TV: Derek

Image: Channel 4
Image: Channel 4


As Ricky Gervais produces another fragily PC show, Freddie Gray takes a look at the new series and asks, is Gervais only going down hill?

Criticism has been, again, rained down upon Ricky Gervais. This time for daring to create newest sitcom Derek. Gervais, in the lead role, plays a care home volunteer with learning difficulties who is involved in a fight to keep the home where he works being lost to budget cuts.

We can assume that Gervais, no stranger to controversy, realised the risks in presenting such a vulnerable character at the centre of an (intended) comedy, but Derek is both heart-warming and funny. Derek’s often child-like language allows an insight into this sphere of life to be both joyful and touching.

Gervais is joined on-screen by Karl Pilkington, (The Ricky Gervais Show, An Idiot Abroad) who fits the role of pessimistic janitor excellently, although perhaps that is because he is essentially playing himself. However, Kerry Godliman really does give the standout performance of the series in her role as house matron. She captivatingly portrays the tribulations of running an institution like this in an unsympathetic economic climate.

Like Gervais’ other sitcoms though, Derek aims to appeal to much more than just comedic viewing. Shows like Friends and Scrubs have already proved you need to hit much more on the emotional scale than just the laughs. Derek moves us from scene to scene with much more than just gags; here we develop a genuine interest in the entirety of the characters lives.

However, unfortunately Gervais has lost his subtlety. Throughout the series we are given countless panning shots of elderly residents who seem to be very close to just existing. A piano ballad plays morbidly in the background. Perhaps this does reveal the pleasant, sometimes-lonely life of the care home resident but it does push the show uncompromisingly close to trying too hard. All we can hope is that Gervais hasn’t become a victim of his own success.

Derek is on Channel 4 on wednesdays at 10pm

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