I think it’s fair to say that Ricky Gervais has spent the last few days on Twitter almost convincing people they’d enjoy his new project despite it not being a straight forward laugh out loud comedy. Those of us who looked past the controversy of the pilot episode last year did know what we were in for. Derek is a bleak, often near the knuckle piece of drama. It’s similar to The Office in as much as Gervais has decided to return to the mock documentary that style that worked so beautifully for him in his first iconic role as David Brent. But unlike The Office, I’m not sure the use of the style benefits the story or brings anything to the programme. I’m not sure I needed to see the obligatory chats with the camera crew, voice over and sneaky looks at the camera. I’d seen that done so well before that nothing Derek does with the format will seem surprising or fresh.
Whilst I appreciate Gervais is trying something new I can’t say I enjoyed the opening episode of Derek as much as I’d hoped. I knew this isn’t a series designed to have me rolling about on the floor in hysterics but I at least expected to chuckle. In truth I’m not sure I even managed a smile. Some elements were touching, some vaguely believable but sadly nothing in this opening episode (they’ll be six episodes in the series) seemed new or interesting. It hadn’t moved on at all from last year’s pilot which I initially thought showed some promise.
For me, the best thing about the series is Karl Pilkington but that’s not because his role made me smile or his acting abilities blew me away just simply for the fact that I think he’s brilliant. Gervais has been very vocal this week about his love for Derek as a character and whilst I agree he’s the first of his characters to have a golden heart I think Gervais tries too hard with Derek and in the end I was left unsure of what to make of him. No matter how much he tries to pull at my heartstrings I’m always acutely aware I’m watching Ricky Gervias with a dodgy haircut and sporting an old jumper.
I enjoyed the pilot because it seemed something a bit different but it’s sheer lack of progression surprised me and I just wonder how Gervais will manage to string this out over five more dreary episodes.
There’s a definitely a place for bleak comedies set in uncomfortable areas of society BBC4’s Getting On illustrated that point masterfully and the care home is an area that we’ve seen tackled on TV like this but when it comes down to it Derek just doesn’t come up to scratch.