. Best of all, when he goes to an ideas meeting, he is asked to suggest how working practices could be improved. How about, he offers, all of you get some self-respect?
To be fair, those to whom Tim is appalling deserve it. He has been hired by a greeting card manufacturer called Anarchy Hamster. The boss, Sean, who intolerably styles himself “chief lunatic”, has created a work environment of teeth-clenching, compulsory fun. Anarchy Hamster is a company devoted to flooding the world with fatuousness. So, when Tim discloses he may or may not defecate in his boss’s desk drawer, we may well think Sean has it coming. (If Tim has, which he hasn’t.)
The conceit of Jerk (BBC Three) is that Renkow’s cerebral palsy means he can get away with saying what others dare not. He is Larry David with a twist – nobody risks confronting him because he is disabled. He is cerebral palsy’s James Bond: he has licence, if not to kill, then to wound by being awful to all-comers. He is to political correctness what Boris Johnson is to statesmanship. He is a sociopathic American who parlays his palsy into guilt-tripping PC Britons – which, as you know, is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
There’s another reason I like Renkow. His on-screen mother is Lorraine Bracco, who has moved from one toxic relationship as Tony Soprano’s shrink to another as mother to the most unpleasant American living in Britain (a hotly contested title). We see Bracco only on Renkow’s laptop, exhorting her son to get on with his life in the hoarsely captivating voice that still reduces me to jelly even when she is speaking such unsexy words as: “I can tell you as the world’s leading authority on cerebral palsy, that being a pussy is not a symptom.” And yet, despite this sensible advice, Tim remains a pussy and a jerk: he is never going to get a worthwhile job, a date or a visa with those twin attributes.
Part of the pleasure of the opening episode is watching Renkow do everything he can to get fired, knowing that his bosses will do all they can to keep him on the payroll. “I think I’m on some sort of quota scheme, so they don’t have to hire a transsexual,” he muses sourly.
In this, Renkow is akin to George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode in which he feigned disability to get preferential treatment (including the keys to the executive washroom), knowingly exploiting bosses’ awkwardness about disability. But, while Costanza was a phoney asshole working a guilt-ridden system to his advantage, Renkow is no phoney, but all asshole. When Sean asks Tim if he has any special needs, he demands a chair made of salmon leather, new shoes and a bigger desk. Bigger than hers, he says, pointing at Anne who sits opposite.
Of course, it is wrong of him to mutate into Nigel Farage with nice but invertebrate Anne. When she breastfeeds her baby in the office, he sarcastically complains: “I didn’t think you could eat lunch at your desk.” Less wrong of him to suggest a new line for her greeting card. “Hello baby! Bye-bye wallet,” she suggests. “Bye-bye perineum,” he counters.
How can disability be funny? Jerk suggests one way, not by making us laughing at disability (that, as you know, is wrong), but by exploiting the comic potential of a situation in which a jerk uses their disability to yank someone’s chain. Renkow gets his kicks from making others feel bad about his disability. Typical is the opening gag in which a man comes out of a cafe’s disabled toilet to be confronted by Renkow, who has thrown a glass of water over his crotch and gives his adversary a how-could-you? stare.
The first episode is mostly a delight, although Renkow could have made more of the scene in which he struggles to get his walking frame into the office through the only entrance, a set of rotating doors. Also delightful are the two sidekicks Renkow and his co-writers Shaun Pye and Stu Richards have created. Idris is a geek who tries and largely fails to be Tim’s employment consultant (there is literally nobody on British TV less like Idris Elba than him), and my other new hero is Ruth, Tom’s epically careless care-worker. Ruth is a bigger jerk than the eponymous jerk himself, getting one client (Renkow) to make her sandwiches while she chillaxes, deferring her visit to another, incontinent, client. “You’re so emotionally retarded,” he tells Ruth. “Tim,” she replies tartly. “You know we don’t use that word.” “Sorry. You’re not emotional.” “Thank you,” she replies. Just possibly, the jerk has met his match.
“I think I might be a superhero.” That’s Tim Renkow in Jerk, BBC Three’s hysterical new sitcom. The show follows Tim (Renkow), a young man with cerebral palsy trying to get through life in a world where everyone treats him differently. He knows they all judge him based on his appearance, and he also knows that they judge him incorrectly – because underneath it all, he’s a total dick. And so he goes through the day-to-day routines of jobs and friendships making everyone uncomfortable – and he does so entirely on purpose. “I think I might be a superhero,” he declares. Then adds: “My super power is I can’t be sacked.”
That simple principle is behind all of Jerk’s humour, and it paves the way for a complex show. On the one hand, it exposes how society is so intently politically correct that it’s unwilling to criticise a person with cerebral palsy for their behaviour. On the other, it shows that there’s more to our lead than his neurological condition, and Tim makes the most of that opportunity to be as much of a jerk as possible.
