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Senior living in TV spotlight again

September 13, 2013
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Netflix noticeably stepped out of the broadcast and cable television entertainment paradigm in February when it introduced “House of Cards,” an original drama only viewable via its Internet streaming service. The critically acclaimed political thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright is up for multiple Emmy awards and is credited with propelling to the forefront the trend of “binge watching” multiple on-demand episodes of a show consecutively in one sitting.

Yesterday, Netflix brought the world of nursing homes to the small screen. Comedian Ricky Gervais, co-creator of “The Office” and former Golden Globes host, wrote, directed and is starring in “Derek,” a comedy that, according to the streaming service, is about an English nursing home caregiver and his offbeat co-workers, who “struggle against prejudice, government bureaucracy and constantly shrinking budgets to care for the elderly residents who depend on them.”

“It’s about a group of…flawed characters,” Gervais told Matt Lauer on the “Today” show. “They’re sort of outsiders, and they work together in this old people’s home, and it’s about them passing on their kindness.”

Gervais says that many people in his family worked in “old people’s homes” as caregivers for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and others, so he mined their experiences for story lines in the seven episodes. It makes for a show that is “quite sad, but uplifting as well,” he says.

While trying to entertain viewers, does “Derek” present older adults with dignity and accurately portray senior living communities and those who work in them? The New York Times describes it as a “potty-mouthed Hallmark card of a show.” The Los Angeles Times says that “the old folk of ‘Derek’ are treated with admirable respect” and describes the show as “mournful, wise and serene.”

In addition to Netflix, previews, outtakes and episodes of the show also are available to watch at no charge on YouTube, the New York Times notes, because the show aired in Great Britain earlier this year. When I visited, viewer comments on the YouTube and Netflix websites generally were favorable.

Did you, or will you watch? If so, send me a message to let me know what you think.

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Lois Bowers

Lois Bowers


Lois A. Bowers was senior editor of Long-Term Living from 2013-2015.