On the first blink, Derek can be written off as a sap fest by creator, writer and director Ricky Gervais to try something completely new while having a laugh at our tears. But that would be a wrong assumption. I’ve watched and listened to Gervais’ work and have grown to appreciate that he simply doesn’t give a rat’s if critics understand him. He makes what he wants. And you can pound sand if you don’t get it.
And in a sea of clever, inside jokey content (that’s what we’re calling the stuff we watch and read these days), Derek stands out as pure goodness.
It’s understandable that critics are cagey as Gervais is known for clever, inside jokey content such as the original Office and Extras not to mention his stint as the funny-because-it’s-true host of the Golden Globes. But again, it’s stupid to second guess Gervais on this one.
I think Gervais means it. He means to show kind-heartedness in an environment where people are seen as throwaways, a home for the elderly. A place where the aged, degree-less, wayward youth and perceived mentally soft have planted their flag and cling to each other for insight, comfort and understanding. What’s wrong with that? I dare you. What the heckfire is wrong with that?
Derek has the hallmarks of sap: old birds content to take a ride to the library just to get a bit of fresh air or play the lottery, a depressive yet sympathetic handy man, Dougie, played by the wonderful and long time Gervais collaborator Karl Pilkington, the dirty stop-out wannabe, knob/sex obsessed David Earl as Kev, the too-good-to-be-true Kerry Godliman (yep that’s her real name) as the Broad Hill overseer Hannah and Gervais as the touched by angels (as my grandmother would say), Derek.
Derek started out as a series made for Britain’s Channel 4 and now Americans can happily misinterpret it from the comfort of their homes on Netflix streaming, schilled as a Netflix original.
Whatever you think of Gervais and his acerbic wit, don’t make the mistake of thinking Derek lives in that zip code of sarcasm. Sure, parts of his to-the-camera-double-takes that Gervais brought across the pond ring weird with an audience grown accustom to the device but he’s not having a laugh.
Gervais is still true to himself in that Derekpointedly puts a face on the under served and good hearted. He lets the other actors make the point, shining his microscope on the simple pleasures of caring for each other, daring his audience to take a piss.
The simple fact that Derek’s goal in life is to make people laugh and to be happy is the reason to watch this show and take comfort that Gervais with all of his money and success could be a total douchebag should make you feel really good about the human race. It really should.
My favorite scene is where a council money man questions whether Derek should be working at Broad Hill due to his possible autism. The exchange between Derek and the council wag about his mental capacity is moving. It’s sincere and there’s nothing wrong with that kind of sincerity.
One of my other favorite bits is when Derek shows the camera two of his favorite viral videos on YouTube. “Hamster On A Piano” and “Baby Monkey Riding On a Pig.” Again, watch it and remember that being a snarky insider gets you nowhere. Your tight pants will not matter in the end. It’s brilliant. And I loved it. Because I also watched those vids many times over and shared them both on social media ad nauseum.
One of the other other best aspects of the show is how the characters treat the death of each resident. Look, it’s a fact. These characters are meant to leave this earth as we all do. But the reverence in which each passing is treated is wonderful, amazing, lovely. Their lives are celebrated in a way that haunts, enlivens and fills in emotions you have been fighting to have.
In the finale, Gervais uses a Colplay song that makes me not want to hate Coldplay so much because it’s used in the proper way. I was a mess and I dragged myself to bed, promising to kiss my mother with Alzheimers in my recurring dream of her each night without sadness.
Look, Ricky Gervais. You don’t need me to tell you this. But thanks for making every night’s dreams of mum focused on the great and funny things she did and does.
Season 2 of Derek is currently in production. Due out soon. We’ll keep you posted.