Ricky Gervais may have enjoyed being the "most feared man in Hollywood" when he notoriously offended many as a the host of the Golden Globes, but he insists that his new sitcom Derek, set in a nursing home, is "sweeter" than his usual fare.
Derek, an original series to premiere on Netflix sometime this year, won't target the elderly with Gervais' sardonic wit. The show's humor doesn't lie in mocking them, but rather in taking jabs at the callous outside world and its marginalization of the elderly. It's certainly not an obvious topic for humor, but Gervais hopes that viewers will give the show a chance.
"I think there's risk of people not watching it because of assumptions that it was cruel," he said at Netflix's winter TV previews on Wednesday. "There's risk that they don't get it. Or that they get it and don't like it. ... I haven't felt this excited and proud of a project since The Office. That's the truth of it."
The British comedian writes, executive-produces and stars in Derek as a simple and innocent fellow who loves his job of helping out at an old folks' home. Derek's best friends are landlord Dougie (frequent collaborator Karl Pilkington), oversexed train wreck Kev (David Earl) and dedicated care worker Hannah (Kerrie Godliman).
As with The Office or the Hollywood-centric Extras, Derek draws from Gervais' personal experiences. Most of the women in his family are caretakers. Despite the series' unusual setting, it still possesses all the hallmarks of a classic sitcom. "It has flawed characters being daft or silly or nice," he said.
But the humor is tempered with a bittersweet quality, a consequence of the subject matter. "It's sweeter but it's still got the existentialism of 'Am I wasting my life?'" he said. "It's got the weight of reality... It's set in an old people's home, so they die sometimes."