Last week, I was impressed by Derek, if slightly underwhelmed. And though tonight’s episode was a dramatic improvement on what had already been established, it wasn’t quite perfect.
The positives first- it was a hell of a lot funnier. Whilst last week’s episode had Karl Pilkington’s Dougie at its beating heart, this week he is sort of sidelined as the comic mouthpiece- this was Karl being Karl, not Karl being Dougie. That’s fine, but so long as Dougie is not stuck in being the funny, moody git and gets moments like his defiant speech in last week’s episode, then we have another classic and well-rounded character to the Gervais pantheon. Whereas last week there was the odd chuckle, this was genuinely full of laughs and quotable lines- not catchphrases- and if the show maintains that amount of humour with its other elements, it will be nicely balanced and stronger for it.
The best thing about the whole episode, though, was once again Hannah’s arc. I hope to God we see more of Vicki, because she struck a chord with me, and became the heart of this week’s episode-Surely it’s a problem if we fall in love with these new characters, but our love for the title character doesn’t grow?
Hannah is once again the maternal figure, and when Vicki starts to see the resident’s worth, and the poor thing. I know girls like Vicki, so it was very touching and a little sad for me to watch. Gervais has formed another wonderful character in his world and proved to be a masterful observer. Of course Gervais had to take a little poke at Celebrity Culture, Twitter and The Kardashians, but he worryingly has a point- this is how some people Vicki’s age, my age, are thinking.
Towards the end we see a very subtle growth in Hannah’s ‘relationship’ with Tom, and I feel that that is going to become the heart of the show. Because at the moment Derek is not really giving us anything, and great as he is, I doubt we’re going to see Dougie headline a strong emotional arc as the show develops.
And now the negatives- the three things that niggled me last week were: 1) The piano music- enough already! If you had the insistent score in The Office’s powerful and understated moments, it would’ve been nowhere near as good- the show is great as it is, you don’t need to hammer home the pathos if it all with the constant music.
2) & 3) The distinct lack of development in Derek and Kev. Though Kev had some very funny moments this week, like soiling himself and seeking out nudity in the local library, I’m not feeling sympathetic to him, and thus far he’s not likeable enough to get away with his words and actions. If Gareth in The Office looked and sounded like Kev, he’d be nowhere near as lovable- Kev could do with shedding the ‘dirty, creepy drunk’ image. As you come to love Derek, although a little less so than Dougie and Hannah, I feel nothing towards Kev. He’s not very nice, and he just lacks dimension. I hope to God this is just a trick, and very soon he will be given something to do that totally messes with our impressions so far. And though I like Derek, and haven’t completely fallen in love with him yet. Perhaps this is Gervais’ intention, that he sort of melds into the background and is in no way a showy performance, but though he’s nice and obviously cares, I really haven’t seen an example of a genuinely childlike act, or a bond with a resident that made the pilot so powerful.
The really killer for me was at the end- we focus on the residents settling down after Derek’s party, and flash back to old film stock of their memories of being young- it is in no way saccharine, but genuinely uplifting, oddly powerful, and a masterstroke by Gervais. But damn him, I’m falling in love with the residents-especially Arthur- and we’re not seeing enough of them. The whole situation of the situation comedy is set in an old folk’s home, and though any moment with Godliman’s Hannah is a delight, we’re not seeing enough of the actual residents- or at least, it’s noticeable because Pilkington seems to support two as-yet underdeveloped characters.
Well done, Mr. Gervais, you’ve proved that the sitcom really has legs, and I love most of the characters in the world you’ve created. Let me see more! I want more of the old people, more of Tom, some real development in Derek, a bit of humanity in Kev… At the moment, it seems to be quite routine- Derek, Dougie and Kev go outside of the home, crack a few jokes and leave the seriously emotional lifting to Hannah. I hope this changes quickly- perhaps we’ll see a little less of Hannah and focus on Derek and Kev, or give total focus to Dougie, who is proving more than capable of carrying the show as well as Hannah.
If next week continues in this trend and once again combats my little niggles, then I’ll have nothing to complain about in a series that so far has been warm, quite funny and more than a little thought-provoking. And despite my criticism, it’s the most genuine and honest show I’ve seen on TV in quite a while, and there’s just not enough programming like it on our screens, so it’s a show that is to be celebrated, flaws and all.
This article was first posted on February 6, 2013