Can Derek Make Me Love Ricky Gervais? (Series Review: “Derek”)

Derek is the 2012 British series which shows the world the softer side of Ricky Gervais.  Sorry to disappoint but I couldn’t bear one more second at Gervais scrunching his eyes and doing the small-dog-head-tilt to look adorable and pathetic at the same time.

SnapShot Plot

Derek is a 50 yr. old man who lives and works in a retirement home somewhere in Britain.  Is he mentally retarded? Not clear.  Maybe he falls somewhere on the Autism Spectrum.  Not clear.  All we need to know about Derek is that he’s such an innocent, pure and childlike creature that he brings joy wherever he goes, much like Tinkerbell, if Tink spoke in an almost unintelligible British dialect and never washed her hair.

Derek’s best mate at the nursing home is Dougie the maintenance man, played by longtime collaborator, Karl Pilkington. Again, I could hardly make out a word he said and I was so distracted by his amazing bald-cap and hair piece that it was hard to focus on the scenes between them.  The only shining bit of casting and acting arrived in the character of Hannah, the manager of the Home, played with a natural, effortless sincerity by Kerry Godliman.  She might just single-handedly save this series, or at the very least coax me back to try, try again to recommend it for Norma’s Streaming Picks.



Parting Shot

OK, I am not a Scrooge.  Far from it, in fact.  I have been known to weep at Hallmark commercials and there are a handful of movies (such as Terms of EndearmentTo Kill A Mockingbird, and It’s A Wonderful Life) that I simply cannot watch with others for the outrageous sobbing emanating from yours truly.  And Derek is not without its moments of true sadness and loss.  It is, after all, a dramatic comedy.  But when Derek’s favorite patient happens to pass away in the Pilot episode, and he’s saying goodbye to her corpse and lifts her lifeless hand to pet him (as she did in life), all I could think of was Christopher Lambert doing the same thing with the dead ape who raised him in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan.  And that’s my final impression of Derek:  that discomforting feeling of a smirk that wants to sneak out through my tears.  It just feels so insincere.

Derek is presently streaming on Netflix.


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  • Norma says:

    After reading your insightful – and cleverly written – comments, I just want to say how wonderful it is that I can have this kind of conversation with smart and KIND people like you. Thank you, Giovanna! I don’t know if I see myself going back to Derek, but I fear I may have rushed to a smug conclusion based on a preconceived attitude about RG, to be perfectly honest. I will try to check my bias at the door in the future…and that’s a promise!

  • Giovanna says:

    Aw, I have to disagree! I know I’m not in your demographic but I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I was, however, a fan of Ricky Gervais’ before this, so take that as you will.

    I think the biggest point I disagree with is the insincerity of the show/the character of Derek. Having read some articles about the show, and having followed RG on Twitter for some time now, I know that he created the series because many of his family members are care workers and he’s learned a lot about that world from them. Derek has a genuine love and fondness for old people, and animals, and everyone, and everything (as long as they’re cute or nice) and the fact that he’s a bit simple (RG has said repeatedly that Derek is not autistic or mentally retarded [is that still a politically correct term?] but that he’s just different) makes the reasoning behind his statements and actions very clear. When he put Joan’s lotto winnings in her wallet it made a nice statement that he never thought about himself (Gervais’ “Office” character David Bent might’ve pocketed the 10 pounds plus whatever extra the old bird had in her purse).

    After about 5-10 minutes of watching the first episode, I was no longer aware that Derek was Ricky Gervais. I saw some outtakes on YouTube and when RG breaks character and turns back from Derek into Ricky Gervais, it was actually difficult to watch. Because I feel so differently about Derek and Ricky Gervais. I like them both but Derek lacks all the smugness and assholeness that I love in RG.

    Onto the hair piece. Karl Pilkington is essentially playing himself in a janitor’s uniform. The hair becomes a topic of discussion several times throughout the rest of the series and Dougie responds, as he is wont to do, in his nihilistic manner (“This bit f***ed off, the rest stayed… it’s nature”). I think it was probably just meant to be ridiculous (I suspect the put it on Karl and were planning on cutting or styling it but then decided against it once they saw how stupid it looked) and it plays into Dougie’s character pretty well.

    Must say, I really disliked Kev for much of the series, until the last episode where he becomes a little more multi-faceted. Hannah was great and well-rounded and the more I learned about her the more I liked her, so there’s nothing else for me to say there.

    I accidentally missed one episode (#4 maybe? It involved a baby bird) but I watched the rest and basically for the entirety of episode 7, I was crying. Ranging from a few sniffles to being unable to stop. I would feel tears coming on when I THOUGHT about it, even hours after I had finished watching.

    Anyway. Now that I’ve written a comment that rivals your actual blog post in length, I guess I’ll just say that I wasn’t too sure of what to expect with Derek, but I was quite pleased with the series. And quite surprised. And actually a bit inspired just to be a nicer person. I don’t know if that last part took… but from time to time I do remind myself that kindness is magic!

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