DEREK 1.02 Review

Writer: Ricky Gervais

Director: Ricky Gervais

Previously on "Derek"

Episode 1.01

Last week's debut episode of Ricky Gervais's much-anticipated new sitcom Derek was, considering the furore surrounding its supposed careless portrayal of a man with mental health problems, inoffensive, harmless and enjoyable. This week's Derek was also inoffensive and harmless but, unfortunately, not enjoyable.

This week we're introduced to Vicky (Holli Dempsey), who is sent to Broad Hill care home on community service after stealing a pair of shoes from her former employers. Vicky is essentially a caricature of what everyone who isn't a British youth believes a British youth to be and, while Holli Dempsey does an admirable job of working with the material she's been given, a character that lists her dream career as "I dunno, the Kardashians or somethin'" is not one I could even force myself to be emotionally invested in.

The episode centres around Vicky's ascension from an arrogant, misguided petty criminal into a loving care worker, and this transition is handled with a complete lack of subtlety. Vicky goes from being hopelessly self-involved the one minute, to happily feeding an old woman her soup the next. When manager Hannah (Kerry Godliman) later reveals to Vicky that she had given her a positive community service assessment and had rated her contribution to the care home as "ten out of ten", Vicky begins to cry, saying "no one has given me a ten out of ten before". This prompts her to ask Hannah if she could return to the care home the following week as a volunteer. Hannah accepts and Gervais no doubt hopes that our heart strings are sufficiently tugged. Unfortunately, this sub-plot would have greatly benefited from being fleshed out more, and not being set up and resolved within a single episode.

Elsewhere, Derek (Gervais) is sent to the library with Dougie (Karl Pilkington), Kev (David Earl) and a few of the old folks, in order for Hannah to organise Derek's 50th birthday party. Dougie is yet again the highlight of the episode – a relentless realist, he's essentially what Tim was to The Office, only with a worse haircut and fewer career prospects. Regardless of the fact that playing the role of Dougie isn't too much of a stretch for the comically miserable Karl Pilkington, the unaffected grumpiness of his performance makes him the funniest thing about an episode that is otherwise almost completely devoid of laughs.

Not that Derek is aiming to be a laugh-a-minute show. From episode one it was clear that Derek was veering more towards drama than it was to comedy, but the jokes that it does try to make in episode two fall excruciatingly flat. The opening scene depicts Kev soiling himself in the middle of the care home, accompanied by loud farting sound effects. Later, Kev has a number two in a toilet whilst Hannah is sat outside, tending to a drunken Derek. Cue more farting sound effects. Shortly afterwards, an old man wets himself. 

But if the humour is poorly executed, then at least its sentimental moments are handled well, right? Well, not quite. In what looks to be a recurring theme for Derek, it seems to equate poignancy with panning the camera around a room full of old people, focusing on them staring bleakly into nothingness whilst a plonky piano plays in the background. We're clearly intended to feel some kind of pity for the old folk but, considering they're rarely given any dialogue, it's difficult to feel any kind of emotion for characters we haven't even been introduced to. 

While the debut episode of Derek showed promise, episode two was unforgivably dull. Hopefully episode three will fare better.

Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.