Tag: british tv (Page 5 of 8)

Actor Ricky Gervais behind the scenes filming of series Derek Sept 2012

‘Derek’ Season 2 Review

Ricky Gervais’s Derek is back. If the first series had uncomfortable moments and “can’t bear to watch the scene” awkwardness, he managed to up the ante with Derek Season 2.

SPOILER ALERT (IF THAT SORT OF THING MATTERS TO YOU)

The premise in Derek Season 2 is still the same: nursing care facility housing an elderly population and the people working with them. The original cast is still around, although handyman Dougie, played by Karl Pilkington, leaves and is replaced by a new caretaker.

In the same spirit of the first series, comedy is interspersed with drama. While there are laugh out loud moments, they tend to be fewer. Even some of the scenes that could be played for pure comedy (Derek and lazy, sex-obsessed loser Kevin moving into a caravan in the parking lot) shy away from making it slapstick by shifting gears and turning it into a horribly awkward situation. For instance, Kevin starts miming how he’ll handle all the women he’ll invite in.

It’s hard to understand why anyone in the home—staff or resident alike—would put up with a laze-about lecher like Kevin. His is easily the least likeable character on the show, with his inappropriate innuendos and slothful drunkenness. Because the other characters simply accept him, the viewer is required to as well for no rhyme or reason. Mean spirited teasing by new handyman Geoff feels like a bid to counter Kevin, as though the audience’s distaste is supposed to be directed at another person. Unfortunately, both characters are simply repugnant. Even when Kevin shows some indications of sympathy, it feels forced and contrived in comparison to the rest of his actions.

 

Luckily, the heart of the show—intrapersonal relationships, dealing with both joy and loss—remains the same.

Derek himself is still the happy, naïve man who finds delight in life. His father moves in to the care facility, which elates him, but by the end of the six episodes, he passes away. This death affects him of course, but he says he is happy because his dad was happy. The euthanasia of a therapy dog affects him more.

This particular set of circumstances is profound. There are a great many people who own pets. There are a great many who do not, and do not understand “it’s just a dog”. That this mockumentary comedy-drama addresses the pain of losing a beloved animal so frankly sets it apart from other shows. It’s not saying that the loss of a person isn’t important or heart-breaking. It most certainly is. But in the course of the show, an older person’s death is treated as a natural part of life, and Derek celebrates that these people are important. Derek’s dismay and crying over the death of the dog, however, acknowledges that pets fill an important role in our lives as well.

This show goes a bit deeper in both its subject matter and portrayals than others. It seems to focus on the sad. But I think if viewers think about it a bit deeper themselves, they’ll find Derek’s simple messages of being happy, enjoying life, and finding something good in just about everything a proper lesson to take home. As hard as some of it is to watch, not many programs have such significant undertones.

The second series of Ricky Gervais’s Derek will be available for viewing on Netflix in late May.


Derek Review / Netflix

‘Derek’ Review – Ricky Gervais

Derek review is in order, because the British comedy-drama is now available to the American audience. Let the Fremdscham begin!

The series is helmed by Ricky Gervais, the world’s reigning President of Horribly Uncomfortable Situations. It is set in a nursing care facility and, like Gervais’s most famous program, The Office, filmed mockmentary style. No one does the “act as though this is truly your life and cameras are invading it” better than Brit actors. Speaking directly to the camera or flicking glances toward it as if the viewer were there, in person, to witness the events taking place heightens the awkward feeling of intruding on something that should never have been seen.

What makes this show slightly different, however, is its sheer humanity. The focus isn’t on the comedy, although that is a strong component, but the people’s lives and dreams and how they get through by in a world that marginalizes them.

The title character, played by Gervais, is a man doing a job he enjoys. He never mentions exactly what his qualifications or skill sets may be to work in the facility; instead, he talks about how much he loves people and wants to help them. He’s socially graceless, naïve, is complete with tics and unconscious gestures, and although it seems his relatability is low, his inner desires—to be accepted, to be appreciated, to be treated well—strike a chord.

