Written by Chelsea Jenkins. Media by Austin Stephens.
The latest in a long line of TV brilliance trailed from Ricky Gervais is Derek. The man who brought us The Office, Extras, and the Golden Globes (am I right?) now offers up the tale of a middle-aged innocent who spends his time working at Broadhill, a nursing home in England.
Derek is joined by a misfit cast of characters with whom you’ll share the ups and downs of Broadhill. Hannah (Kerry Godliman) is the 30-something woman who manages the home. She is completely committed to her residents, often working past her shifts in lieu of pursuing a social life. Dougie (Karl Pilkington) is the caretaker in charge of maintenance and utility at the home. He is a bit pessimistic and harsh, often to humorous ends. He is one of Derek’s pals, alongside the perverted Kev (David Earl). Kev is an “autograph hunter” and doesn’t work at Broadhill, but is often there to be as antagonizing and as disgusting as possible. Then
there’s Derek. Played by Ricky Gervais, Derek is a volunteer whose delight is in being at the nursing home with his friends. He truly loves the elderly residents there, talking with them and making them his family. Derek’s naïveté and oblivious manner is the heart of it all, ensuing in the most outlandish laughs. From a fixation on a “hamster on a piano,” a riotous, likely not at all biographical play about Duran Duran, and garnering the biggest tears from his heart-wrenching reaction to a resident’s death, his struggle to forgive his father, and his pure selflessness throughout, viewers will fall in love. Certainly the show would be nothing without its diverse and colorful cast of residents. Their stories and interactions with the other characters counteract the stigma often associated with growing old.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Ricky Gervais, but even I had my doubts with Derek. Initially, the premise didn’t exactly inspire confidence, and the show’s preview did not draw me in. Despite these impressions, I jumped in to find what turned out to be a beautiful commentary and reflection on humanity. The show is at once hilarious, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. The serious tones of the show put a real face on residential care, both for those who reside and those who dedicate themselves to their care, and this causes viewers to assess their own perceptions and attitudes. While strong language and crude humor are present, the behaviors of all characters come full circle as the viewer gains a glimpse into their personal philosophies and psyches. The absolute attention to small detail in behavior, dialogue, and character development are ultimately what makes Gervais’ Derek so impactful. Derek is certainly an emotional rollercoaster, but one that you’ll definitely want to ride again.
Derek, Season 1 now streaming exclusively on Netflix
4.5 stars out of 5