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TV Review: Derek

zap-derek-season-2-photos-20140528-017Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- Last fall, after two stellar debuts for Netflix’s original program, they continued their streak with Ricky Gervais’s Derek. A show that could have easily been offensive and off-putting, pulled off a surprisingly poignant and funny debut season. After a tear-inducing finale, the show is already back for its second season with new episodes released today on Netflix.

A year has passed since the events of season one and the sweet Derek continues to work at an elderly care facility. He is beginning to adjust when his estranged father moves in to the home. His friend Dougie moves away to other things while his other buddy Kevin tries to go straight.  Things are shifting around in Derek’s life, but he has friends to help him through the tough times.

Derek was a show that completely took me by surprise when it debuted.  Expecting to be uncomfortable I found myself moved by Gervais’s performance in the title role. However this season seems to have lost a lot of that spark. The first couple of episodes take a while to get going anywhere and by that time the season is halfway over. Even then it never seems to be going in any new direction.

Gervais did some incredibly mature acting work in the first season, really getting the quirks and sincerity of disabled people (even though he swears that Derek is not mentally handicapped) down pat. However in this season, Derek seems more cynical and bitter, much more in tune with Gervais’s other creations. Kerry Goldiman is still good as Hannah, one of Derek’s coworkers and she’s there more as a conduit for the audience. Karl Pilkington is gone as Dougie and the prominence of David Earl as Kev does not ease the pain.

What made Dougie critical to the serie’s first season is that he served as the cantankerous janitor; much more like a character Gervais himself would play. He is constantly annoyed at the littlest things, which serves as a great foil to Derek’s charm. Dougie’s cynical outlook showed us that it could be combatted with Derek’s positive one. It was a critical balance that has completely shifted and the role is left completely unfilled.

 Derek should be better in its second season than this. The episodes don’t pop out one after the other and there’s no real drive to want to continue. It all kind of meanders about until the season comes to a close. It’s a shame because the show was such a powerful piece of work that showed some earnest maturity from Gervais. However now the show has lost the one thing it couldn’t afford to lose: its heart.

Season 2 Derek premieres on Netflix May 30th. The first season is also available to stream on Netflix.

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