Breaking Good: Ricky Gervais’ warm-hearted show “Derek” declares “kindness is magic”

A British TV comedy about the power of simple kindness. 

Amid the current onslaught of antiheroes, vulgarity, ultraviolence, and mean-spirited exploitation that constitutes much of what’s offered for entertainment emerges a British TV comedy that orbits around an unlikely theme: the power of simple kindness.

And that show, Derek, is the creation and star vehicle of an even unlikelier source: Ricky Gervais, who rose to fame through the did-he-really-say-that cringe comedy of the original British version of The Office.

Derek uses the same “documentary filmmakers on-site” device as The Office, but that’s where the similarities end. Swinging far away from the pathologically self-absorbed office boss David Brent, this time around Gervais plays Derek Noakes, a likely-autistic caregiver at the Broadhill retirement home whose true joy come from doing good for others (well, that and YouTube hamster videos).

Throughout the seven episodes that first aired on BBC 4, Derek’s unfiltered mind leads to a fair amount of benign anarchy in that attempt to do good, but Broadhill director Hannah indulges all this with a laugh and a shake of her head. “He’s got a heart of gold, doesn’t he?” she says about Derek. “A shame more people aren’t like that, really.”

And while strong lines run throughout the show of forgiveness,…