Gervais has written, produced and directed a thoughtful and thought-provoking dramedy that celebrates everyday heroes and the power of kindness while attacking materialism and the way society often forgets people "just because they're old and poor and weak."
I was a late-comer to Ricky Gervais' works, joining around the time of Extras, but have since become a massive fan. He is a versatile comedian, here offering a character based on the simplest of ideas - he sees good in every situation, and feels bad for those who don't see the good.
An utterly moving series, this brought me close to tears many times, and pushed me over the edge on a couple! Anyone who has seen a family member in a care home such as the one depicted here, anyone who has been estranged from their father, anyone who loves animals, has a friend with a serious drink problem... you will be moved by this show, which touches on all these factors of real life, and more.
The acting is superb throughout, and the writing is truly incredible. Once again Ricky Gervais proves himself the master of situational comedy and drama, and of the mockumentary style.
As an aside, anyone who has found reason to doubt Gervais' animal rights credentials should watch episode 5 of series 2 for perhaps the most convincing show of his love for all creatures.
This show. It's different than anything that has ever been done before. I read a lot of critics that said it was "gooey"... maybe it is. But it's honest and genuine and a true homage to the human spirit. And on top of it all, it's surprisingly funny.
The ever-present but unseen film crew adds a layer of patronizing self-consciousness to a series that is at its best when it relaxes into the slow rhythms of the Broad Hill nursing home, whose residents aren't nearly as hopeless and forlorn as they look.
After watching Derek, I'm inclined to think Ricky Gervais works best when he's partnered with Stephen Merchant. It's almost as though he needs someone to reign him in, but when left to his own devices his output leans towards the overly sentimental. Derek is a crowd pleaser, essentially doing what he so studiously tried to avoid with The Office -- become a broad comedy. The foreshadowing of jokes and plot developments is so obvious as to leave nothing to the imagination. I'm a huge Gervais fan, but Derek is just a little too on the nose for my taste. If he wants to make a show that is both funny and have some emotional resonance, he should take some pointers from Louie.
The second people heard Rick Gervais would be playing a character with a learning disability they were pretty quick to describe ‘Derek’ as cruel or sick. Those people obviously haven’t watched the show as within 5 minutes it is pretty clear that’s not the case with Derek being arguably Gervais’ most sympathetic character to date.
Unfortunately however despite a decent enough pilot, it does continue the comedian’s run of diminishing returns. In terms of characters Derek’s so called friend Kevin is just totally irritating and unfunny whilst many of the others are fairly unmemorable, especially when compared to David Brent or Gareth from The Office. The always brilliant Karl Pikington, as care taker Dougie, is perhaps the one saving grace managing to make his lines sound as if they are his own and producing the majority of the laughs (Although you'd be better off just listening to his podcasts to hear him at his best).
The biggest disappointment however is the complete lack of subtlety when it comes to storylines. The second episode in this series for example sees an apparently disaffected teenager come to work at the home as part of her community service. We see her complain for five minutes and then one conversation about her painted nails later she suddenly realises that see actually just needed someone to be nice to her in order to completely change her ways. By the episodes end she’s volunteering to stay on after her community service finishes.
After the far from perfect but interesting pilot that aired in 2012 this first season of Derek gets far more wrong than it does right and, while there are some funny moments, you’re better off just re-watching The Office or Extras.
It's weak, basic, obvious and middlling. The show contains a 'cheap-gag' character that basically drinks onsite and offends everyone, reducing the level of realism that Gervais is striving desperately for.
The 'Derek is kind, real people are bad' ethos that plagues the show (not enhances it) is rammed down your throat with force, not the subtlety we used to be able to expect from Gervais.
Similarly to M.Night Shyamalan, Gervais appears to be running on the 'law of diminishing returns'. The Office is my all-time favourite comedy, Extras was brilliant, Life's Too Short didn't amuse me half as often (and was a shameless 'look at my celebrity friends' schtick, whereas in Extras the celebs at least had cause to exist within the show) and this is just poor.
