Derek was a one-off episode which was created by and starred Ricky Gervais, who played Derek Noakes, the leading character. Derek has learning difficulties and works in an old-folks home. Here’s what C4 say about it:
He’s 49, adores animals, Rolf Harris, Jesus, Deal or No Deal, Million Pound Drop and Britain’s Got Talent – but his main hobby is autograph hunting.
Derek works in a retirement home with his mate and landlord, Dougie. Derek cares deeply for old people because they’re kind and funny and tell him stories about the olden days.
Hannah is a care worker at the home and is Derek’s best friend. She’s smart, witty and hard-working, but unlucky in love, and, like Derek, always puts other people first.
My first suspicion was that this would be a vague attempt at making fun out of those with learning difficulties, but I was wrong.
Gervais is known for several things; The Office; Extras, An Idiot Abroad, Life’s Too Short and a couple of films. I could never get into The Office, Extras was brilliant, An Idiot Abroad was clever and refreshing, Life’s Too Short was amusing (in a ‘ha ha, look at the funny things that happen to the dwarf’ way) and the films are watch-able. Oh, and some of Gervais’ stand-up stuff is funny too. But, Gervais has a problem- he’s a stereotype of himself. The stereotypical aspect is evident in every single role that he plays and every single script that he writes. There is no doubt that Gervais is a very witty, very intelligent individual. He portrays the embarrassment and close-to-the knuckle situations that we’ve all experienced one way or another in our own lives- the characters that he has played are people we have met or who we know through a friend of a friend. I think this is why Gervais is such a funny person.
It may appear as if I’ve gone off-track, but this is all relevant. Derek is the first piece of material from Gervais that doesn’t mock anyone and which hasn’t been made to make you laugh. I think it was supposed to be a ‘nice’ television show about life in a care home.
The problem is that Derek was uneventful- nothing happened in it. Derek Noakes reminded me too much of Ray Stokes (the manager in When the Whistle Blows, which was a comedy series that Andy Millman (Gervais) had written) in many ways, but primarily, it was the facial expressions that did it. Gervais definitely didn’t mock people with learning difficulties; he just seems to want to have a go at playing such a person- maybe it was to prove to himself that he could play a serious role?
There were two funny bits in Derek; three if you consider the bit where Derek fell into the pond as funny, despite being able to see a mile off that he was going to end up in it.
Derek proudly shows of the care home computer, which allows the residents (and Derek) to use the internet. We see Derek’s favourite YouTube video, which I have included here for you. This is the sort of thing that makes me chuckle because sadly, it’s exactly the sort of thing I would make myself. What can possibly be funnier than a hamster on a piano, eating popcorn? Look at the little hamster- he’s so cute.
I initially thought that perhaps the video was made specifically for Derek, but it’s actually a couple of years old.
Anyway, the only other funny bit in Derek was when Derek goes to the pub with Hannah (a nurse at the care home and Derek’s friend). Some women at the pub are saying things about him behind his back so as Derek and Hannah go to leave, Hannah pops back in, walks up to the ‘ring-leader’, taps her on the shoulder and when she turns round, she head-butts her. That part made me laugh!
In summary, Derek was pointless and there was no real plot to it. Gervais definitely was not making anyone a joke in this. It seems that there have been reports of people using ‘Derek’ as an insult- there’s no way on earth you can blame Gervais for this! I saw on Twitter last night
Seeing reports of ‘Derek’ being shouted at people in the street as an insult. Thanks Ricky Gervais, really helping there!
I replied to this and asked if we can let Dustin Hoffman off, as I’ve never heard of people being called ‘Rain Man’ as an insult. If a tiny, tiny minority of Derek viewers start to use ‘Derek’ as an insult, it’s not because of a one-off television show and it’s certainly not because of Gervais. In short, Derek was inoffensive and uninteresting. Unfortunately, because Gervais IS Gervais, there will still be people baying for his blood and wanting to blame everything ever on him. If only Derek had been that interesting and deserved it, I wouldn’t have felt as though I’d lost a half hour of my life which I can never get back.