Ricky Gervais' personal and very unique brand of comedy has never been something to pass by silently, or to watch idly. By its very nature it creates audience interaction either by portraying a (painfully) familiar environment, or by having contentious content.
When his newest sitcom Derek, which is about a seemingly handicapped man working in a care home, had its pilot on Channel 4 in 2012, many viewers and reviewers were outraged by content they deemed to be offensive in its apparent mocking and ridiculing the disabled. However, the series was put into production and episode one was aired last night (30th Jan) and while there are certainly some negative comments out there, the general consensus is on a turnaround.
The Huffington Post's review is particularly reflective and generous of both the show and Gervais. Caroline Frost ultimately concludes that "Gervais gives notice of a call to arms" in regard to the wider topics ventured in the first episode, including the state of the care system and its budgets, but admits that it's a challenging watch, because simultaneously "laughing and pitying" is difficult. As she notes, however, whether or not Derek is disabled, "picking hairs over the nuances of one character is... missing a bigger point here."
The Independent was decidedly less favourable towards the show. "[I]t's Derek's redeeming qualities that are the hardest to take," they write. "[A] sense of self-congratulation at the refinement of its own sentiments that has a little bit of the bully in it too." But, the Metro described the sitcom as 'disarming' and added that it is "a refreshingly heartfelt study in not judging by appearances."
Overall, it seems that by approaching Derek with a preconceived cynicism will only mar your viewing. Instead, take it for what Gervais wants it to be: "[A]bout making the most of the hand you've been dealt, putting others first, [and] knowing you've lived a good life." (Telegraph)