THE TIMES : James Jackson TV review – Jerk Season 3

THE TIMES : James Jackson TV review – Jerk Season 3

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So much is said about how comedy today is being ruined for fear of offending someone, somewhere . . . and then Jerk comes along. Fearful is the very last thing you could accuse it of. Instead it crashes over the line of good taste without any self-consciousness. No problem, it’s made by Tim Renkow, who has cerebral palsy — he can make any damn joke about disability that he likes. It’s his superpower. Much of the humour is about the bewilderment of the world struggling to know how to react to his grinning mischief-maker. But it is also about the sight of a man with cerebral palsy playing the drums while putting on a French accent. Yes, it goes there.


This astonishing sight arrived in last night’s on-form returning episode, in which Renkow got work as an extra on a film set where the guest star James Norton, playing himself, was struggling to play a famous French disabled drummer. Oh Lordy . . . Yes, this led to a scene in which Norton was brainstorming with the film’s director how to play his character’s contorted movements — think different variations on Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. In one way this was the kind of mockery you hope no longer goes on in playgrounds. But then it was mitigated by Renkow joining in with the absurdity of it.


I’m not sure  Ricky Gervais would get away with that kind of thing in a BBC sitcom any more (the set-up here was very Extras) and the overall near the- knuckle feel won’t be for everyone. Yet, either way, the targets here were really the spy authenticity and the paranoia around the “optics” of the movie. That led to Norton being demoted in the cast to play a Ugandan character (!) and Renkow promoted to the lead role of the drummer in his early years before disability took hold. And so we had the irony of a disabled actor trying to play an able-bodied character. Were we allowed to laugh at this? Of course, or at least I hope so, because I was.