What Ricky Gervais' 'Derek' taught me about life
Ricky Gervais’ dramedy Derek has been met with both high criticism and huge praise. This year the controversial series is finally getting some awards season love with Gervais nominated for a Golden Globe for his turn in the title role. As he said in an interview, “I’ve won three Golden Globes so far, but this nomination for Derek is probably the one I’m most proud of.” He also said he may attend the ceremony in full Derek regalia. Fingers crossed!
Set in Broad Hill Retirement Home and centering around the life of Derek, a caretaker at the home, the show features the struggles of ordinary people and comments on the magic of charity and kindness. In Gervais’ words, the character Derek is a “childlike, beautiful, sweet, heroic creature” who has no “pretension” or “filter.” Hannah, Dougie, Kev, and Vicky are also key characters, as well as the lovely residents whom the show is really all about. Underpinning the entire show is a deep critique of society, and I’ve learned so much from this sweet show through all my crying, cringing, and laughing.
Of course I binge watched the whole first season when I first found it on Netflix, and I waited anxiously for Season 2 to come along last May. I shared this show with my family and friends, and I cannot tell you how poignant it is or how much it has the capacity to make me sob. Just wait for Coldplay’s “Fix You” and “Paradise” to play while watching Season 1, and you’ll know what I mean. For me, 2014 was the year I found Derek, and I hope 2015 is the year you find Derek. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from the show.
1. Be kind.
Derek says, “It’s more important to be kind than clever or good-looking. I’m not clever or good-looking, but I’m kind.” And that’s all you need. Kindness is magic. No ifs, ands or buts. Use kindness everyday to make the world a better place, no matter how cliché that sounds.
2. Be nice to animals.
From Ivor the dog, to snails, to birds, to the awesome YouTube animals, (Hamster on the Piano, BabyMonkey, and Baby Bunny,) Derek loves animals. They are all his “favoritest” except spiders. Derek makes it a point to be nice to animals. Animals are living things just like you and me, so there’s no need to mindlessly harm them for financial or personal gain. Derek shows us to have a heart and look after them to the best of our ability.
3. Death is inevitable.
Living presently is a big theme in the show — you never know when someone’s life is going to end, so you must love who you are and who you are with now. Derek loves old people not just because he’s with them all the time, but because, to him, they are nicer than anyone else in the world. In the words of Derek, “If you got your friends and family around you, that’s everything. They’re the most important things in the world. And when they’re gone, that’s it. You’ll never see them again.”
4. Always get up.
The last episode of Derek saw Derek learning how to ride a bike (just like me last Christmas, don’t judge!). This comes with a lot of falling over, but Kev has his back: “First rule: always get up,” he says when Derek falls from lack of balance. You have to face the fact that you will fall sometimes, and when you do, you have to try your hardest to get back up even if its painful. And, if you get hurt you won’t want to fall off again. Remember, always get up mate.
5. Give everyone a chance.
This simple lesson applies to all the caretakers on Derek who have room to grow, exemplified especially in the first season of the show with Dougie, Tom, Deon, Vicky, Anthony, and Geoff. All of these characters grow from seeing how Derek and Hannah treat and care for the residents of Broad Hill. Kindness changes them and helps them become better people.
When the Derek Christmas Special debuts on Netflix, I hope you take the time to watch (along with seasons 1 and 2). Give Derek a chance and see for yourself how amazing this show truly is.