Following the success of its previous original shows (“House of Cards”, “Arrested Development”, “Orange is the New Black”), Netflix has recently put out a new show called “Derek.” This seven-episode show was created and written by British comedian Ricky Gervais, who also stars as the titular character. The show was not rated as highly as its Netflix Original counterparts, but it is much more popular in the UK, where it was filmed.
Derek is a mock- documentary about a mentally handicapped man volunteering in a nursing home. To be honest, this made me a little hesitant because, based on Gervais’s role in “The Office”, I assumed his performance would be satirical. However, the show blatantly steers away from any sense of parody with genuine emotions and subtle comic relief. The whole thing feels a little bit like a joke without a punchline”” it’s something I feel should be ironic, but ends up being sincere. The end effect was that of total corniness. A handicapped man meets his father, a man holds his wife’s hand as she dies, a woman finds love in a hopeless place, every show ends with voiceovers explaining what every character learned that day”” what? A part of me thinks this is all some social statement on what we, as viewers, find entertaining “” we expect (and hope for) the worst.
The character of Derek is basically considered better- than-human on the show. Because of his naivete, he doesn’t harbor any malice, greed, lust, ANYTHING! I get he’s a good guy, but he’s made out to be a saint. The other characters are constantly reiterating the point that he is “good.” Again, because it is Ricky Gervais playing the role, we are constantly waiting for it to be turned on its head and become a total joke, but it doesn’t. When Derek helps the nursing home raise money, when he holds old women’s hands, when he finally hugs his estranged father, it’s done with incredible genuineness. This might be alright for less cynical people, but I found it a little annoying and preachy.
I did like the character of Hannah, the caretaker of the nursing home, who evolved into the show’s darling. She has been working at the home for 15 years with little pay, motivated only by her desire to help the elderly. She is Derek’s friend and mentor “” basically, the only one who understands him. The whole thing feels very “Forest and Jenny”, albeit slightly less creepy. Again, her larger- than-life good nature feels both forced and fake, leaving me a bit annoyed at the show’s lack of real character depth.
Overall, I just couldn’t make myself like this show. The moralistic tones and unreal characters gave the show a very shallow, fake tone. I think Gervais is clearly trying to move his career in a specific direction and attempting to prove himself as a serious writer and actor; however, it’s just too over the top. I’m probably just a pessimist, though, who expects comedy and satire to go hand-in-hand, instead of the possibility for good, clean entertainment with a strong moral backbone.