True sympathy for the characters is plain when you run the gamut of emotions during the show: from embarrassment so strong you can’t watch the screen to welling up with tears because of a poignant soliloquy touting the merit of the importance of being kind.

No stranger to controversy, Gervais’s portrayal of the character managed to cause a bit of an uproar because he appears mentally disabled, and the current climate of political correctness makes laughing at him climb to another level of discomfort. However, Gervais has pointedly said that Derek is not autistic or mentally challenged.

Most of Gervais’s work is sits firmly on the comedy side of the spectrum. Derek, trying to straddle the comedy-drama divide, does a fair job of both. Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as some of his other work (The Office; Extras), and occasionally ham-fisting the drama, the show itself is a bit uneven compared to his comedies. Unlike the aforementioned shows, this one may not have the same appeal or re-watchability factor. However, it is nice to see a comedian stretching their acting chops and doing a project that means more than just a paycheck to them.

And a show with heart, a show in which the title character looks directly at the camera and tells us, “Kindness is magic. It’s more important to be kind than clever or good-looking . . . I’m not clever or good-looking, but I am kind,” a show that has the ability to remind us not to take people for granted, is a show worth checking out.

Derek is available through Netflix streaming.

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Programme Name: Inside No. 9 - TX: 05/02/2014 - Episode: Generics (No. Generics) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton - (C) BBC - Photographer: Richard Ansett

‘Inside No. 9’ Review

Our Inside No. 9 review notes that the British dark comedy series, took some unexpected turns. Written, produced, and starring Reese Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton—two names that most Americans would say, “huh?” about if asked—have previously done cult favorites The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville. I’ve seen with their other works, but I should have been more attuned to the “dark” descriptor instead of “comedy.”

Inside No. 9 is an anthology series; each episode stands alone with new characters and new situations, only loosely connected by the number nine as their house number (hence, the title) and asking the same question, “What goes on behind closed doors?” It is styled after other anthologies such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Hammer House of Horror for our British readers, and again, I should have realized that, like the others, this little series was going to delve into darker subjects than a light-hearted farce.

The kicker is: even after watching the first two episodes of Inside No. 9 and seeing some of the black humor in them (this doesn’t translate well as a written description, but the man pouring tomato soup over his white couch to disguise the bloodstains of the lover he just shot was funny), I was still unprepared for some of the scenes in later episodes.

Even the premises of each Inside No. 9 episode seem innocuous, but each takes a sharp turn away from goodness and kindness. In “Sardines”, guests at an engagement party play the title game, a bit like hide-and-seek but once found, everyone piles into the same hiding place. Crammed into a claustrophobic area, secrets and personal insecurities wiggle their way out, and heaped on top of that is good old-fashioned stranger danger. “A Quiet Night In” is a tale told almost entirely sans dialogue, about two cat burglars attempting to steal a painting while the owner is still home. This hackneyed comedy of errors ends with no one getting the prize, ever. Life imitates art in the “The Understudy”; when the art is Macbeth, it can never end well. A man helping a homeless tramp in “Tom and Gerri” ends up destitute and delusional—or does he? In “Last Gasp”, underlying human greed takes center stage during a Make-a-Wish function. And finally, the aptly entitled “The Harrowing” is rife with stereotypical gothic ideas (an old dark house, mysterious owners, a creepy old man living in the attic) but turns all of what you thought you know about the genre into straight up horror.

 

Each episode of Inside No. 9 got darker and darker, until the humor was almost non-existent or an afterthought. It wasn’t bad, just more serious about exposing the seedy underside of human nature than what might be gleaned from reading non-spoiler-ish details on the web. It did contain more comedy than the Twilight Zone, et al. They all tried to have a twist ending, to shake the audience, but where the anthologies before it may have also tried to include a moral, Inside No. 9 doesn’t really. It leaves its stories hanging in limbo for the viewer to dissect for their own conclusions. It’s effective, but it’s best to be in the mood for something like that instead of expecting something that won’t haunt you afterward.

As are most BBC shows, Inside No. 9 doesn’t have many episodes. For those interested in watching something you don’t have to invest a lot of time or effort into (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones) and something different than most everything else on TV right now.

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