This is a review of the original pilot for Derek. The show has since been turned into a full season with a second coming soon.
There’s a point in Ricky Gervais’ new one off (soon to be a full series) show Derek where it becomes clear that this isn’t your average offering from the brilliant comedian that’s given us Extras, The Office and introduced the world to the bald idiot savant that is Karl Pilkington.
Gervais himself plays the titular character, a mentally handicapped man who works in a nursing home. Derek is keen to learn, affectionate and sweet.
I am almost upset Gervais made me get attached to his newest character. I want more of his story, more of his life and more of his kindness. I guess I will have to wait until he actually writes the complete series to be completely fulfilled. Until then, this debut pilot will serve as a launch pad for what might be Gervais’ most complete, well-rounded effort yet.
When Derek begins, there are laughs. Pilkington plays Douglas – the home’s handyman – and he does it with the same attitude he carries when he’s himself on The Ricky Gervais Show, An Idiot Abroad and his everyday life. It’s clear (and known) that Gervais prepared this hilarious, skeptical part for his best bud Pilkington and the man with a head like a fuckin’ orange plays it perfect.
But Gervais 24 minute special quickly pushes its way into a more caring territory. A relationship between Derek and his boss Hannah, who he has a clear love for, grows in front of our eyes in progressive moments of thoughtfulness and care. Hannah protects him in a bar as a few chavs (the British slang for douchebag) ridicule their presence together. Hannah says how funny Derek is, not because he’s clumsy, forgetful and slow, but because he carries an innocent love for life and other people with him every single day of his life. He’s naive to a safe point that’s okay.
Months ago Gervais was questioned for the way he may or may not think about people with handicaps after he was called out for using the term ‘mong’ on Twitter. Derek proves he has a more affectionate approach to life than some would like to believe. He even was criticized for playing a handicapped person and mocking handicapped persons for his enjoyment and enrichment before the program debuted Thursday night.
But take one spin with Derek and you won’t hold that opinion. When Derek learns his favorite patient has passed, the program takes an unexpected turn and makes you want to shed a tear. Gervais nails the performance of Derek and the writing is super.
“She said ‘Kindness is magic, Derek. It’s more important to be kind than clever or good looking.’ I’m not clever or good looking but I’m kind,” Derek says with tears streaming down his face as he remembers the lost patient. It’s a sentence that embodies everything that is right with Gervais’ new show. Forgetting Derek’s naive nature for a moment, he’s right to believe this statement. Some might not agree. But Derek is right to believe.
You know a show has you hooked when you are left wanting more. Derek has done that to me. The 24 minutes flew by and I wanted more. I wanted more time with Derek, Hannah and Douglas. Their relationships aren’t easy. How could they be? But they’re authentic and honest.
This show proved to hit me hard enough with love and happiness that I can’t imagine how much of an impact a full series would have on me. Derek is a champion of a pilot. Gervais has done it again.