From hitting on people to playing pranks on them, not to mention lying his way through job interviews, he’s entertainingly, intelligently, brutally cruel. He blags a role at a greeting cards company (“Anarchy Hamster”), only to draw poo and genitalia all over their products – much to the dismay of co-worker Anne (a wonderfully stoney-faced Cicely Giddings) and the nervous prevarications of middle-management Shaun (the always-enjoyable Karl Theobald). Renkow, meanwhile, grins with a laugh-out-loud brashness, pushing every boundary he can, as he rails against a company that is only trying to fulfil their quota of diverse employee demographics. It’s a righteous cause, but one that he tackles in all the wrong ways, and that juxtaposition is where Jerk succeeds as something deliciously unique.
Tim’s equally dismissive of the young worker at the job centre (the likeable Rob Madin) trying to help him out. His name’s Idris, but he “definitely isn’t no Idris”, in the disappointed words of Ruth (the excellent Sharon Rooney), Tim’s care worker. They’re the ones, tellingly, who stick around with Tim, because they treat him as the selfish, immature jerk he actually is. Rooney’s Ruth is amusingly caustic at every opportunity, spending more time sending Tim to the shops on her behalf than actually offering any kind of support. Idris, meanwhile, just desperately wants to do the right thing – not least because Tim’s visa is coming up for renewal imminently.
Tim, meanwhile, is too busy pulling any prank he can to avoid worrying about getting a girlfriend or making sure he’s allowed to say in the country. And so we watch him as he throws water over his crotch in a cafe to guilt-trip a guy who used the disabled loo and destroys pieces of art with his walking frame. By the time we’ve reach the end of the final episode, it’s almost not a shock that he’s pretended to be a refugee to get free food.
Renkow and co-writers Stu Richards and Shaun Pye (who also gave us the brilliantly honest There She Goes) have a glorious knack for escalating events just far enough to be awkward and hilarious at the same time – there’s a Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque vein of humour running through each episode, while one sequence between Tim and his nemesis is the kind of timeless comic set piece that could have come right out of Naked Gun. Lorraine Bracco, as Tim’s mum, dives right into that careful balance, popping up over Skype (or into his bedroom) to get him out of whatever mess he’s in (including his bedroom), quiz him on his love life or simply insult him – something she does with an impressive sense of genuine affection. “I’ll come visit you in Guantanamo,” she signs off after one conversation, all brash, loud words and undeniable heart.
Throughout, Renkow’s performance is a fiendish delight, balancing that humour and wickedness with a hint of tragedy, as we watch Tim become a master of his own downfall, simply by shirking the important things in life he has to address. “I want to be a stunt pilot,” he tells Idris, with a flawless deadpan stare. “Do you have experience?” comes the reply. “How do you think I got like this?” he quips back, relishing the expressions that play across Idris’ face. Clever, sweet and gleefully dark, this is one of BBC Three’s best comedy commissions to date. Watch it immediately.
Jerk is available on BBC iPlayer until July 2019.
Review Overview –
Cast – 9
Script – 9
Laughs – 9
Rating – 9: Unique, sweet and gleefully dark, this is one of BBC Three’s best comedy commissions to date.
Lorraine Bracco joins Tim Renkow in new BBC Three comedy, Jerk
Tim Renkow (Bobby and Harriet Get Married) and Lorraine Bracco (Sopranos, Goodfellas) star as Tim and his loud, proud mother, in BBC Three comedy series, Jerk.
Tim has cerebral palsy, which means that people judge him and his crumpled tissue of a body. But usually they judge him wrongly. Because what they don’t realise is that inside that severely disabled, fragile body is a bit of an asshole.
Tim knows he makes people uncomfortable – he does it on purpose. He knows his cerebral palsy means he can get away with saying what others can’t. But that’s his problem: time spent taking aim at life’s easier targets means Tim takes his eye off its bigger prizes: the job, the girl and the visa.
Like faking it as a refugee, making a disabled nemesis and offending his new colleagues at a greeting cards company, Tim becomes the master of his own downfall and it’s left to his friends Ruth, his indifferent care worker, played by Sharon Rooney (My Mad Fat Diary), and Idris, played by Rob Madin (BBC Comedy Feeds), to get him out of all the disastrous situations he gets himself into.
Tim Renkow says: “I loved working with such a talented group of people – they even managed to make this reprobate look presentable. There was such a great atmosphere on set. It was like a family, except everyone really liked each other.”
Lorraine Bracco adds: “It was such a pleasure getting to work with the uniquely hilarious talent that is Tim Renkow. It was a treasure to experience Tim’s world with him. I felt lucky.”
