Writer: Ricky Gervais
Director: Ricky Gervais
Last week on Derek: Episode 1.02 Review
Right, let me cut to the chase here. The main problem with Derek is that it is pointless. Not pointless as in its existence isn't worthwhile, but pointless as in it is devoid of a point. It's abundantly clear that Ricky Gervais is predominantly a comedy writer, as each episode of Derek thus far has been a self-contained story. The first episode featured the imminent closure of Broad Hill Retirement Home. The second episode featured the introduction of Vicky. The third features the death of a female resident. This works in comedies, but Derek is much more drama than it is comedy, and therefore it just makes it difficult to be emotionally invested in its characters and their plight.
Derek wants to tug at our heartstrings. Everything from the plonky piano soundtrack to the intermittent lingering shots of old people gazing into nothingness is all intended to accomplish this. However, the old people rarely get much screen time, let alone dialogue, which makes it difficult to feel anything for them outside of the slightly condescending sympathy that Gervais seems to be relying on us feeling.
Episode 3 is an improvement over last week's effort, but it's still just as meandering. Hannah (Kerry Godliman) and Tom (Brett Goldstein) are struggling to maintain their burgeoning relationship with the pressure of Hannah's job. This struggle all but completely resolves itself by the end of the episode, when it is revealed that Tom is almost as saintly as Hannah. The titular Derek (Gervais) continues to be a supporting character, plodding around being saccharinely sweet and not doing much else. Kev (David Earl) is given more screen time than in the previous episodes, which is unfortunate because his puerile innuendos and constant references to sex remain wholly unfunny and charmless. The misanthropic caretaker Dougie (Karl Pilkington) remains a highlight, and he's given a few moments to shine, including a great little rant at the selfish daughter of a recently deceased resident, but it's simply not enough.
While Derek's directionless narrative could be attributed to its subject material (I can imagine the difficulties behind creating an exciting sitcom set in a care home), the same could equally have been said for The Office, but we all know how that turned out. Rather than relying on the strength of its characters to add emotional weight to proceedings, Gervais has instead opted to rely on Derek's bleak care home setting, and the hopeless residents that reside within it.
Episode 3 introduces us to one such resident, whose deteriorating health is the main focus of the episode. However, she is given so few lines of dialogue and characterisation that, when she does die, it's difficult to sympathise with Derek as he mourns, simply because we didn't really find out anything about the deceased resident other than that she seemed nice - and it's not as if there aren't enough "nice" people in Derek. In fact, everyone's so "nice" that sometimes it more closely resembles a 23-minute Werther's Originals advert than it does a sitcom.
I really wanted to like Derek and remain hopeful that it will pick up steam but, at this juncture, it seems unlikely.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.