Taking place a full year after the first series’ happenings, Derek returns with its eponymous 49 year old character, and the rest of the workers at Broad Hill retirement home, in relatively similar standing. Vicky is now a full time employee, Hannah and Tom are together and (thanks to Derek) publicly trying for a baby, whist Kev is still sipping from a Special Brew can and Dougie is moaning about something in his traditional Pilkington ways.
Although a little too coincidental that so many things happen in one day, the first episode of series two acts as a strong re-cap of what life is like in the nursing home, and the beautiful things that have and haven’t changed about the characters. Following from the last episode of season one, we see Derek’s traveling dad move into the nursing home and make an impression on the numerous female residents.
New character Geoff, a strongly opinionated and smarmy fellow, works a few days in the nursing home doing various small tasks. His attitude begins to wind up Dougie and in a comical confrontation we see Dougie leave the nursing home as he can’t take it any more. Something which unfortunately marks the departure of Karl Pilkington from the series.
To replace Karl’s comical relief, drunkard Kev suddenly has a lot more time on screen, yet admittedly he has become much more humorous. As Derek has always tied comedy and drama together through a blend of realistic and larger than life characters, the comical options are limited, which thus forces Kev into the limelight. His humour is akin to the last series, smutty, outspoken and drunk, whilst irony oozes from every utterance; overall it’s effective at stirring up the genteel nursing home pot and providing some adult humour. For example, a drunken song he sings out loud, to the nursing homes silence, ends with the expertly delivered line ‘and a butt plug’.
Yet as in the first season, it’s not all fun and games. Derek, a character who some media outlets have labelled autistic despite Gervais’ contrary claims, has limits in his ability to amuse but this is in exchange for his simplistic yet heart-warming observations. His selflessness, kindness and relentless ability to care permeates throughout the characters in the nursing home, through the warm aesthetic of the show, and into the lives of its audience.
The oddball characters that compose Broad Hill’s staff continue to be endearing and thus overwhelm outside visitors through their sense of respect and community, or as in the case of Vicky and Tom, turn them into members of the clan. There is an underlying sweet message to the show that asks us to reconsider what we deem important in our own lives, and with Derek unwittingly uprooting a well-paid, overly stressed professional in episode two, the outsiders that enter the home are not far removed from the shows audience members.
Overall Derek has come back on the strengths with which it first succeeded and continues to be a highly entertaining show that treads between genre boundaries. Personally, the removal of Dougie takes an edge off of the show for me as he was by far my favourite character, yet admittedly I am a huge Karl Pilkington fan. Multiple people I have spoken to share a similar view on the first series, although Kev is funnier than ever in attempts to replace Dougie and thus far is proving to be a worthy replacement, it could be enough to put some people off the second series.
Perhaps American audiences won’t miss a character with such localised comedy but for UK audiences the dismissal of Dougie will undoubtedly be a sore point; perhaps the unique blend between comedy and drama will continue to hold the show together. I just hope Karl Pilkington shows up for a cameo later in the series.
Derek will be shown on the 23rd of April on Channel 4 at 10pm