Huffpost UK Comedy uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Tom Atkinson Headshot

Why Ricky Gervais and Derek Are Normcore But Nice

Posted: Updated:

They say that all publicity is good publicity, and while that might be true of your common or garden wardrobe malfunction, it's a different matter altogether when your new project is accused of mocking people with learning difficulties.

Doesn't exactly have the draw of a positive tweet from Stephen Fry, does it?

So it's impressive, then, that Ricky Gervais' nursing- home- based sitcom, Derek, not only managed to survive that kind of criticism after it's 2012 Channel 4 pilot, it even went so far as winning a first full series- and this week it's starting season two.

A lot of people still seem unsure whether it's a comedy at all, and no matter how much we talk about the unique tone of the show, that can't be a good thing.

So why does the show, that even Gervais himself won't definitively categorise as a drama or comedy, continue to go from strength to strength?

Well, there's the obvious attraction for Channel 4 of having a Hollywood star and British comedy behemoth debut his new material on your channel, and equally for the viewing public, the pull of Gervais remains pretty strong, but forget all of that. This is about Normcore.

Yes, Normcore. The 'theory' proposed by American trend forecasting collective K- Hole and picked up by New York Magazine as a fashion (or anti- fashion) movement that has become such a 'thing' that it's even been given a full page explanation in the Sun.

The idea is that rather than trying to be different with what you wear, you try to be 'ardently ordinary' or 'endearingly awkward', and, for a character rarely seen out of his zip- up polyester cardigan and sweat pants, it means Derek is not just riding a Normcore wave, he's the king of the movement.

On top of the exceedingly normal clothes, Derek's tastes are as Norm as it gets. On a list of the 10 things he wants most in the world, he says he'd like to meet Leona Lewis, and, when suggesting names for a carer's future kids, he goes for Susan (as in Boyle).

Gervais himself even name- checked perfect Normcore playlist- fodder Sting when he was explaining why he was tired of worrying about what was cool at the show's recent London launch where questions turned towards the reaction of critics.

"I think that what makes Derek a bit of a different type of sitcom, if it is even a sitcom, is the sincerity," he said. "Because certainly in the last few years, and I am responsible for a lot of it, there has been this comedy of cynicism and irony and I have tried to leave that veil behind.

"It's like you're not allowed to say exactly what is on your mind and what is right or wrong unless you do it steeped in irony. It's like going round a student's bedroom, comedy these days, taking down the posters. OK, I get it, you don't like that, that's ironic, that's rubbish, say what you do like!"

Normcore says that you don't need clothes to make a statement, and, with Derek, Gervais has decided to cut out the cynicism to make his.

So whether you think he's offensive or unfunny, Derek's clothes, tastes and the ethos behind him are so now you didn't even know it.

He's the Normcore king- which probably makes him the coolest thing on TV.

Around the Web

Derek - Ricky Gervais

Derek | Ricky Gervais - YouTube

Ricky Gervais: 'Derek' Review - Hollywood Reporter

TV Review: Ricky Gervais's Netflix Show, Derek -- Vulture

Derek - Channel 4

EXCLUSIVE: Ricky Gervais Reveals Inspiration For Character 'Derek' And Why ...

Derek: Ricky Gervais waves goodbye to irony

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful ...