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Series / Life with Derek

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In which the extreme Tsundere and the extreme Jerkass must become brother and sister. It doesn't work too well.

Life with Derek is a Canadian live-action domestic comedy produced for Canada's Family Channel and simultaneously aired in America on Disney Channel, where it gained a respectable audience. The show ran for two short thirteen-episode seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07) and two full seasons (2007-08 and 2008-09).

The show focused on two families merging together after divorces. In typical Nuclear Family fashion, the siblings don't get along all the time, and Hilarity Ensues. The main character is Casey McDonald (Ashley Leggat), a perfectionistic, overly controlling teenage girl who has a rivalry with her new stepbrother, the titular Derek Venturi (Michael Seater), a sarcastic prankster jerk.

A movie of the series, Vacation with Derek, premiered in Canada on June 25, 2010 and in America on May 14, 2011.

In late 2012, the development of an official relaunch with the working title Life With Derek, Again involving the original cast members was announced. It was not picked up for production.

In 2022, a sequel movie titled Life With Luca was ordered and produced; it premiered on February 20, 2023.

Compare Even Stevens, a similar Disney Channel show often considered a predecessor to this show.

Tropes used by Life With Derek

  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Casey joined the pep squad because she assumed this was expected of her as the football hero's girlfriend.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Derek oscillates between being this and a Big Brother Mentor (who just happens to really suck at it) depending on his mood.
  • Alpha Bitch: Max's cheer-captain ex-girlfriend Amy.
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot: In “Home Movies”, Casey wants to make a movie about her family for a school project.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Edwin and Lizzie try their hands at it, and fail miserably (Edwin more than Lizzie.)
  • Ambiguous Situation: If both Nora and Dennis, and George and Abby remain on very good terms with each other, why did they get a divorce in the first place?
  • And Starring: "And Michael Seater as Derek."
  • Animated Credits Opening: The opening sequence for The Movie is Stop Motion animated.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Edwin takes the cake, though Marti and Lizzie have their moments.
  • Arc Words: The phrase "Blended Family" grates on the nerves after four seasons.
  • Ascended Extra: Sheldon Schlepper, who was originally supposed to only be in one episode.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Casey learns this the hard way on her sixteenth birthday when she wishes Derek out of her life. But considering that it's all a dream, and the audience is well aware of it...
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Male versions, with Derek getting the looks, Sam the brains and Ralph the brawn.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Speculation abounds regarding this between Derek and Casey. Thick enough between Truman and Casey to serve up with an ice cream scoop.
  • Birthday Episode: There’s four of them:
    • “It’s Our Party” for Lizzie and Edwin
    • “Sixteen Sparkplugs” for Derek
    • “Not so Sweet Sixteen” for Casey
    • “Two Kisses, One Party” for Marti.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: When Sam is talking to Derek about his and Casey's recent argument, this is all Derek hears.
  • Blended Family Drama: Stepsiblings Casey and Derek don't get on after their parents get married.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Male versions of it found in Sam, Ralph and Derek, all three being best friends and jocks, with Derek being the only Jerk Jock out of the three. Also, Beauty, Brains, and Brawn, with Derek getting the looks part, Sam the brains and Ralph the brawn.
  • Book Dumb: Derek obviously isn't stupid. He just has other priorities.
  • Brainy Brunette: Casey and Lizzie both qualify.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Casey addresses the audience each episode immediately following the Title Sequence.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: George managed to become a successful attorney despite having been a slacker and a ne'er-do-well in high school. Derek arguably qualifies, as well.
  • Canada, Eh?: Generally averted, but not altogether avoidable in a self-consciously Canadian show. At one time, averted and mocked in one episode. And the accents. Dear Lord, the accents.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • The three younger siblings raise some serious Cain when they're expected pick up the slack around the house when Casey and Derek have to study for finals, without any additional consideration or compensation.
    • In The Movie, Casey stands up to her grandmother Felicia in defense of George and the rest of the Venturi clan.
  • Catchphrase: Casey's annoyed reaction of "Der-ek!" The distinctiveness is in how she says it. Lampshaded in the episode "Open Mic Plight" when Derek responded:
    Derek: Ca-sey! Sal-ly!
  • Character Development: By the end of the series, Casey is much less of an obsessive-compulsive Control Freak and has learned to relax and enjoy life, and Derek has gotten over his fear of commitment and does right by his family more often than not. That's not to say there aren't still times when they're positively insufferable.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Casey can be so short-sighted at times that she can only process the advice Paul gives her the way she wants to process it.
    • From "The Wedding":
      Casey: So you're saying Vicky's insecure?
      Paul: Mmm-hmm.
      Casey: Wrong! She's flat-out mean!
    • From "Dinner Guest":
      Paul: Don't you think you expectations are just a little too high?
      Casey: Come on, my family can behave for one night.
      Paul: No, I mean of yourself.
      Casey: Of course!
  • Companion Cube: Marti has her stuffed monkey, Sir Monksalot.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Noel. His last appearance in an early season four episode had him coming to terms with him being just friends with Casey. It was an obvious set up for a Platonic Life-Partners friendship or possibly another Love Interest for Casey. But then Truman came in, and Noel never showed up again.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Emily was the first write-in candidate ever to be elected Student Body President of Thompson High.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Casey attempted to intervene when she thought Derek was selling drugs (and using Edwin as his bag-man.) It turns out he was just selling office supplies his dad stole from work, and CDs.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: This show provides a fascinating look at the similarities and differences between Canadian and American culture. The show itself could be considered a case of reverse osmosis, due to its popularity in the States.
  • Election Day Episode: There was an episode where Casey uses her stepbrother Derek as a puppet to run for school office and get the "cool" vote while enacting her ideas. Their friend ends up winning as a write-in instead.
  • Epic Fail: Having a low support during an election is bad, but one where the voters would rather have none of the candidates be president rather than yourself says something about Casey's life.
  • Expository Theme Tune: One sang by Casey to explain her new life.
  • Fanservice:
  • First-Name Basis: The Venturi kids with Nora, and the McDonald girls with George.
  • First-Name Ultimatum: Der-ek!!
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Unintentional on the writer's part, intentional on the actors'.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Venturi brothers and the McDonald sisters.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Casey (melancholic), Derek (choleric), Edwin (phlegmatic), Lizzie (leukine), and Marti (sanguine).
    • The parents: Nora (melancholic) and George (sanguine).
  • Generation Xerox: Derek is doing his best to live up to his father's high school reputation (evidenced by a file that requires its own box) as an underachieving prankster.
  • Graduate from the Story: The series finale "Futuritis" features Casey and Derek's high school graduation.
  • Handsome Lech: Derek strikes out about as often as he scores.
  • Happily Married: George and Nora both seem to have gotten it right on the second try.
  • High-School Dance: Uses the 'boy has to ask a girl' theme to a tiring extent, resulting in a long-winded "hilarious misunderstanding" about who asked whom.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Over the end credits of every episode.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Let it be known that Derek is the only one allowed to insult Casey.
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Casey has a nasty habit of giving guys the wrong impression. Noel and Ralph come to mind most readily.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The pantomime skits between scenes.
  • Imaginary Friend: Marti's imaginary friend Daphne, named for series creator Daphne Ballon.
  • Jerk Jock: Played straight with Derek, and subverted with his modest, likeable hockey buddies Sam and Ralph.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Derek when he's not just a jerk. Especially with Marti and Casey, especially when Casey cried.
  • Just Friends: This trope is the actual title of an episode which is devoted entirely to playing with the trope.
