I began watching ‘Derek’ a few weeks back and wasn’t sure what to make of it as a show. To be fair it was late at night, I was tired and it looked a bit like Ricky Gervais was using his acidic humour to ridicule the disabled. But having watched a couple more episodes since I’ve seen how wrong I was.
There’s no question Gervais is a genius and can often use that ability to mock, but this series revealed a whole different side to his storytelling ability. The series is set in a nursing home for the elderly and ‘Derek’ is a simple 49 year old carer whose central quality is kindness. Derek cares, loves and enjoys people. He is innocent and naive and often the humour in the show is at his expense, but the redemptive aspect of this story is in the love that people have for Derek – because he doesn’t have a nasty side.
The final episode has the other characters saying they wish they had Derek’s life – because he is kind and isn’t encumbered by the cynicism and anger that the world breeds in us. I think the final episode caught many off guard with its moving portrayal of a death in the nursing home, as well as the reflective exploration of life’s bigger existential questions.
Its shot in “Office’ mockumentary style but is unusual both for the setting (an aged care facility) and for the use of someone like Derek as a central character.
I know I’m going to go back and download some more ‘Derek’ because I’m pretty sure there is much there to both laugh at, but also be inspired by.
If you’re offended by R rated humour and naughty words then Derek isn’t going to work for you, but if you can see past the surface and get a handle on what Gervais is doing then I imagine you will be pleasantly surprised.