Emmy Episode Analysis: Ricky Gervais is heartwarming as ‘Derek’

Ricky Gervais earned the 21st Emmy nomination of his career for playing the title character in the Netflix comedy “Derek.”  He has prevailed with two of his previous 20 bids: in 2006 as a producer of the American version of “The Office” as Best Comedy Series, and in 2007 for his leading role in the laffer “Extras.” He also has contended for his stand-up specials and for hosting the Golden Globes. 

Emmy cliffhanger: Can Ricky Gervais really pull off an upset over Jim Parsons?

Now Gervais is hoping to pick up a bookend to his Best Comedy Actor trophy and has submitted the season two finale of “Derek” to the Emmy judging panel. Let’s take an in-depth look at this episode to see how he is likely to fare on Aug. 25.  

SYNOPSIS: Derek and his friend Kev (David Earl) find a bike in a garbage dump and Kev tries to teach Derek how to ride it, but Derek falls over several times. We then see Derek talking about his lack of bike skill to his ailing father, who lives at the nursing home where Derek works. His father apologizes for not being there to teach him when Derek was a child, but Derek says he doesn’t mind. His father says that if Derek doesn’t learn to ride it before he dies, he can always ride it to his funeral.

Read our in-depth analysis of all TV episodes submitted by Emmy nominees

Hannah (Kerry Godliman) tells Derek that he has a date from the website he registered on, but he says he has to stay and look after his father. After his father insists that he go out on the date, Derek tries to write down a list of things to talk about with the girl. Almost everyone at the nursing home is excited for him, but co-worker Geoff (Colin Hoult) pulls a prank by having him open a shaken beer can. A subsequent scuffle between Geoff and Kev is broken up when Derek pins Geoff against a wall. He lets Geoff go, apologizes and is then taken to his date by Hannah.

Derek arrives at the restaurant and meets his date, Tracy. After sitting down, he realizes he left his list of things to ask her back at the nursing home. This causes Derek to walk out of the restaurant and over to the waiting Hannah to ask what he should do. Hannah says it doesn’t matter. He should just be himself. Derek goes back into the restaurant and ends up having a very nice date with Tracy as they talk about how much they like animals as well as how funny it is to belch. Derek returns to the nursing home to sit with his father. The next morning, Derek tells Hannah that his father has passed away but that he’s happy because they both got to know each other and that they both brought happiness into each other’s lives. As the ambulance drives away with his father’s body, Derek follows behind on the bicycle that he’s finally learned how to ride.

See transcript of @goldderby’s wild #Emmy chat with @rickygervais

Can Gervais win his third Emmy for this heartwarming performance?

PROS

The episode strikes just the right balance of dramatic and funny moments.

For voters who think of Gervais as a raunchy comedian, the actorly range he shows in this episode will be a welcome surprise. He has great moments of physical comedy when he falls off his bike several times and, on his date, when he mistakes mini hand towels for after-dinner mints.

But he’s most impactful in the emotional scenes following the death of Derek’s father. Gervais displays impressive acting chops as Derek speaks poignantly to Hannah, “It’s all right. I’m happy … because he was happy. He knew he was a dad and he had a son. Me. He said so. He told me. He was smiling. And then he just fell asleep and he was dead. Smiling. And so that’s why I’m smiling. Perfect ending.”

Later, in a solo scene delivered straight to viewers, mockumentary style, Gervais has the big scene that could very well enable him to pull off another big upset in this category. As we know, Emmy voters are suckers for speeches, and Derek delivers a doozy that clearly reveals he is not the simpleton most people believe: “When (my dad) wasn’t around, I just told myself he didn’t love me and that was fine because I thought maybe he was happy. And then, when I met him I was happy, but then I was sad because I found out that he had been missing me. I didn’t want him to feel bad. But then we made it all OK. That’s the amazing thing about life. You can just start again. What the hell. Like a blackboard. You can just start again. Just in those last few months of his life when I got to know him, we made a whole life OK. It’s what you do from now. So if you’ve had an argument with someone, just say you’re sorry. If you haven’t spoken to someone in a long time, call him up now. If you haven’t spoken to your mum, call her up. It’s never too late — until it is too late.”

CONS

Even though Gervais has said that Derek is not intellectually challenged, voters may not know this and be confused as to whether the show is laughing with Derek or at him.

This is the only nomination for the show and a lack of broader support from the TV academy could prove to be a problem.

It can be hard to understand what Derek is saying at times.

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Currently, Gervais ranks second in our odds. While our Experts, Top 24 Users and all Users favor three-time champ Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”), our Editors are backing this bid by Gervais by a wide margin. What do you think? Make your predictions below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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