Derek: Series 1 - Review
The latest Ricky Gervais sitcom Derek ended its first series on Channel 4 last night, and based on the recent commissioning of a second series, it must've done okay for them. Meanwhile, we wrote about the series when it started, and then again during our The Office comparison.
Results were mixed - it has good moments but also can be a little manipulative or simplistic. So, with the whole first series squarely behind us, do we have any new opinions to offer?
Derek - Nothing If Not ConsistentWell, it hasn't morphed into a different programme. The simplistic moral messages, the music montages - yes, Derek remains heavy-handed. The episodes just before the finale came dangerously close to getting predictable too - last week, Derek met yet another character from the wrong side of the tracks and proved they were good at heart. I'm not sure whether they're busting through stereotypes here or reinforcing them by repeating. Also, I was hoping they'd change the formula by having Derek's faith in other humans prove misplaced for once - no such luck.
The finale, though, did push for a sense of pay-off and event by asking big questions and introducing a rare storyline tackling Derek's background. Even Kev, the comedy background character, had the real human moment I've hoped for all series. Yes, the gushing verbal praise towards Derek himself is getting crushingly over-done now, and oh yeah, another Coldplay montage, but still, they went for a major moment and mostly got it.
I don't know. It's still simplistic moralising, and yes, the great big heavily signposted tearjerking moments still work on me because I'm an easy mark for this stuff, and also the actors are pretty good. Gervais himself seems comfortable as Derek - if you find his performance offensive, that won't help you much - and Kerry Godliman and Karl Pilkington have genuinely done great work here. They're not hugely prominant in the final week, but still.
Nothing Loves Montages More Than This ProgrammeSomeone on Twitter asked Ricky Gervais whether the Coldplay montage (the first one, not the second) was a little OTT, and he replied: isn't it exactly the sort of thing a real heartstrings-tugging docusoap about an old people's home would do? And, well, that's interesting, because taking that further: Derek is either a cover version of those shows, or some kind of style parody. To use another point - during the many sad montages of the elderly residents, I don't get the impression Gervais wants us to judge the documentary crew for over-sentimentalising old people, does he? He seems to be inviting us to cry along with them.
Derek is an odd show - watchable light viewing, always a couple of good lines from Pilkington, charmingly straight-forward in a fraught world, weirdly preoccupied with montages, but I'm not sure it's saying anything much, or possibly even at all. And yes, whether it's to flatter his ego, prove he doesn't have a problem with the disabled, or simply because he's hammering his point too much, Gervais could really turn down the bits where characters tell us how amazing Derek himself is. Show don't tell, as the creative writing manuals all say.
Anyway. I watched all of it, I feel an attachment to the characters, even though I'm not sure their show has a particularly adult worldview, so Derek must be doing something right. I'll be watching the second series even if I don't plan on reviewing it.
Derek has now concluded on Channel 4, but there's still the official C4 Derek website, and the chance to watch episode on 4OD. Yes, I cried during the last episode, I'm not sorry.