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Letters from London
Derek — Simply Brilliant
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
Derek on Channel 4 in England

I don’t remember the last time I got excited about anything on television. I think it might have been The Young Ones on BBC 2 in the early eighties. But even then I didn’t react the way I have with Ricky Gervais’s latest offering. Not only am I excited by it, but also I’m passionate to the point where I actually gush about it, calling it the best television for decades.

So, what is this program that has me acting like a girl worshipping One Direction and generally embarrassing myself every time I see Ricky Gervais on Twitter?

It’s a gentle little comedy/drama program that revolves around the eponymous character, Derek, a simple man who lives and works in a retirement home. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming; heart-breaking at times, but it’s the kind of program that always ends too soon and then makes you wait a whole week before you can steal another brief moment with some of the best characters ever created.

Derek is never going to win a Nobel Prize for science. He’s far from the sharpest tool in the shed. But what he lacks in intelligence, he more than makes up for with heart, compassion and an overwhelming desire to make better the lives of the elderly residents at Broadhill Retirement Home. He’s aided in this by a small collection of misfit characters who each add another dimension to every week’s bittersweet tale.

There’s Hannah, the inspirational manager of the home, whose dedication to her job is actually humbling. Even at the cost of her own social life she will be there if a resident needs her, sitting with them; holding their hand, comforting them as they edge inexorably towards their final darkness.

Dougie is the home’s handyman, bus driver and general go-to guy. He is ably played by the legend that is Karl Pilkington, whose unique brand of misery comes shining through, although here there is an underlying humanity and kindness that can be show-stealing at times.

Then there’s Kev. Kev is crass, crude, obnoxious at times, but like the others who inhabit Broadhill Retirement Home, he has a good heart. It’s just hidden behind a shell of behaviour that is as cringe-worthy as it is funny; for example, writing rude words on crabs’ shells.

So, who could possibly have conceived and created such a work of pure class like this?

Believe it or not, it’s Ricky Gervais. Yes, you know him; he’s the one known for putting down the great and the good at the Oscars and Golden Globes; for putting poor Karl Pilkington through hell in An Idiot Abroad; and – of course – the inimitable David Brent.

I think it shows the talent of Mr Gervais that someone renowned for his edgy (some have called it bullying), sometimes harsh comedy, can write and breathe life into a character like Derek Noakes. Derek is sweet, kind, caring – basically all the things Gervais has worked hard to pretend he’s not over the years.

Derek will make you laugh; it will make you cry. But most of all it will renew your faith in humanity, because you’ll see a bit of yourself in the characters inhabiting Broadhill. You’ll also see bits of the people you love, because Ricky Gervais has encapsulated the best bits of all of us in this program and put them all up there on the screen to remind us they still exist, and perhaps to inspire us to be a little nicer to each other, to exercise a little more patience with people. And to always take a Sharpie pen with us when we go to the seaside, because we never know when we’ll get the opportunity to write the word “Twat” on a crab’s shell.

Derek can be seen on Channel 4, Wednesday nights at 10.00. You can also catch up on 4OD.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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