Thursday, 17 January 2013


Photo credit:Andy Hollingsworth
Yesterday I  watched the entire new series of ‘Derek’ by Ricky Gervais from start to finish in anticipation of it’s launch on C4.

This is a suggestion.

Whether you’re a Ricky Gervais fan or hater, you should watch this show

If you watch expecting to dislike him and by extension ‘Derek’ then of course you will, but if you go in watching with an open mind, then I guarantee you will be embraced, by the characters, by the subject matter and by the sheer optimism of hope, in spite of circumstances.

There is and will always be a lingering doubt in the minds of some as to Gervais’s intentions in his portrayal of Derek.

Irrespective of how many times Gervais answers the disability question there will be a tiny but vocal minority who refuse to believe him when he says not.

I just see him as a naive, kind, gentle and vulnerable man, in a harsh, hostile and cynical world.  Ricky Gervais clearly loves Derek; there is no mocking of him, no derision, only truth.

This is a show about kindness, told with kindness for the most part.

The show examines Derek and his world but with a vicious bite in respect of those who Gervais believes, deserve it. Some of the relatives of the residents  do not fare well and for me it was hard to watch these scenes. Because even if you’re not a monster, when you place a loved one in a residential setting, you believe you are. So do many other people.

Intellectualising it doesn’t change your mind and time doesn’t dim the pain.

But I had to face the truth in the writing. 
The fact is there are many, many relatives who are exactly like the ones portrayed in the show and ultimately they also serve as a conduit for the view of many in the outside world, who pass by care homes everyday, on their way to getting on with their own lives.

Photo credit : Ray Burmiston
Derek is different to the majority of us, but I wish we were all more like him, because he’s unerringly compassionate and irrepressibly optimistic and there is never enough of that to be found especially now.

I’m sick to death of cynicism if the truth be told; It’s the age ‘for’ innocence now if ever there was one.

 It’s also time for writers to tell the truth of our lives, of all our lives and Gervais has chosen not to document his celebrity status but to shine the light on millions of those who have no status at all.

Having seen some harsh, cynical and untrue accounts of ‘Derek’ since it aired last year, I can only suppose Gervais didn’t read them or I suspect he wouldn’t have had the energy or will to write a full series.

I think many people will be so glad he did.

He’s spoken of his own enjoyment of the creative process for this series on his blog and how reminiscent it is of ‘The Office’ for him in terms of his enthusiasm as writer director and lead actor. 

There is a magic to it definitely.  Like, ‘The Office’ the key lies in the performances, which unfold naturally and gradually as they layer the stories of the lives lived, usually unobserved. As with ‘The Office’ these stories are wrought from a potentially stifling atmosphere, and laced with the humour that exists in the place where seemingly all hope is gone.

All the characters are so forgotten, so lost, that they have only each other to rely on and their community draws you in gently, and rewards you admirably.

Hannah, performed brilliantly by Kerry Godliman, is like so many care workers that I’ve met and loved in my 19 years as a carer. 
Hannah’s down to earth and full of compassion, quiet but with a sharp and dark sense of humour, crucial in a job, which can be as difficult emotionally as physically, whilst navigating the precarious balance between what those in power want and what her clients need. 

Photo credit :Ray Burmiston
Karl Pilkington talking in the C4 behind the scenes documentary is typically forthright about the upheaval to his day, by becoming involved in the show but touching when he talks about how angry one scene makes him even after the camera stops rolling.

He needn’t have any concerns. He is a gifted and affecting actor.

David Earl is David Earl and nobody can ‘play disgusting’ with so much pathos and skill. He is also not to be underestimated when it comes to drama. 

There is a scene to camera in the last episode which will shore up perceptions of Earl’s abilities as a dramatic actor.

In terms of a breakthrough performance Holli Dempsey stands out as Vicky. Her arrival at Broadhill,  details initially a weary, suspicious, cynicism of those working there and for the work she's expected to do; through to becoming an integral part of the home's family. 

Dempsey offers a subtle, nuanced portrayal, excelling both as a comedic and dramatic actor deftly engaging us through Vicky's experiences, her acceptance and appreciation of her character strengths, for the first time.

But it is Ricky Gervais as Derek who is the revelation here.

It could be argued that if you don’t like him, you will never like him, so don’t watch him, especially in this.

For anyone however who has an open mind and who liked the pilot, his performance in the series is stellar. He just becomes 'Derek".

There is nothing of the 'A list' star persona, as he disappears into this character, nothing of the stand up, the director, or the businessman.

There is nothing except quietness and a sweetness of delivery, so all encompassing that even when he wrestles people to the ground, because that is what he does, it’s utterly unthreatening and endearing.

It’s an incredibly moving, and centred performance. His ability to disappear in scenes, to be forgotten, as people who are vulnerable in real life, are so often forgotten whilst those around them direct their lives, demonstrates that his acting ability is the most under appreciated of his talents.

He’s simply extraordinary as Derek.

In any event with whatever agenda you take with you when you watch “Derek” you’ll find great performances, honest stories, believable characters and heartbreaking truth.

