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.