I’ve been a longtime fan of Ricky Gervais, ever since his turn as David Brent on the original version of The Office. Now he’s back in a Netflix original series, called Derek, where he plays a caretaker at a British nursing home. Derek is a sweet, kind person who also borders on autistic (though he won’t even admit to understanding what that is. “I’m tistic?”” he replies when someone asks if he’s been tested.) The show’s in the same mockumentary style as The Office, replete with awkward interactions with the cameramen.
When I watch Gervais play Derek, I visualize a mix between Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man and Gollum from The Lord Of The Rings in the way that he moves. He has this weird hunched-over shuffling style of walking and is constantly pushing long strands of his hair out of his face. For some reason, I also picture him as Marty Feldman’s Eyegor in Young Frankenstein.
The show is a dramedy, quite capable of going from a scene that leaves me hysterical to one that sobers me up immediately. In one episode, Derek goes out to get a weekly lottery ticket for one of the residents, who then dies while he’s outside. Upon returning, he asks if he can see her one last time and takes her hand and uses it to pat his head, which she would do to comfort him after he had screwed up something in her room.
There is a really good ensemble cast here, especially with Gervais regular Karl Pilkington playing Dougie, the curmudgeonly handyman with a hairstyle that seems to border between a monk and someone who set the top of his head on fire. Keri Godliman plays Hannah, the manager of the home, who is very invested in all the people who reside in the home and David Earl plays Kev, a crude man who has nothing better to do than just hang out at the home and drink beer and make obnoxious sexual references.
This was the first season of the show, and I have to say that I am looking forward to what the next season brings.