On Sunday afternoon, I decided to watch ‘Derek’ with trepidation. It aired on Channel 4 on Thursday night (12th April, 2010) and between it airing and my getting around to watching it, all I’d seen was negative backlash about the comedy-drama starring Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington.
Derek is a care-home worker. He clearly has some sort of mental disability. However, he is one of the most loveable characters on TV I have seen in a long time. As his co-worker Hannah says “He’s got a heart of gold. It’s a shame more people aren’t like him.”. In some ways, this show reminded me of something Alan Bennett may produce.
I don’t claim to know a lot about certain disabilities and Gervais has been criticised by parents of autistic children as “cynical and dishonest” but I truly believe this is a programme in the vein of ‘The Royle Family’ – there are some moments where you mat titter but there is so much more to it than that.
I do not believe that Gervais has set out to upset people or portray disabled people in a bad light. I honestly cannot believe someone would do that just for ratings. The scene in which Hannah and Derek go to the pub demonstrates that what Gervais was actually trying to do was point out the inequalities and unkindness that lurks in our society. It wasn’t Derek that was bothering anyone in the pub, it was the three Chav girls who were being spiteful and ignorant.
I’ve spoken with friends who have worked in old people’s’ homes and they say this fly-on-the-wall mockumentary is a great reflection of care homes in Britain. Derek’s relationship with the people in the home is lovely. He cares for them and understands how they should be treated. There are so few people who genuinely value elderly people. Like he says “How would you feel if that was you?” His relationship with Joan made me shed a few tears.
The character of Hannah is a lovely, realistic portrayal. The other characters demonstrate the kindness of humans, Karl Pilkington’s Dougie took Derek in after his mother died.
I’m sad that people didn’t accept this for the warm-hearted piece it was. We should all try to be as kind as Derek.