Jach Discusses: Derek – Series 1

Posted: September 27, 2013 by Jachelle in General Media, Jach, Recaps, Television
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been a fan of Ricky Gervais for years now, but his new series, Derek, was nothing like I was expecting. And I mean that in the best possible way.

I was first introduced to Gervais years ago by way of my then roommate. She was a big fan of The Office and we watched every hilarious, excruciatingly embarrassing moment together. Later on, when Extras came around, we did exactly the same all over again. We would crack up again and again over our favorite moments. So when I saw Netflix was streaming his new series, Derek, I tuned in expecting more of the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There are a lot of times when I become disenchanted with the media today. I’ll always love it, of course, but sometimes it gets me down. Somewhere amid fighting reality stars and epic melodrama I just kind of give up. Then a show like Derek comes around and breathes new life back into me.

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Filmed in a Mockumentary style, Derek introduces us to Derek Noakes and his small, but happy, little world. Derek works at Broad Hill nursing home. And through each of the series’ seven episodes, we meet Derek and all the people who mean the most to him. There is his best friend, Dougie, (Karl Pilkington in his debut acting role) who is the home’s caretaker. Kev (David Earl) the perpetually sex-crazed layabout who never actually does anything. And the home’s manager, Hannah (Kerry Godliman). Their lives aren’t flashy or even particularly interesting. In fact, you probably meet people like them daily and never give them a second glance. They are the misfits and outcasts that no one else has time for, but the way they come together as a family to take care of the residents of Broad Hill is incredibly touching. This isn’t a show about people exploiting themselves or even doing anything out of the ordinary. It’s a show about kindness and being good to others. And that’s what really captured my attention more than anything. It makes me incredibly happy to see a television show where the main character is unendingly kind and only thinks about helping others.

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Gervais has said that Derek is one of the best characters he has ever created and he’d be happy playing him forever. He said Derek is the first real hero he’s ever played. Derek is the type of person who loves to help others. In one episode he talks about how much he loves hearing the residents laugh, even if it is at his expense, because it makes him laugh too. He’s the type of man who loves wrestling because it’s really just “strong cuddling.” His job is hard, and it breaks his heart every time one of his friends passes away, but he’d rather it be him that’s sad because he knows that they’re happy. He accepts everyone, is kind to everyone, and includes them all in his little world, because that’s just the type of man that he is. Before the pilot was released, Gervais received some criticism for playing an autistic character. I think many people believed that it would be played off for laughs. However, since the pilot and the subsequent episodes have been released, much of that has died down. Gervais plays Derek with grace and poignancy. Everything about it was perfectly summed up in episode two. When a council official visits the home to supervise budget cuts, he suggests that Derek be tested for Autism. This was Derek’s response:

In addition to Derek, the other standout performance of this series is from Kerry Godliman who plays Hannah. Hannah is the home’s manager and is one of Derek’s best friends. She’s kind and hard working, and like Derek, she puts everyone ahead of herself. Broad Hill is her life and it isn’t always great. She works more hours than she should, it often gets in the way of her love-life, and she’s always the one taking care of everything so that others don’t have to. But she never whines or complains; she simply smiles and goes on with things. She’s an incredibly strong and sweet character and she lights up every scene she is in. I think Hannah, and Godliman’s portrayal of her, is a credit to the caretakers of this world. We should all be so lucky to have someone like her in our lives.

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Each of the episodes last thirty minutes and seamlessly switch back and forth between comedy and sadness. Sometimes they’ll even hit you with both at the same time. I tend to be pretty emotional in general when it comes to these sorts of things. I’ve been known to get choked up at everything from movie trailers to commercials. But there was not a single episode of this series that didn’t leave me in tears. And the finale? Forget it. I haven’t cried that hard over a television show since the Ponds left Doctor Who. I really feel like Gervais struck gold with this simple, heart-warming series. I want more of their kindness and humor in my life. After watching the entire series back to back, I am inevitably left wanting more. So I suppose it’s a good thing that series 2 is already in the works. In the meantime, I highly recommend everyone watch this wonderful show. All seven episodes are available for streaming on Netflix. Just make sure to keep some tissues handy. And remember that kindness is magic.

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