Never have I been so confused by how I feel about a TV comedy. Normally I have quite firm views one way or another but Ricky Gervais‘ Derek leaves me utterly baffled. Even Channel 4 seem unsure how to approach the series referring to it as a “bittersweet comedy”. The one person who seems truly in support is Gervais himself. He spends the majority of time telling people how misunderstood the series is and what a lovely character Derek is. The truth is it’s a confused mess that more than often leaves the viewer bemused.
My confusion comes from the fact that I can see some merit in some of the elements. I enjoy the performances of Kerry Goldiman and Holli Dempsey as their characters feel the most real in an otherwise zany world. I’ve said from the start that I’d’ve preferred Derek without Gervais. The Office is still sheer genius and Extras the perfect ‘second album’ but with Derek I think he’s lost the plot. The mockumentary style feels dated and overused and the main characters hard to warm to.
With the poor critical response series one received, it seems without the ‘Gervais’ name behind it series 2 would’ve seemed unlikely. However, as Channel 4 seem keen to push the envelope we were ‘treated’ to a second series of Derek. When at it’s best it can be moving, but even when it tries to pull on the heartstrings the sentiment is overdone with a dollop of Coldplay in the background of an over-long montage.
The message behind the series is OK. Old age isn’t a subject we see tackled in comedy (Last of the Summer Wine aside) but the elderly actors are given little to do as the script focuses too much on Derek and his, quite frankly disgusting friend Kev. If the focus shifted to the lives of those in the home I think the series would be seen a lot more favourably, but when you’re forced to watch Derek as he gorps in amazement at another inane clip from Youtube you wonder why Gervais even bothers setting it in the care home.
A second series does give Gervais the chance to explore the characters more deeply, but with Karl Pilkington leaving in this opener the series instantly loses its main comedy draw. The inclusion of Derek’s dad could’ve led to interesting scenes between father and son, but as is the case with the series, his arrival at the carehome just provides an opportunity for Derek to prove how annoyingly sickly sweet he is. If his previous series are anything to go by, the second series should signal that Ricky is going to wind up any lose ends with a special but I’m not sure I can take any more from this second helping. I just wish I was an enamoured by the antics of Derek and has his chums as Gervais is.
Derek Continues Wednesday’s at 10.00pm on Channel 4