Tv Review: Jerk Series 1 Episode 1

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Tim Renkow and I used to be on the open mic circuit together several years ago and I met him a good few times (he even once said he liked my t-shirt, the second compliment I’d received from a person that decade!) and now he’s an acclaimed stand up and star of his own BBC sitcom, and I’m…Well, anyway, the main thing is, even back when he was starting out it was clear that he was going to succeed, he was incredibly funny, charming and had a fairly unique take on life.

That viewpoint is on full display here as Tim has a slightly twisted sense of humour about not only his own disability (for those not in the know he has cerebral palsy) but also loves playing with people who treat him in any way differently just because he has such a condition. He takes that up a notch here where from time to time he really does act like a jerk, though cheeky bastard might be a more apt description, if not quite as catchy a title. The show’s a follow on from 2016’s A Brief History Of Tim and covers similar ground, with Lorraine Bracco playing his mother in both and Tim needing to find a job if he’s to stay in the country, but bar a couple of repeated jokes (Renkow pretending to be mentally disabled to get out of paying a taxi driver his full fee, for instance) it’s all new material.

Renkow has an amusing laissez-faire response to the possibility that he’ll be thrown out of the country, he knows he needs to find work but can’t really be arsed, though after a trip to the job centre his adviser Idris (Rob Madin) decides that Tim’s his latest project and he’s determined to help him stay in the country, which leads to a job interview with a greeting cards company called “Anarchy Hamster”. Despite Tim toying with the head of the company Shaun (Karl Theobald), and producing a card which includes a baby shitting himself, with blood unfortunately present in the stool, he still gets the job because Shaun’s the kind of twat who thinks being edgy is cool, albeit being a fan of “responsible irresponsibility”. Mocking idiots like Shaun is always fun, and Renkow does so in smart and inventive ways, yet always manages to avoid it seemingly overtly cruel.

Even though having the job means he could get a visa Tim can’t help but be himself, and through boredom more than anything else he screws around at work, setting off the fire alarm, sleeping in the toilet, opening all of the payslips and letting know a female staff member that a man gets paid more than her for doing the same job amongst various other enjoyable antics that consistently made me laugh. Fortunately most of the people he works with like him for being who he is, bar Anne (Cicely Giddings) whose work he mocks and after he makes a joke about her breast feeding in the office Shaun finally gets rid of him. Which doesn’t bother Tim in the slightest and soon he’s decided that the one job he does want is Idris’s, though I’m sure it’s yet another wind up just to confuse his naive job centre adviser.

As well as the occasional Skype chat with his mum which are honest and occasionally brutal but always heartfelt and filled with love, Tim also hangs out with Ruth (Sharon Rooney, as superb here as she was in My Mad Fat Diary), who does as little as she possibly can and indeed Tim all but takes care of her. They’ve got a great natural feeling friendship and are happy to tease each other (at one point she chastises Tim for saying that she’s “Emotionally retarded”, but it’s the word “Emotionally” that upsets her) and it’s his bond with both of these female characters that helps make him a sympathetic individual rather than an out and out shit.

It’s fairly dark comedy but also extremely likeable, and Renkow makes for a great lead as though it can’t be denied that his character can be a bit of jerk (and he clearly wouldn’t want anyone to think differently), his perspective on existence is nearly always enormously funny, helped by the fact that the majority of the time the people on the receiving end of his behaviour truly deserve it. The rest of the cast are also superb and help make Jerk feel like a very real and believable show, which makes it all the more amusing, and hopefully it’ll be a big success as with a talent as impressive as Tim’s it’s a series which could run and run for a long old time.

Alex Finch.

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