  • Kick the Dog: "Don't Take a Tip From Me" features one of Derek's cruelest cases of these, when he and Casey both end up as wait staff at a restaurant where Casey's bad at her job while Derek's great at it. When Casey finally asks Derek for help, he "helps" her by setting up a "waiter boot camp" with their family and then being as unhelpful and uncooperative as possible, as well as actively sabotaging her efforts until she gives up and runs off crying, all seemingly just because he wants to see her suffer. Noteworthy in that their mother ends up calling him out on it this time, angrily telling him that this was probably among the worst things he has done and demanding that he both apologize to her and give her actual advice.
    Nora: It's one thing to belittle Casey...but to kick her when she's down?
  • Kidanova: Derek walks the line between being this and a straight Casanova.
  • The Klutz: Casey, who is given the nickname "Klutzilla" very only on. However, in later seasons, she is also shown to be a talented dancer (much like the actress who plays her), so it's hard to buy her pratfalling as genuine.
    • Unless you actually hang around dancers, and their perpetual injuries.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: In the penultimate episode, between Derek and Emily.
  • Laugh Track: This show, along with Naturally, Sadie and Phil of the Future, doesn't have one, although goofy sound effects and guitar riffs are used to much the same effect.
  • Lethal Chef:
    Edwin: Didn't Derek tell you to show up after dinner?
    Lizzie: Yeah, friends don't let friends eat here.
    Nora: Hey!
  • Locked in a Room: Derek and Casey get locked in the bathroom in "The Party" and bonding ensues. Although... whether or not Derek was being sincere is up for debate...
  • "London, England" Syndrome: An interesting aversion, in that we eventually learn the show is set in London, Ontario (population 350,000, about halfway between Toronto and Detroit), but they never come out and call it "London, Ontario".
    • They reference it being London, Ontario exactly once, in a throwaway line from "Derek Denies Denial" where Derek's snarking at his dad.
    George: Derek, explain yourself.
    Derek: Okay, I was born seventeen years ago, in London, Ontario...
  • The Masochism Tango: Sam and Casey's extremely fragile on-again, off-again relationship.
  • Missing Child: In The Movie, Marti goes missing and when Derek and Casey go to find her, they find her canoe overturned in the water and Derek visibly panics.
  • The Obi-Wannabe: Derek genuinely believes he's setting a good example for Edwin by leading him down the path of juvenile delinquency and sporadically-successful babe-hounding.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: In contrast to their elder siblings, Lizzie and Edwin have one of the best-written platonic relationships on television. Still doesn't stop the shippers, though, as the fans have made them into a Fanon Not Blood Siblings Beta Couple.
  • Precocious Crush: Lizzie develops one on her soccer coach in one episode. Too bad he turned out to be a player.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Lasseter is a disciplinarian, but is also willing to consider more important things, such as the effect of expelling Derek on school morale.
  • Recycled In Space: Even Stevens AS THE BRADY BUNCH! IN CANADA!
  • Running Gag:
    • 'DER-ek-!' The more emphasis on the first syllable, the angrier Casey is when she says it. Inverted in 'Futuritis', when she says it (as Derek appears on stage) in a very soft, loving fashion.
    • George can’t drive.
  • Say My Name: DER-EK!!! Casey isn't the only one who says it like that, either. In one episode, they lampshade it by having the characters bet as to whether Derek can get everyone to say his name like that. And yes, he wins. It's also become a very popular and simple drinking game, much like "Hi, Bob!". The rules? Drink whenever anyone says "Derek".
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Edwin and Derek.
  • Sexiness Score: The episode "6 1/2" has a new cute guy at school who gets on the girl's bad sides when he starts rating every girl in school, with Casey being particularly crushed on being rated a 6 1/2. As Emily says "He may look like a 10 but he's a 0".
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: How Casey and Truman came to be.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Lizzie takes treehugging to a whole new level.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: In the first episode of the second season, Edwin's age jumped from 10 to 12 when Daniel Madger's voice dropped.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Casey's first clue that Derek had put his name on her math test (and vice-versa) was that he'd spelled her last name "Mac" rather than "Mc." His response:
    Derek: Are you sure? Because "Mac" just feels right.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: Delightfully averted. The McDonald-Venturi home is an older-style three story dwelling, of which multiple rooms are seen from multiple angles.
  • Straw Feminist: Casey seems to think the word "Secretary" is sexist, and insists that her stepfather use the more politically-correct "Administrative Assistant."
