I’m about more than just feature-length films here at Franny’s Feline Film Forum. This site will include entertainment reviews of all kinds – film, television, theatre, ballet, opera, et al. Because that’s just how awesome a cat I am.
Today’s review is concerning the latest Netflix television series “Derek,” written by, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. Thank goodness my humans have Netflix, otherwise I’m not sure how I’d keep myself occupied while they were out of the house doing whatever they do all day. Anyway, I was excited about the series and blew through it in two days.
First and foremost, let me say that I’ve always been a fan of Ricky Gervais’ work. And not just his comedy, but his actual writing style – the human themes present in his stories, the down-and-dirty everyman quality to his heroes, and his unabashed courage when it comes to uncomfortable subjects. In that aspect, this series is a dream. All of those qualities are there in droves.
Shot in mockumentary form, “Derek” shows us the happenings at Briar Hill Care Home, a small nursing home in the British suburbs. We meet Hannah, the overworked and overwraught young manager of the place (Gervais sure does love his almost-mousy heart-of-gold leading ladies); Douglas, the unattractive, self-proclaimed bachelor caretaker; and Derek (Gervais), a naïve and gentle-hearted employee of the home. We also get to know Kevin, an out-of-work friend of Derek’s who hangs around a lot, as well as all the residents and some in-and-out characters that pepper the series.
There’s not an overall story arc to the series – instead, we have the usual sitcom formula of same characters-different problem each episode. Hannah is always fighting against the company that owns the home trying to get rid of it. Douglas is always fixing something and yelling at the suits for her (one could claim he plays the hero more often than not in most episodes). And Derek is always there, loving everybody, being kind to everyone, and showing us all that life is a gift worth living to the fullest. Also, one of the residents dies in almost every one of the seven episodes.
There has been a lot of controversy over the character of Derek that I’ve read on my cat entertainment news sites. Some claim he’s portrayed as mentally challenged and the whole thing is then offensive. Gervais himself has said that he’s just simple and child-minded. I could argue either way, but I’ll believe the man who wrote, directed, and portrayed the guy. My only concern is that there’s not as much forward-momentum in the story as I would have liked. Again, it seems like Douglas is the hero of the story because he’s always the one who stands up to the “bad guys.” Derek often seems there in the background, an afterthought. It’s not until the final episode of the season that he really goes through an emotional journey and we see a struggle and a change in him.
As for cats, there really aren’t many… You would think that a show about a nursing home would be filled with felines. Alas, it’s just not the case. It’s only in Episode 2 –when a local animal shelter brings in dogs and cats for the residents to play with for the day – that we see any whiskers at all. And out of all the animals brought in, there’s only four cats. They spend the episode sitting on laps being petted. At the end of the episode, Hannah decides to stay for the overnight shift so that the animals can spend the night with the residents. Then we see another shot of one of the cats, sleeping peacefully beside one of the elderly. That’s it.
So, as far as cats go, the score is………………………..
There are multiple cats, and they interact with humans, but that’s about it.
Humans might like it more, though. It’s a pretty good show for humans.
Keep watching for more feline reviews!