Netflix: Ricky Gervais is “Derek”

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There’s something very likable about “Derek” on this Netflix Original Series.

Ricky Gervais brings the character of Derek to life as though it’s an inborn, natural process. Gervais seems to know Derek.  When the viewer loses sight of Ricky Gervais and only sees Derek, you know the creators have something special in their midst.

I’ve just started binge watching “Derek.”  It’s been around for a couple of seasons so I have lots of episodes to watch.

So far, it feels like a slice of home… in a nursing home, of course.

If you’ve ever sat with someone who is grieving a loved one’s death, you know his performance is authentic when someone dies at the nursing home.  Turns out, Gervais is so much more than a comedian.

The last series I binge watched was “Breaking Bad.”  It’s been a while since the last binge session.  And “Derek” is touching.

Here’s the summary for the pilot episode of “Derek:”  When a documentary team visits the retirement home where he works, kindly, simple, middle-aged Derek is delighted as he loves reality TV – especially Secret Millionaire – and has 35,000 autographs. Douglas, his co-worker and landlord, is less impressed. In the course of the day, Derek falls into a pond, sets up his friend Hannah with a date with a handsome visitor and takes the death of a resident to heart.

This series reminds me of one of the greatest films ever made about an authentic character.

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“Lars and the Real Girl” was an amazing film.  Ryan Gosling became Lars like no one else could have.

Logline:  A delusional young man strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

It’s so much more than that logline.  That film marked the moment I became a fan of Gosling’s for life. I still don’t understand why that film with a budget of $12 million only made $11.2 million worldwide.  If you haven’t seen “Lars and the Real Girl,” make an effort to see it. Honestly, it’s brilliant.

There are so many tent pole films and they fill a niche, of course.  It’s great to see a film such as “Jurassic World” earn huge success.  I know people who are seeing it a second and third time already and it’s only been released for a few days.  It’s fun and they love it.  Pure escapism absolutely has its point in a difficult economy.  One gent told me he is seeing JW a second time despite the fact that his bank account is overdrawn.  He’s borrowing money from a friend to see it again.  And he was grinning, so excited that he would be seeing the film again because it was an incredible ride.  His debt could not trump seeing a great film.

But we also need more films about real people with real challenges.  In some way, all of us will feel alone like Lars one day.  And we’ll find our own way to cope with that loneliness.

Everyone will also walk through the doors of a nursing home one day, whether to visit a loved one or to move into our new home.   I’ve visited far too many nursing homes in my day.  I’ve sat with people who have no one visiting them at nursing homes.  In many ways, they’ve been abandoned.  I’ve even visited and slept overnights at Hospice while my sister lay dying. You get to know the staff and the families at those places.  The staff always removed the bodies between 3 AM and 4 AM. I stopped taking late night strolls in the hallways for fear of seeing another body bag heading for permanent departure. Eventually, it was my sister’s turn.  Most often, there’s only one way patients leave Hospice and that is in a body bag.  Sadly, it’s most often the same story at a nursing home.

Derek reminds me of that sense to pay attention to timing and appreciate each other as much as we can for the time allotted in life.  Then, one day, it’s all over.  A new patient fills the room and joins the family.

For Derek, he actually works in the nursing home and yet, this is his makeshift family, too.  His character seems to be on the spectrum of autism.  Maybe that’s why I feel for his character.  I know many people who also find themselves living, working and surviving on the spectrum. Everyone doesn’t have to love Derek.  For me, the series is simply a nice change of pace.

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