Derek is one of the best shows on Netflix, but no one seems to be watching it. If anyone is, they certainly aren’t talking about it as much as other Netflix programs like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. The first season of Ricky Gervais‘ comedy-drama is a beautiful work of art, and it should appeal to long-time Gervais fans as well as newcomers who aren’t necessarily familiar or interested in his previous work. Derek is about a group of well-meaning people who devote their lives to service as they manage a nursing home. So why, then, is it so overlooked?
For one, it’s a show about kindness. In the age of anti-heroes and bleak, harrowing crime dramas, Derek is a refreshing alternative for which most viewers probably aren’t prepared. Unlike House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, two extremely successful Netflix programs, Derek is void of cynicism. It’s a defiantly optimistic show that rewards good people who are kind and generous. In one episode, for example, a troubled teenager learns the value of compassion when she is forced to do community service at the nursing home. There are no pessimistic twists in Derek. If you do good to others, good things happen to you, and if you don’t, you’re not going to be rewarded.
Perhaps this utopian vision of the world is outdated for some viewers. After The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, it seems that the most successful television shows are about immoral behavior that is socially and culturally rewarded. Even the half-hour comedy programs like Girls, Veep, and Nurse Jackie depict the darker shades of our humanity. Could it be that viewers are unable to turn back now? Has society’s collective disappointment in life via failed leadership and global despair found its way into the content that is consumed on a daily basis? If this is the case, Derek reminds us that it doesn’t have to be this way. As viewers, we can choose to reward kindness and goodness by celebrating shows like Derek and rejecting the latest anti-hero dramas for what they are: bleak, depressing rip-offs of better shows that came before (Low Winter Sun, anyone?).
We may not be able to escape the problems that plague the 21st century, but we certainly don’t have to allow these problems to bleed into our entertainment. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and House of Cards are all terrific shows, but how many more dramas about cruel people do we need? Isn’t it time that we start rooting for characters who are good again?
For viewers looking to make that change, Derek is a wonderful place to start.