SERIES REVIEW – Ricky Gervais is no stranger to comedy, he started the original The Office back in 2001 in the UK, he made fun of Hollywood extras, and also would later make a series about a care home worker. However, he has never fully gone black comedy or embraced highly depressive topics. As a Netflix exclusive, the company has given him free rein and does not have to hold back. With After Life’s six-episode Ricky Gervais portrays a broken man, who is living an idyllic little English town as a journalist.
The story of After Life is rather a simple one, there are no high stakes, no big plans, or epic brawls compared to most Netflix exclusives. It is just one man trying to cope with the fact that after 25 years of marriage his wife passed away. While this tiny town, which looks all sunny, simple and fun, the character portrayed by Ricky Gervais, aka. Tony Johnson is tired of it all.
Half an Hour of Distilled Nihilism
The first season which just premiered on the 3rd of April 2019 on Netflix is only six episodes, and each episode is around 25 to 31 minutes. Each of the episodes has neatly woven flashback through old video recordings either done by Tony to remind himself of the good times (while drinking scotch in bed) or his wife who recorded a message for Tony to be himself even after she dies. There are no good times anymore for Tony, and constantly plays with the thought of killing himself. Just does not really seem to be able to do it, as he has to look after his dog (or so he says the reason for avoiding suicide).
While everyone is trying to make him happy, he is too deep in depression, suicidal thoughts, and nihilism due to the loss of his wife. Tony works at the towns local newspaper called Tambury Gazette which is just joined by Sandy and is given the task to show her around. Which he reluctantly does, and this is our first view into the life of the small town gazette. Showing us all the secondary characters that either try to help Tony, or Tony tries to insult them. There is humour in this series, however bleak, and depressing the series sounds.
All of it stems from Tony’s colleagues, friends and people he knows, as he tries to use his newfound “superpower” telling everyone off and being an arsehole. All the while resulting in “hilarious” escapades with a sex worker, a junkie, and a guy who really wants to be in the local paper but is a weirdo. There is a lot to unpack with the series and mostly deals with how someone is unable to cope with the loss of a loved one. He also has trouble coping, like his dad who is in a care home is suffering from dementia, so every time he visits, he asks where Tony’s wife is. Much to the irritation of our main character.
It does have an issue, of not properly fleshing out some of the secondary characters sadly, and it is rather short. At the same time though it is one of the most effective shows that I have seen this year.
In The End
While the series is a bit low budget, it looks stellar, especially in 4K and HDR, the cinematography is great. The music is well timed, and some songs are real tearjerkers when they drop at a specific moment in the episode. It is not for the faint-hearted, or if you had a really bad day, as the series will just make you a sobbing mess. Unlike his previous efforts, Ricky Gervais created something special