Netflix has continued the trend of American TV emulating its British counterpart with “Derek,” a comedy-drama that follows the life of a quirky nursing home caretaker.
The “mocumentary-style” comedy, released as a Netflix Original Series on Sept. 12, shadows an eccentric crew of characters who encounter everything from workplace romances to the tear-jerking loss of elderly patients.
The show’s first few episodes get off to a relatively slow start. The deadpan style of humor, which relies mostly on the comedic aspects of Derek’s absurd interactions with other characters, may not be for everyone.
But once you warm up to the character’s cringe-worthy awkwardness, similar to another British favorite, “The Inbetweeners,” the season progresses quite naturally.
Derek’s tendency to go above the call of duty of care for the lonely residents makes it nearly impossible for viewers not to sympathize with him.
Perhaps the most relatable character, Hannah, played by Kerry Godliman, stands as a beacon of sanity amongst the otherwise hare-brained bunch. Derek’s schoolboy crush on Hannah is present from the very first episode. She remains a likeable and down to earth character throughout the story.
Derek’s friends Dougie and Kev, played by Karl Pilkington and David Earl respectively, help round out the group with their sarcastic cynicism. While Derek’s humorous hobbies include collecting celebrity autographs and watching Youtube videos like “Hamster on a Piano,” Dougie and Kev prefer to go to the pub and hit on women.
“Derek” is the creation of Ricky Gervais, who is most commonly known for his work on U.K. sitcom “The Office,” the basis for the popular American spinoff.
The idea of American television borrowing from U.K. networking is not at all new and has been seen in shows like “Supernanny,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “American Idol,” and another popular Netflix drama, “House of Cards.”
However, while many British shows have been remade for American television, very few examples exist of America’s shows influencing the U.K. networks.
The show’s writer, director, and lead actor, Gervais, who also starred in the 2009 film “The Invention of Lying,” was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010 and controversially hosted the Golden Globes from 2010 to 2012.
While Gervais’ provocative humor at the Globes caused celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Hanks to refer to him as mean-spirited and sinister, Gervais claims the theme of his new show is of a very different sort.
“It’s a show about kindness,” Gervais said in an interview with Salon. “It’s about kindness [being] more important than anything else, more important than intelligence, than success, than rewards, everything.”
One aspect of the show critics aren’t talking too kindly of is Gervais’ portrayal of a main character that may or may not be mentally handicapped. While the title-character’s idiosyncrasies, which include fidgeting and social awkwardness, are apparent from the shows opening, it isn’t until the second episode that the concept is discussed.
Although Derek is made fun of by strangers at a pub and accused of having Autism, his friends and coworkers stand by him through every difficult time.
“If I say I don't mean him to be disabled then that’s it. A fictional doctor can't come along and prove me wrong,” Gervais said in an interview with Nicky Clark, a disability rights advocate.
Despite mixed receptions of the show, “Derek” boasts a rating of four out of five stars and has been re-commissioned for a second season.