Attempting to equal the success of the first series of Derek has clearly been no mean feat, and it’s debatable as to how well Ricky Gervais has maintained the balance between the bittersweet life lessons and unconventional humour. Series one was a hit because of its ability to make viewers laugh and cry at the same time with its powerful, thought-provoking scenes. However, season two has struggled to achieve the same results; none of the storylines managed to be as touching as Lizzie’s funeral and Derek meeting his estranged father, or as funny as Derek’s obsession with YouTube.
There were some obvious endeavours at character development, none of which were particularly riveting. The frequent disturbances in Hannah and Tom’s relationship became monotonous, and it was getting far too easy to guess the next steps in the plot. Series one focused quite a lot on the individual residents of Broad Hill, whereas series two was mostly all about Derek and what a great guy he is. Derek’s relationship with his father was barely touched upon, and Anthony’s brief appearances had little impact on the series as a whole. Instead of trying to fill the Karl Pilkington-shaped hole with Kev’s secret kindness, Gervais could have developed Derek’s bond with his father to make this series’ finale as compelling as the first.
Derek’s efforts to find love through Internet dating and his discovery of Twitter provided a few half-hearted laughs, but didn’t live up to the hilarity of Dougie’s sceptical, misanthropic outbursts. Dougie’s replacement Jeff brought nothing new to the show whatsoever; his deeply unpleasant personality just emphasised Derek’s saintly personality. Gervais’ aims to weave in some character development and to advance the plot seemed too forced, making the storylines predictable.
The series had its strengths, but quickly became tedious. The characters were no longer interesting, the episodes frequently lacked direction, and the comedy was scarce. Derek started as an honest, amusing and moving show and sadly descended into banality.