Ricky Gervais’ new comedy Derek managed to take impressive viewing figures of some 1.8 million viewers on British network Channel 4, but with the show offering yet more of the comedian’s remorseless humour and unflinching awkwardness, is there a case to be made that the comic has moved on from being outspoken to just plain mean?

Gervais plays Derek, a man in his mid-40’s working in a care home for the elderly; what’s offending people seems to be the way in which Gervais plays his character, walking with a defined lurch, and acting in a manner that could quite easily be construed as mocking the disabled. The Guardian suggests that Gervais has gradually amped up the way in which he deals with non-PC issues, from material about race and disability in The Office to dramatizing a dwarf’s own struggles in life on Life’s Too Short, to finally this apparent fully-open mockery of disability.

However, Derek’s character goes back to when Gervais used to perform live way back in 2001; Gervais meanwhile has insisted publicly that he isn’t meaning any disrespect to those suffering from disability in his character portrayal, claiming that Derek is merely maladroit. Ultimately what may well prove that Gervas isn’t being quite as harsh as some people are making out, is that it’s clear from the first episode, that Derek often emerges as a hero-like figure, far from the butt of a joke that, say, Michael Crawford’s Frank Spencer was in the 1970’s comedy Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.