  • Strike Episode: The B-plot of "Grade a Cheater" involves the three younger siblings of Derek and Casey- Edwin, Lizzie and Marti- protesting against doing chores until they get paid more allowance for all the work they do.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Principal Lasseter gets rather indignant at George's attempt to address him by his given name.
  • This Is My Side: When Derek and Casey were staying at the house alone while the rest of the family went on a road trip, Casey taped parts of the house pink (her side) and blue (Derek's side) so that they would avoid running into each other.
  • Three-Wall Set: Averted in this series through the use of a more cinematic Single Camera format (quite rare for a sitcom.)
  • Title Theme Tune: "This is life with Derek!"
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: "This is life with Derek! This is life with Derek! This is life with Lizzie, Edwin, George and Nora, Marti, and Casey!"
  • UST: Unintentional between Casey and Derek, middling to so-so between Derek and Sally before they became a couple, and burning hot between Casey and Truman before they hooked up.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Patience really paid off for Emily and Derek.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Casey and Truman's fencing coach Fergus is a toned-down version.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Casey and Lizzie's dad and the Venturi kids' mom both make appearances. They're as active as is practical in their kids' lives.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Derek and Casey's relationship could be seen like this.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Two of them:
    • In a Flash Back episode, Casey and Derek have such a lousy rapport that they try, and initially succeed, at torpedoing their parents' marriage plans. In the end, Casey proposes on behalf of her mother, and Derek accepts on behalf of his father.
    • At their junior prom, Sheldon proposes to Emily in front of the entire student body. He's about to move to Newfoundland with his parents, and is making a last ditch effort to hold onto Emily.
  • Wild Teen Party: Derek throws one when George and Nora leave the house for the weekend.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Literally snakes, in this case. Derek's phobic of them, as shown in the movie. He's also afraid of mice, a fear shared by George and Edwin.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Assuming the chronological order of the episodes is the production order, the first two seasons, up until the third season episode "Summer School Blues", cover one school year and part of the summer after. The next episode "Home Movies", up until the season 4 episode "Rude Awakenings" cover another. The next episode, "How I Met Your Stepbrother", is stated to take place on George and Nora's second wedding anniversary, which, given that they married shortly before the events of the first episode and the school year had already started, may be consistent. However, the episode after that, "Happy New School Year" suggests that it was still summer during that episode, as it focuses on school restarting. The rest of the season takes place during the next school year, as it ends with Casey and Derek graduating from high school. Overall, it appears that three years have passed in-universe over the course of the show, assuming the discrepancy with George and Nora's wedding is forgotten. The film confuses this further, as it supposedly takes place at the end of the summer before they go to university, suggesting it's only been a few months since the series ended. However, Nora is already heavily pregnant with Simon, despite having realized her pregnancy only shortly before the prom, so she shouldn't be that far along a few months later. On top of this, it is also stated in the film that George and Nora have been married for four years by now (the length of the show airing), despite the earlier point about only three passing. The spinoff film Life with Luca adds to the confusion, as George and Nora's twentieth wedding anniversary is one of the plot points, and Simon is stated to be in college. Simon is first shown to be born in the epilogue at the end of the first movie, which takes place one year after the rest of it, so he shouldn't even be one year old yet. If George and Nora have been married for twenty years in the spinoff, then depending on whether only four or five years passed by the time of the first film's epilogue, he should be fifteen or sixteen during the film, which isn't normally old enough to be in college (except in rare circumstances). The spinoff film also has both Derek and Lassiter state that the latter was principal of the high school for all four years Derek attended, when the series introduces him as the new principal during season 2.

Alternative Title(s): Vacation With Derek