When Novastream asked me to do a review of Derek I thought, I do not need this much more crying in my life right now. After a bit of crying about how much crying I was going to do, I perked up and got quite excited about the idea. If you haven’t realised by now, I’m actually a huge fan of Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington and I loved Derek the first time, why not have another go around? Now, I must stress that Stephen Merchant is not involved in this project but as Meatloaf once roughly said, “Two out of three bats ain’t bad but I won’t do that”. So after going through four boxes of tissues (three of those were for the tears), I have watched the full series of Derek again and I present to you my complete series review.
The character of Derek actually outdates anything Ricky Gervais has done and there is actually footage of Gervais playing the character before The Office. While the clip is nice enough and pretty funny, I wasn’t too excited about an entire show revolving around the character when I heard the news back in 2012. It looked a little bit boring, a show with only one character and even a little mean, it seemed like Gervais was mocking people with disabilities which is a huge topic when it comes to Derek. First of all I was so wrong, the show was unbelievable entertaining and more importantly Gervais is in no way mocking people with disability.
When the show came to television there was a lot of people angry that this was a show that was built around laughing at someone with a disability. Most of those people had clearly not watched the show and maybe not even seen the trailer before they started angrily pecking away at their internet machines. To an extent, Gervais did himself a little bit of a disservice by saying that Derek is not handicapped, he clearly is but there is no malice to this show’s humour. Mental disorders isn’t the only big topic that Derek deals with, this show touches on old age, depression, death and alcoholism and it does this all with a touch of compassion. Whenever there is a chance for the show to be cynical about these issues, it will take the exact opposite approach, of course there are jokes that flow on from these themes but they are never made in bad taste. After all, “kindness is magic”.
I could rant for ever about how touching this show is but I worry that this may get a bit boring, unlike Derek, which never allows the emotional aspects feel stale. Just know that every episode has the potential to make you cry. The first series is especially nice, since every character themselves is likeable. Of course Derek (Ricky Gervais) is the sweetest person on the show and his friend Dougie who is played by Karl Pilkington, is a grumpy, yet funny bastard that gets all the handiwork “sorted”. Kev (David Earl) is the least likeable of the main characters but when you peel back the layers you get to see that he really is a nice person who just has his own problems. While the show may be called Derek, the real hero of the show is Hannah (Kerry Godliman), the manager of the care home. She works tirelessly to run the little house on the small budget and never stops caring for every one of the residents. Tom (Brett Goldstein) is her boyfriend, who really doesn’t have much more character than that and there is Vicky (Holli Dempsey) who is a troubled youth that becomes a Hannah in training. These are the characters that make it to the forefront of the show but there is a whole array of fascinating characters in the care home’s residents. You get the feeling that a lot of their real life stories and personalities bleed through to the show and I loves all of them, I loves every one.
My only problems with the show’s characters lie with Geoff. After the great loss to the show that was Karl Pilkington, Geoff (Colin Hoult) stepped up as his replacement. When he wants to, Geoff can be quite the arsehole and I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the show. It worked much better when a new arsehole of a character was brought in for one episode and taught a lesson by the show’s heroes or even learned from them. Geoff eventually learns but I missed the nicer atmosphere from the first series without him. This is quite a shame considering that away from his wankerosity, Geoff has a pretty funny, conspiracy theorist, know-it-all character.
One other niggle was that I thought this show could have worked better as a traditional sitcom, rather than a mockumentary. It would have provided a wider opportunity for character development but really if I’m honest, this show did not need that, every character was fully formed from the start. The show did suffer a little from losing Karl Pilkington in the second series but Gervais’ writing managed to gloss over most of the parts that were lacking. I did find it a bit funny that even though Derek works at the care home, I rarely saw him working but it would make for a very boring show if he was working all the time. If nothing else, this show made me aware of one of the greatest Youtube videos of all time, in Baby Monkey (Going Backwards On A Pig).
Derek is another perfect example of Gervais at his best, creating a show that shines a light on the extraordinary that can be found in the ordinary. The acting is incredible, the jokes are hilarious and the music is breathtaking. One in particular, Ludovico Einaudi by Nuvole Bianche is a wonderful choice for this show, beautiful, yet understated and sad yet uplifting. There a few pieces of art in my life that I want to scream at people until they give them a shot, not for the sake of the show but because I want them to be able to experience the same wonderful range of emotions I felt and rush through the same bunch of thoughts I struggled with. His Dark Materials, The Last Of Us, Doctor Who, Futurama, The Imitation Game and now, Derek. So if you have Netflix and haven’t yet watched Derek, watch it now or pick up the DVD.