Shane Allen, Controller, BBC Comedy Commissioning: “Jerk is by turns jaw dropping and hilarious. Tim is the ultimate kamikaze comedy rebel who takes risks and no prisoners. The entire ensemble on the show are knockout. Strap in for one of the most distinctive and outrageous sitcoms on air this year…”
Alex Smith, Roughcut’s Head of Comedy (and Jerk Exec Producer) said: “Roughcut is thrilled to unleash Tim onto the world. This is a brave and mischievous show with a unique lead; a young man who’s his own worst enemy and knows because of his cerebral palsy he can get away with almost anything. Tim Renkow is a fearless standup, who thrives on pushing the line of uncomfortable jokes. The transition from his stand-up talent to sitcom was hugely satisfying for Roughcut to collaborate on.”
Jerk will be available as a boxset on BBC Three and will also air on BBC One. It is a 4 x 30’ comedy series written by Shaun Pye, Tim Renkow and Stu Richards and a co-production between Roughcut TV and Primal Media. The series is Executive Produced by Ash Atalla and Alex Smith for Roughcut TV and Mat Steiner for Primal Media. It is produced by Roughcut’s Rebecca Murrell and directed by Tom McKay. The Commissioning Editor for BBC Comedy is Alex Moody. The series piloted as A Brief History Of Tim in BBC Three’s 2016 Comedy Feeds, showcasing emerging new talent.
Indies to co-develop entertainment formats to be made out of Scotland.
STV Productions and Primal Media are to jointly develop and pitch large-scale entertainment formats after signing a two-year strategic co-production deal.
The move is part of STV’s ongoing drive to build up STV Productions with a multi-genre slate of returning series, while Primal, the London-based producer of Sky 1’s Carnage (pictured) and ITV’s Bigheads, gets a foothold in Scotland.
Primal Media owner Lionsgate will have first look distribution rights on all formats that emerge from the partnership.
Recently-appointed STVP managing director David Mortimer described Primal founders Mat Steiner and Adam Wood as “two of the most talented entertainment producers in the business”.
Wood added: “Every ambitious indie these days must have the option to produce in Scotland – if not, too many precious format slots will be out of reach. STV, with their scale, entrepreneurial leadership and deep-rooted Scottish production expertise, feel like the perfect partners, and we look forward to sharing ideas with David, Gary and their team.”
STVP last week announced that it is developing adaptations of two debut novels by Scottish authors: Damian Barr’s Maggie & Me and Kirsten Innes’ Fishnet.
Head of drama development Claire Armspach and head of drama Sarah Brown are leading the projects.
TAKE a Mad Max-style rebooted game show, hosted by former international cricketer and all-round good guy Freddie Flintoff. Add MC Lethal Bizzle to the mix. Then, ensure Capital FM presenter Vick Hope is on hand to help dilute the testosterone. What do you get? Carnage.
The concept of the show is simple. Hope calls it a mix of Robot Wars, Mad Max and Wacky Races. Certainly, the design is inspired by George Miller’s crazed film franchise, and Bizzle and Hope look the part.
The influence of the Wacky Races is harder to spot, though this is a competition in which teams — each comprising a driver, an engineer and a mechanic — battle it out in a South African desert landscape, north of Cape Town, where the temperatures can hit mid-40C.
There are three settings: the grid, the scrapyard, and the dome. And, just to make it interesting, there are rampaging monster mutant trucks bent on mangling any vehicle which gets in their way. There are walls of fire too, and the basic idea is to smash the other team’s vehicle until they can’t be driven.
A post-apocalyptic demolition derby in dragged-up dodgems? Why not?
There was a time when I would have looked at this and turned away in disgust. Now, however, I’m all in.
Carnage! What is it? “A bunch of cool cars on an epic collision course!”
Carnage! Where is it? Real men carry it in their hearts, but it is also on a patch of unidentified lawless desert and Sky One.
Which is to say the new Sky series, Carnage (which should so have an exclamation mark after it that I may write to my MP on the matter), is devoted to watching six teams a week race weaponised cars round a series of obstacle courses (sorry … “three brutal arenas!”) and try to bash each other into trenches, pits, the paths of monster trucks and oblivion. Because! There can be! Only one! Winner!
Everyone has a great time. The presenters (Freddie “it’s absolutely roastin’ out ’ere!” Flintoff, grime MC Lethal Bizzle and Capital FM’s Vick Hope) stand atop towers and shout encouragement at the contestants. Freddie, incidentally, sports a diamante-studded T-shirt that I’m sure I bought in Mango in 1986, but once I got used to the revelation that time is a flat circle, I was able to move on and enjoy the rest of the show. The contestants get to say things such as: “We’re going to destroy everyone!” and: “That Jag’s looking pretty soft from where I’m standing!” And one member of each team gets to drive whatever armoured, bespiked, be-buckraked, be-cowcatchered vehicle they have brought along until the vehicle is immobilised or they are paralysed by whiplash.