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'Derek' review: Ricky Gervais nails it

Ricky Gervais in a scene from Netflix's "Derek."

Ricky Gervais in a scene from Netflix's "Derek." Credit: Netflix


WHEN|WHERE Netflix streams all seven episodes, starting Friday.

REASON TO WATCH Ricky Gervais naked is the least of this show's charms.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Yes, that sweet, gentle, generous, kind man Derek is embodied by Gervais, the seedy boss of "The Office" (UK original), the egocentric celeb of "Extras," the cackling torturer of "An Idiot Abroad."

Derek might seem to be the antithesis of the comic universe created by this vaunted actor-writer-director-Golden Globes subverter. "It's more important to be kind than clever or good-looking," Gervais' Derek half-mumbles into the mockumentary camera filming him on the job at a British care home for the elderly. The nearly immobile seniors he spends his days adoring -- "Old people are nicer to me than anyone else in the world" -- are, much like him: leftovers, out of place in a world that more highly values the "clever or good-looking," and certainly those moving at a faster pace.

Not Derek, who is otherwise found at the computer glued to YouTube hamster-on-a-piano (-eating-popcorn) videos, or in the garden trying to give a worm a drink ("in both ends, just in case"). Not his handyman roommate, Douglas ("Idiot" Karl Pilkington, here with hair odder than his round baldness), who gets passive-aggressive at putting fresh batteries in residents' hearing aids ("I don't know at what point you can say a life has ended," he broods). Not Hannah (Kerry Godliman), another misfit worker, with 15 years in at the home. At least she appreciates Derek's shuffling, babbling, openhearted simplicity: "It's a shame more people aren't like that, really."

MY SAY "Derek," like its protagonist, is a gentle gem, easy to overlook, discount or dismiss. It keeps you company. It reminds you there's warmth in this world. It's hilarious, and sad, and ironic, and rich. And then there's pixilated nakedness and a delicious head-butt.

Gervais has nailed it here, despite online scoffers fearing his depiction of Derek mocks the mentally challenged. That's how far society has gone? A guy who's just plain nice, patient, lost and socially maladroit is prima facie "disabled"?

BOTTOM LINE With its own take on awkward pauses, misapprehensions and failed humor, "Derek" is actually just Gervais' latest angle on square pegs in a round-hole world.


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