Ricky Gervais doesn’t give a flying shit about what I think. Nor should he. If I’m ever lucky enough to talk to him, I’ll ask whose opinion does matter to him, other than his own. His longtime girlfriend Jane’s? If Jane thought something he wrote was rubbish, would he rewrite it or tell her she’s “mental”? (I don’t care either way – I just want to know the answer!)
I devour everything he makes. On our first and only (so far) trip to London, England, I bought myself one souvenir: a CD set of Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington doing a podcast-like series of chats that wasn’t readily available here. I listened to those CDs until I bought a new car that didn’t have a player in it.
I own The Invention of Lying on DVD and have watched it several times. (Just writing about it makes me want to watch it again!) I haven’t seem him live, though. I’m not quick enough on the draw to get tickets before they sell out.
I even – and this is mildly embarrassing – play his Golden Globes monologues and talk show appearances on YouTube while I do household chores. Not exclusively, I’m not obsessed! But, in other words, I’m a fan.
And although I’ve loved everything he’s done (except the series Derek, which is ironic, considering that’s my husband’s first name!), and even quote him regularly – “just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right!” – I wasn’t sure what to expect from After Life on Netflix. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? If we knew exactly what to expect every time, that would be dull!
This is Ricky’s brilliance branching out into a new realm: Melancholy. It’s not as squirm-in-your-seat uncomfortable as Extras or as delightfully awkward as The Office. It’s about a man who is having a lot of trouble getting over the death of his wife and how he copes by telling everyone exactly what he thinks. Tony is a writer at a small, local newspaper, where his sharp words bite his coworkers for sport while he bathes in his own deep misery.
He ranks his dog above the people in his life. You have to love him for that.
A related sidebar: When I published The Naked Truth, a well-known TV producer considered it for a TV series. The feedback was, we love it but the lead character doesn’t change enough. (The story is about how I kept my resolve despite being immersed in the insanity of a nudist camp!) After Life is perfect for TV because Tony does evolve. He changes almost imperceptibly and beautifully and that’s what makes it so touching and real. (I would have happily rewritten myself to make my book into a TV series, though!)
Ricky injects some of his personal views into After Life, as you would expect and want him to do. In a particularly memorable scene, he discusses his atheism with a colleague who remarks that if he doesn’t believe in God and an afterlife, what’s to stop him from raping and murdering? Tony replies that he rapes and murders exactly as much as he wants – which is none, because he has a conscience. Right on, Ricky, er, Tony.
After Life does have one terrible flaw and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It’s only six episodes long. Pity.