All of Brent's subtleties (the snarky looks at the camera, the fiddling with the tie, the undercurrent of tragedy and sadness that shapes his every move) have been launched out of the window.
That Derek is actually the character that Gervais used (right down to the name and accent) in his earlier works on radio (using Derek in a negative, doesn't he sound **** way) should have sounded alarms to those who are actually familiar with Ricky Gervais' works.
He also used the exact same physical appearance and voice in his standup in a negative capacity, summing up autograph hunters.
So I am not someone who simply doesn't 'get it' - I listen to the XFM shows, Guides to..., The Ricky Gervais Show and all his other radio works on a constant loop every day. I have watched and/or listened to everything he has ever done 100's of times and loved every minute of most of it.
But the sad fact remains that he is a one-trick pony, and his latest works (released to his widest audience yet) have been weak, basic, obvious and unrealistic. Unrealistic can be good, sure, but that is not what he strives for or intends to do.
This is simply weak, lacks subtlety or realism, and crams the message down your throat constantly.
It breaks my heart to write this review, and I will always love Gervais and his works before Life's Too Short, but until he pulls his head out of his 'twitter-raging', arrogant and delusional ar$e he'll never reproduce the quality that he was initially renowned for.
I am not offended by Derek or his character traits (though I am offended at how he thought he could seamlessly go from poking fun at people like Derek in his stand-up routines for cheap laughs to portraying them as heroes and portraying himself as someone who respects people like Derek), I am not amused by Kev crapping his pants or saying boring and predictably horrible sexual things, but I am alarmed that the best actor in the show is Karl Pilkington.
The female lead is a retread of Dawn, Derek is as subtle as a sledgehammer, Kev is a ridiculous character that belongs on 'When The Whistle Blows' (which parodied basic comedy to perfection) and the entire message of the show is generic, boring and self-congratulatory.
Gervais should stop lunching with Zuckerberg or tweeting to Ellen and get back to basics. Woody Allen concedes unto himself that he's a one-trick pony, and in earlier years when Gervais wasn't so defensive and arrogant, he too admitted this of himself. And there's nothing wrong with that if you are aware of it and do it well.
Gervais thinks that his portrayal of Derek (a character he built in the early 00's to ridicule simple-minded people) is quality, that's the worst part. Gervais is and will only ever be a one-trick pony, and one of the best at it.
This middling, idiotic and frankly crappy show lacks the subtlety that Gervais is renowned for, the humour that made him a household name, and the genuine and heartfelt moments that were captured in The Office with fleeting glances and quick 'cut-to's' from the camera, replacing that with sledgehammer tactics.
I make no apology for the score, the length of this tirade nor the content within. Gervais used to represent a bunch of quality things, and now it seems that he's (permanently) sold out to the very aspects of fame and fortune that he used to rightly ridicule.
He used to whale on Lenny Henry and his pathetic comedy, and parodied rubbish, generic comedies in Extras ('When The Whistle Blows') and now, due to money, Hollywood fame and Twitter-infection, he's become exactly what he used to hate and stand against.
Terrible show, if this show amuses you then you need to try harder and search further for all the BETTER comedy out there. I'd start with his earlier works.
There is literally nothing to like about Ricky Gervaris's 'Derek'. It's mawkish rubbish from beginning to end, stopping only for crass, playground humour lacking in any wit or sophistication. The nauseatingly twee sentiments extend Gervais's own condescending Twitter presence with clumsy poignancy wrapped up in implausibly naivety. Haters gonna hate? No. In this case, lovers are gonna love. Those convinced by Gervais seem to inexhaustibly excuse his increasingly diminishing returns, sometimes to the point one wonders if they employ any critical analysis at all. This is embarrassing from the man who co-wrote The Office, and evidence once more - as if it was needed - that the nuance and subtlety so wonderfully evident in his earlier work was perhaps not attributable to him.