After a breaking of the mould idea from Ricky Gervais, his well-received pilot (2012) and then first series in 2013 showed audiences he could do sentiment as well as comedy and satire as evident in his previous works The Office and Extras. Series 2, aired earlier this year, carries on the lovable character created by Gervais and expands more on the old people's home, and this second run is better for breathing more life into other characters.
Derek Noakes, played by Ricky Gervais, is a kindly and good natured soul who works in Broad Hill looking after elderly people. The home is run by Hannah (Kerry Godliman) with the help of Vicky (Holli Dempsey) and there’s also the recurring drunk presence and friend of Derek, Kev (David Earl). The series follows Derek and the home’s inhabitants through animal visitation days, zoo outings and general explorations of behaviour.
I enjoyed both the first and this series; it does have that aurora of perhaps being overly preachy at times, what with the numerous times Derek addresses the camera in his constant nice guy role, but there’s no denying that the show on a whole is a sweet affair and lovingly crafted by Gervais. The sentiment can at moments get too much, as it feels like Gervais is trying to hit home that he can add bittersweet drama in his repertoire, but then certain scenes arrive on the screen and succeed as dramatic and engaging.
The first episode is a gentle opener to relax us back into the home, and even though we sadly wave goodbye to the hilarious Dougie (Karl Pilkington), we get another character to lock our teeth into. Geoff is a horrible and uncaring character, and his nature develops over the course of the series, but Colin Hoult plays him with such sour vindictiveness at times that he becomes a solid new character to remember. The third episode has a welcome guest appearance from Joe Wilkinson as an even rougher Twin brother of Kev’s. Hannah and Tom have a bit more to do as well, as a B story line runs along in their attempts to have a baby, which becomes a sad plot I must say.
I liked this series more I think, because we get to see more of Kev. He’s honestly a nice counter balance to the barrage of nicety from Derek that he thrives as a fun character to enjoy watching. The ways we see his nice human side come up to the surface from time to time is so good - either building a robot dog or seeing just a cut off shot of Kev’s arm patting Tom on the shoulder - are fantastic touches to show he’s a surprising caring guy under the sleaze and booze.
The animal adoration felt by Derek is somewhat repetitive, either through YouTube clips, animal visits, his questions or the zoo day, but in episode five, it serves a fantastic purpose as we see Derek truly broken and distraught with the news of a certain unfortunate turn concerning an animal. I have to admit that seeing it both on the TV first time around and on this DVD viewing, I cried both times. There’s something so raw and heart-breaking in his emotion that it gets to you; maybe seeing Gervais in a more human, less smug role helps that along also.
It’s a series that will divide; I have no doubt about that. People will see it as possibly sending up the possibility of disability in Derek’s character. The #DerekSays inclusion is a somewhat loose way to immerse social media into the show to get fans relating to Derek on twitter. The gurning and hunched performance of Gervais is quite ridiculous; Derek could have been just as vulnerable without the mannerisms Gervais gives him, but at least the show does open eyes to the stories of elderly people and the hard work carers do in homes across the country.
Each episode has a gentle amount of warmth and serene quality to it, and though it may never be filled with genuine laugh out loud moments, there is subtle comedy to be found in the kind and quiet Broad Hill caring home. I for one am looking forward to the final outing, airing in December, to see how it plays out.
By Troy Balmayer