I’m not exactly sure when I stopped finding Ricky Gervais funny, but I have a fair idea. It certainly wasn’t during The Office. I’ve never been a fan of ‘cringe comedy’, but you genuinely must be lacking a funny bone not to have found at least parts of it hilarious. Ditto Extras, with its array of celebrities sending themselves up (“They’re good people on Family Affairs…” “It’s too late – I’ve seen everything”).
But by the time of his podcast with Karl Pilkington, an unpleasant note was beginning to creep into the comedy. It was starting to becoming bullying. Gervais was laughing at people, rather than with people.
His film, The Invention of Lying, wasn’t bad but by the time of his stand-up tours, his Twitter bullying and the return of his Office character David Brent in Life on the Road, I wasn’t even bothering to watch any more. Who needs Gervais’ brand of mean-spiritedness in their lives?
Now we have After Life in which Gervais plays a man who’s lost the will to live so decides to not give two f*cks about anyone else. The question I had going into this was: would Gervais have to act at all and how much would I hate After Life?
After After Life
I didn’t hate After Life. I didn’t laugh much, sure, and parts of it often deathly dull. But although there are certain trademarks of Gervais’ brand of comedy to it, After Life is something of a departure for him, in what is arguably his most mature and thoughtful work to date.
In real life, Gervais has, of course, become one of those annoying activist atheists (cf Richard Dawkins) who spend all their time trying to discredit other atheists by aggressively arguing with theists and generally implying – or even outright stating – they’re as thick as two short planks. That’ll win them over, right?
After Life feels very much like one of those arguments come to life and wrapped into a six part dark comedy drama. Why, posits the theist, do you atheists bother living if there’s no point to it all? Gervais replies by basically lumping on his own character’s shoulders all the woes of the world in a Book of Job stylee in order to answer that question.
Here he plays a small-town journalist working in an equally small-town local newspaper. His vicar wife (Kerry Godliman) recently died of breast cancer and Gervais is now struggling to find a reason to live, now that his only reason for living has died. So he takes his pain out on everyone else, including Godliman’s brother and the newspaper’s editor (Tom Basden), his psychiatrist (Paul Kaye), Christian co-worker Diane Morgan, cub reporter Mandeep Dhillon, his dementing dad (David Bradley), his dad’s nurse (Ashley Jensen), his postman (Joe Wilkinson), the newspaper delivery guy (Tony Way) and local sex worker (Roisin Conaty).
Gervais is a git from the outset so when he suddenly decides not to bother with pleasantries any more, there’s no noticeable difference – it’s just a question of how far he’ll go and how quickly, as he tries taking heroin and even threatens to murder a child at his nephew’s school with a hammer.
Are we having fun yet? And that is After Life‘s big question.
Every Friday, TMINE lets you know when the latest TV shows from around the world will air in the UK
BBC Wales has acquired S4C’s Bang. That’ll air sometime in the summer. Could end up on BBC Four eventually.
My5 has picked up three HOT (Israel) shows: eight-part vampire comedy Juda, six-part gay adoption story Miguel, five-part family drama Mekimi and two seasons of crime drama Sirens. They’ll all be available in the spring.
Paramount UK has acquired Paramount US’s Yellowstone, with Kevin Costner and Kelly Reilly. No word at all on when that will start.
Si no t’hagues conegut (If I Hadn’t Met You) (Spain: TV3; UK: Netflix)
Premiere date: Friday, March 15
A man who loses his family in a tragic accident discovers that he can travel to alternate universes, compelling him to find a way to save his family.
Teenager falsely accused of murder ends up in prison where she trains to become a lawyer. Years later, she tries to help exonerate those equally falsely accused of crimes, while trying to get her revenge on the lawyer who got her in jail in the first place.
There’s a good cast, including Rachelle Lefevre, Russell Hornsby, Vincent Kartheiser, Laurie Holden and Kelsey Grammer, but the set-up and script are both ludicrous. Given Hornsby’s already been cast in a TV reboot of Bone Collector, the signs aren’t good for this, either.
Netflix US original. Siena Agudong infiltrates a family intending to get revenge on them for unknowingly ruining her life. But as she gets to know the family, she finds compassion for them and struggles with whether to go through with her plan. Melissa Joan Hart plays the competitive ‘career mother’, while Sean Astin stars as the archetypical loveable, dorky ‘fun dad’.
The Spanish Princess (US: Starz; UK: StarzPlay)
Premiere date: Sunday, May 5
Adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse dealing with Catherine of Aragon, first as a teenage princess of Spain who was promised the English throne since she was a child, then as she arrives in grey, rain-lashed England to marry Prince Arthur. Unfortunately, he dies, but guess who’s waiting in the wings for her…