After finishing Louie a few months ago, I felt the urge to go back to British comedy. So Matt and I watched a couple of ‘new’ shows (they’re actually from one or two decades ago, but we had never seen them before), which I will definitely write about at some point.
Eventually, December arrived and Christmastime always makes me feel more mellow, more relaxed. Therefore, apart from comedies and movies that give me fuzzy Christmassy feelings, I wanted to go back to some old favourite tv shows.
One of them is Derek, created by Ricky Gervais, which we have seen for the first time earlier last year.
The show is set in a nursing home for the elderly, where the titular character (played by the writer/producer/director Gervais) works as a helper.
The 50-year-old Derek Noakes is not like any other man. The first impression that he gives us is that of an autistic or an intellectually challenged person but this is never confirmed either in the show or by Gervais himself (in this sense, he reminds me of the enigma of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory).
Derek likes telly and pop music but he absolutely loves animals and there are many instances where we see him interact with animals, such as during an outing at a zoo or with his favourite dog Ivor from the animal rescue centre. Above all, he is a good-natured and naive man who preaches kindness over everything else.
We see his daily interactions with the elderly residents and with the home’s manager and friend, Hannah (Kerry Godliman). She is hard-working, kind and generally of a strong personality, but she is also prone to fragility, some of which comes from the problems she has to face in order to keep the home from being closed down.
Derek’s other friends are the caretaker Dougie (Karl Pilkington, he left at the start of the second season) and Kev (David Earl), an unemployed and homeless alcoholic who has nothing better to do other than lying here and there in the care home and disturb the residents with his perverted and disgusting ways. The home also welcomes persons convicted of crimes and who have to serve a number of hours in community service; amongst them is Vicky (Holli Dempsey), a young shop thief who is later profoundly affected by Derek’s personality, deciding to stay on as a volunteer.
This show was an instant hit with me and Matt. It is very heart-warming and amusing thanks to Derek’s character and his hilarious shenanigans with Dougie and Kev. On more than one occasion it made me shed a tear as well, especially when the focus falls upon the stories of the elderly residents.
I definitely didn’t expect something of this kind from Gervais, whom I had discovered through his first success on tv, The Office. Derek is filmed in a mockumentary style like The Office, however, the latter is more comedic than anything else while Derek balances comedy with drama.
I have read that this show received some criticism, particularly because of Ricky’s interpretation of Derek. It has been said that the awkwardness of the character seems more like a mockery of mentally disabled people. Another criticism is that the character of Derek is really just Gervais in a jumper, thus not offering a genuine and original performance. All I can say is that I disagree. While at times Derek seems to betray the same kind of intelligence of Ricky which makes him appear slightly off, he is still a credible character. I was surprised to see Gervais in such a role; what a difference from The Office‘s David Brent! So neither his performance nor the story or anything else prevented me from enjoying this show.
Therefore, if you are sad about the nice festive season being over and still crave those warm fuzzy feelings, I suggest that you give Derek a try (it is just two seasons of six episodes each plus a special episode). I assure you that once you finish it, you will be filled with good feelings and perhaps more inclined to be kind towards the people around you. And prepare a tissue box before you start watching, just in case.