Derek – Series One

Today is unseasonably cold for April in north Texas, and it’s raining as well.  So I did what any sensible minded person would do: go searching on Netflix for something to watch.  I decided to give Derek a try because I like Ricky Gervais, and I think he’s genuinely funny.  He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have enjoyed his work in the past.  I went in thinking it was a kind of sarcastic British humor, which I love, and it really wasn’t.  While there were bits I laughed at, I spent far more time being teary-eyed (damned hayfever) and by the last episode I was outright sobbing.

Sidebar – Who decided putting entire seasons of things online was a good idea?  I have lost the entire afternoon watching one season of this show in it’s entirety and only stopped because I was at the end.  OK, it’s a totally great idea but I had stuff I was going to do today, dammit.  Like go to the store and the gym and be adulty.  They should have an episode limit you can activate or something.  Something that’s totally by choice, like parental controls.  Only for people who will binge watch while lying in bed and not showering, instead of for parents who don’t want their kids to come across a stray boob or four letter word.  Not that I know anyone who would do that.  Nope, not at all.  Looks shifty.  Not buying that at all, are you?

Back to thoughts on the actual show.  For those that don’t know, it’s a show that’s based in a care home for the elderly where Derek Noakes, who’s played by Gervais, works.  Derek is slightly simple, but in spite of what some people think I don’t believe it’s a demeaning or insensitive performance.  In fact, I think it’s Derek’s kindness that sets the series apart.  As the series goes on, each of the characters talks about Derek and how knowing him has made them better people.  I would say the show’s emphasis is on kindness and empathy, and it makes it truly touching.  You may have to watch the entire run to get the fullness of how important the empathy is, but it’s only seven episodes, about 25 minutes each, so it’s not a huge investment of time.

The thing that struck me most was the compassion the elderly are treated with on the show.  There’s an episode where animals from a pet shelter are brought in to visit with the residents that left me a little weepy.  The voice over talks about how they bring in the fully grown, calmer animals and how beneficial it is to the residents to have a friend to cuddle.  Gervais is well-known for his work with animals, and was PETA’s person of the year in 2013. If you follow him on Twitter (he’s @rickygervais) he often posts pictures of animals and calling for and end to animal cruelty.  He wrote all the scripts for the show, and I think his love for animals shows strongly in this episode.

Second Sidebar – If you do go looking on Twitter, you should know he’s a strongly outspoken atheist.  Also, his language is pretty blue, as it is sometimes on the show itself.  Just an FYI in case that kind of thing bothers you.  But if it does, why oh why are you here on my blog?

When I was watching the show, I was thinking about how rarely the elderly get treated with any compassion or decency in Hollywood.  There aren’t very many movies that come to mind when I think of having an older cast, and fewer that don’t seem cliche.   There is a wonderful scene in the last episode of the season where Gerald visits his wife Lizzie, who has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember much.  I’ll quote from the show because I love this speech:

“No, she doesn’t always know me.  But I look forward to seeing her every day.  She’s still the same person.  And every day, I introduce myself and we get to know each other all over again.  I’m lucky.  Who else gets to fall in love 365 times a year?  You see, here’s the thing.  People see a couple of doddering old fools caught in a time warp, waiting to die.  But I see a beautiful young girl from Dublin who wants to spend the rest of her life with me.  I win.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  Or Lizzie.  We had the best life we could ever have had, because we spent it together.”

By this point, I’m ugly crying.   This is how love should be portrayed, and celebrated.  The show said so much to me about mortality, and friendship.  I went in looking for a laugh and ended up with something thought provoking and emotional.  I wish I could say something relevant about each episode.  But I think I’d rather just leave this:


And he truly is.  Highly recommended watching.  Just take tissues.

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