I won’t claim to be a huge fan of Ricky Gervais, in fact, The Office provides me with no entertainment whatsoever, despite trying so very hard to like it. So when I initially heard about Derek, I didn’t expect too much. Little did I know that the show was already half way into its second series, so I left behind my negative preconceptions and started at the beginning – all in the name of research, of course, and found myself watching the entirety of series one on Netflix in one evening. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Derek is a comedy-drama set in a North London care home for the elderly. A somewhat dull setting, you may think, but this is most definitely not the case. The show primarily focuses upon the care home workers; from the loveable manager, Hannah, who is unquestionably the only ‘normal’ character in the show, but who is simply a delight to watch; to Kev: a sex-obsessed alcoholic living in a caravan in the home’s car park, who has somehow managed to become a part of the establishment. There are a number of more marginal characters, yet Derek, the programme’s namesake, undoubtedly steals the show.
There have understandably been a few raised eyebrows at the idea of Gervais portraying an autistic character, but having watched every episode so far, I can say that these concerns have been aroused for no good reason. In my opinion, Derek is by far the most endearing television character of the moment. From his personal appearance in his tatty knitted jumpers, to his childish and innocent personality that derives pleasure from the smallest of things like watching YouTube videos of small animals, he brings joy to the screens of thousands. Critics had nothing to worry about, as Gervais could not have portrayed a character in a better light. In fact, I completely forget that I’m watching Ricky Gervais, which is something that I actually welcome, and I suppose is testament to his acting ability.
Derek’s character is adorable and amusing, albeit unintentionally, which makes him even better. He takes a great interest in the attempts of Hannah and her partner to conceive a child, drawing up an ovulation table for her based upon their sexual habits. When the couple finally have success, Derek decides to retrieve the newly used pregnancy test from the ladies bathroom, proceeding to show it off the home’s elderly residents. Gervais has assured viewers that the actors playing the aged residents had no qualms about the script’s highly inappropriate content, which never ceases to shock its audience.
Derek is without a doubt well on its way to becoming my favourite television programme, proving that a fantastically written script can transform a slightly predictable story line into a superb example of comedy. Perhaps Ricky Gervais has gone up in my estimations after all.