I’m not much of a crier, except perhaps after a few too many vodkas and then all of a sudden I’m bawling over the cab line taking too long. I can get teary-eyed over sappy commercials, and I bawled like a baby when Dumbledore died. I can’t watch Avril Lavigne’s When You’re Gone because the grieving old man just about kills me dead. I have never and probably will never watch I Am Sam, because I’m just not emotionally strong enough. But when it comes to regular life, well, this lump of coal I have instead of a heart has a hard time feeling stuff enough to get proper tearworthy over.
I’ve been a bit misty-eyed over Pepper turning one, which was a surprise, because I LOVE toddlers and think they’re a ball of fun, even more than babies. I was stoked every day she got closer to that milestone, but once she was within weeks of reaching it, I was all like “I’ve got no more baby!”. I’d moon over babies in the supermarket, and wonder if I’d properly soaked in all Pepper’s babyness before it was time to move on. Never the newborns though, I don’t get mushy over those. They’re bloody hard work!
But the last thing that had me sobbing into the nearest bib (I was folding the washing and grabbed the nearest absorbent thing I could find!) was the final episode of Ricky Gervais’s Derek. OH. MAH. GAW. I had watched every episode except the first one, and they made me proper laugh out loud before sending me into the pit of heart-wrenching sob-town all in the space of 20 minutes. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – the man is a genius.
I was initially hesitant about watching Derek, simply because I love Ricky Gervais’s comedy and I wasn’t sure if this was going to be in the same vein. I wasn’t sure I could handle him playing a character like Derek with his tics and mannerisms, worried I would be distracted by them, like they were too fake. Instead I am charmed. My favourite part of the whole series is when a council official conducts inspections of the nursing home where Derek works, and expresses contemptuous concern that Derek should not be working there because he might be autistic. The council worker asks for Derek to be tested, to which Derek is frightened. “Will I die?” he asks. “Will it change me in any way, will I still be the same person?” When told that the tests would have no impact on him whatsoever, he says “well don’t worry about it then”.
The last episode made me cry just as much as all the other episodes had. Sometimes crying from a feel-good moment, and sometimes just bawling because the topics explored are heartbreaking. Old, forgotten elderly people cared for by a bunch of outcasts and misfits, all finding community and family in each other. It is brilliantly written and even more brilliantly acted. Ricky Gervais can make you feel ALL OF THE FEELS.
When I first watched The Office, I had to bury my face in a cushion and just listen. The painful awkwardness that filled every episode twanged my every last nerve. It was uproariously hilarious, yet so very gut-wrenching. Every faux pas that can ever be made was made in that show, and it was compelling watching. I have watched every episode countless times – except one. The third episode of the second series I’ve watched exactly twice. And I can’t do it any more than that. It is that painful.
Extras was the same, but rather less wrenching. It was still brilliant and hilarious, but it was much easier to laugh at actors sending themselves up that it was to laugh at someone genuinely trying to get through life the best he can. I loved Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying, I loved their underlying message, and also Ricky’s underlying message in life – be good to people and do good things for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.
So while Derek has parts that are laugh-out-loud funny, it is also tempered with serious, emotive moments that make me actually sob. And that is the last time I cried.