"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar." - Helen Keller
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
I started watching a show named DEREK on Netflix last week, and I am finding it quite intriquing. Not a fan of Ricky Gervais, and knowing that the title character was someone with a disability, I expected to be offended, angered, or at least bored by the show. But I have really enjoyed it.
Here are some of the reviews:
From the Washington Post: Ricky Gervais writes, directs and stars in this tenderhearted ensemble mockumentary about an enthusiastic employee at the Broad Hill retirement home. The show is a risk for Gervais, who combs his hair over and juts his jaw into an underbite in order to play the title character; we are to understand that Derek is not quite right but none of the words for it seem apt. (Simple? Special? Mentally disabled? Autistic?)
It’s ingenious that “Derek” is less preoccupied with a diagnosis and more focused on the minuscule but meaningful ways that Derek interacts with his elderly charges. The only problem is an overall feeling of hesitation — on Gervais’s part, but also on his audience’s. You’re so braced for something to snap, for the comedy to stray into no-no land, that it’s hard to relax and appreciate “Derek’s” emotional intent.
And from vulture.com: Ricky Gervais's retirement-home sitcom Derek is no masterpiece. Its Office-style pseudo-documentary gimmicks seem even less organic here than in most shows of this type, and the improv is hit-and-miss, as improv usually is. But this Netflix series is worth seeing, if only to be able to have an opinion on its peculiar mix of tones, and to decide whether you think it's sincere or cloyingly manipulative. Derek is engaging and sometimes very funny. Parts of it are ostentatiously sentimental, verging on gooey.
That last aspect is the most intriguing. Based on his career highlights to date, most of which are geared toward taking the piss out of everything, I never thought I'd see a Gervais project that spent most of its screen time observing residents of an elder care facility while "bittersweet twilight of life" piano music toodles on the soundtrack. But that's what Derek does when it's not focusing on the retirement home staff, most of whom are melancholy or prematurely lost souls, or milking all the laughs it can from community events, including a cabaret show and a trip to the beach.
But my favorite review is from the NY Times: Derek is different — slack-jawed, anxious, hair plastered to his forehead, eyes darting to the mock-documentary camera. A visiting bureaucrat asks if he’s autistic, a question met with great indignation by the staff and never answered.
And that’s the point, really: Derek’s affliction is the world, for which he is too fragile and too good. His goodness is so frequently insisted upon that you might think you were watching some sort of clever, double-blind satire, if “Derek” weren’t so consistently, numbingly sincere.
I wasn't offended, I didn't get angry and I wasn't bored. If I had any suggestion, it would be to leave out the character, Kev, who does nothing but make crude penis jokes in every show. I think the show could be every bit as good without that character in it.
Though it is sometimes difficult to watch, I highly recommend you give it a chance!