This as ever is the stock in trade of someone who after more than a decade at the height of his profession  has earned the right to be evaluated on his talent, not his Twitter feed.

A man who can, in turn be perceived as  hilarious, irritating, frustrating, self-deprecating provocative and verbose, repeatedly and determinedly, prefers to let his work speak on its own behalf and with Derek he's giving a voice to those who really need to be heard.

photo credit: @rickygervais


  1. You have to love an actor who can make us believe that he is someone else for 30 minutes. Shalhoub as Monk is one that springs to mind, and now Gervais as Derek. Nice post.

  2. I've no doubt that Gervais had no malice at all when it came to creating Derek and I think the pilot showed that. Unfortunately your 360 turn around has come from recognition from the man himself just before the first episode aired. You yourself were one of the naysayers so don't come with the 'open-minded' comment because you judged it without seeing it. If Ricky hadn't of reached out to you, you would still be putting it down. Never mind your paper thin principles, you can be bought for a retweet to 3.9million people!

    1. No offence but you really are as stupid as you are abusive "Anonymous"

      I did a review of the pilot of Derek before it aired on this blog and got a ton of abuse for it because it was positive

      If you're going to insult people at least get a brief grip of the facts. An apology at your earliest convenience will be most welcome.

    2. Surely if you turned a 360 then your back facing the same way I.e. your veiw remains the same, anything but a 360 makes more sense...Oh and by the way Nicky you managed to put into words everything I know I'm going to feel when Derek airs on the 30th Jan so thank you, although its just made the anticipation harder to bear.

    3. Hahahahahaa a 360 turn would face you the original direction! now a 180 turn would be a turn around LOL

      dumb and ignorant!

  3. Who cares what you think of anything Mrs Clark,certainly not me, you've got your retweets off Ricky, because he wants a quiet life and no more of your crocodile tears ,that made him decide to apologise to you in the first place.

  4. You have to laugh at this woman, she is so in awe,love and almost a stalker in her obsession of Ricky ,she retweets nearly every tweet his gf Jane tweets and now has n'that(ala KP) ,at the end of her twitter bio, I worry for her and ricky doesn't help by retweeting her rubbish too

    1. Sorry I was laughing so hard I could barely type so I'll redo that *coughs* I didn't know 'n'that' was a Karl Pilkington invention you clearly know much much more about them all than I do. in fact than anyone does...

      Are YOU the stalker perhaps is that why you won't stop posting on this blog?

  5. Recent tweet by Nicky Clarke "Stop posting abuse on my blog "denis" don't doubt your reason for doing so is you probably have a tiny penis, that's not the world's fault"

    So if indeed this Denis does have a tiny penis, is it okay for people to laugh and discriminate at him for it? isn't he born with it, surely that's the same as laughing and taking the mickey out of someone with a deformity etc?

    The problem with this lady is that she doesn't practice what she preaches

    1. Hi Denis hope all well, except the obvious. best Nik

  6. Good to read such a review from someone with your insights as a carer. I know I watched the pilot with expectations of RG getting cheap laughs at the expense of the defenceless. I don't know why I thought so because I have always found his writing to have hidden depths and profundity. I was amazed how well observed his character was, portraying a beautiful innocent who elicited fear for his well being in a world full of the sort of evil people that have besmirched your blog. X

  7. I never watched the pilot as it didn't attract me. But I will watch the series, mainly because of what I heard of it afterwards. And this review has reinforced my desire to watch it. Thanks.
    BTW I am anonymous cos I didn't understand the other options (not much of a blog person) not hiding behind anonymity like some of the prats above.

  8. Good write up Nicky. It's pretty obvious to me that Gervais is someone with a big heart who cares deeply about the human condition; it shows in all his work.

  9. "Irrespective of how many times Gervais answers the disability question there will be a tiny but vocal minority who refuse to believe him when he says not."

    That sentence doesn't make any sense. Dreadful writing! Spelling and grammar are all over the shop. All over it!

    However, it's nice to read a positive review of 'Derek'.

  10. Gervais can lie through his teeth as much as he likes, but anyone that has followed his career knows exactly what Derek was and the purpose of the character. Gervais and Merchant as good as admitted it in interview at the time. Gervais was called on this by many comedy fans, indeed many of those had been fans of Gervais' earlier work. And lo Derek did magically turn from figure of fun spastic, to something else entirely. Could Nicky Clark have picked a more unpleasant, bullying man to hitch her wagon to?

    Even in its new 'not disabled' guise, Derek shows Gervais to be about as out of touch with the real world, the NHS and the private care industry as it's possible to be. Fifteen years with the NHS and I can tell you that the banjo has well and truly missed the cows arse.

  11. "Figure of fun spastic" ?

    My you're a nice person aren't you. Your mention of comedy fans is interesting as is the 'Hitch her wagon' comment. When will you and your friends accept that just because you loathe someone not everyone else has to.

    Re the NHS I've no idea what that point is supposed to be.

    Don't post here again please.

    Nicky Clark

  12. Couldn't agree more with this post.

    Some folk don't get Gervais as they don't understand that the underpinning of the comedy IS the mocking of bigotry and ignorance.