Ricky Gervais has been called many things in his life- a hypocrite, talentless hack, overweight troll- and while the insults are more ad hominem than actual criticism, one thing is for certain- Ricky Gervais is money!
The linchpin of such sitcoms as The Office and Extras, the comedy laureate is a multiple-time BAFTA, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award winner.
Unfiltered in the extreme, Gervais does not shy away from telling people exactly what he thinks of them, often to his own detriment. Take his 2020 Golden Globe Awards monologue for example- he single-handedly took a torch to Hollywood's hypocrisy and bigotry, and while industry-outsiders lauded him for essentially speaking the truth, he made a lot of enemies inside the industry.
Gervais brings his brand of take-no-prisoners comedy in his Netflix series, After Life. The series premiered on Netflix on 8 March 2019 and after a highly successful first-season run, returns on Netflix with its sophomore season on 24 April 2020.
Here are the essentials of After Life on Netflix:
After Life is centered around Tony Johnson, the head of a local newspaper whose life goes into freefall after his wife dies of breast cancer. He grows increasingly nihilistic by the day and reaches the lowest depths of contemplations one can imagine: suicide.
He postpones his death to hold the universe accountable to karmic justice for taking his soulmate from him. He does so by making an effort to be as vicious as possible to everyone around him.
He becomes bitter and infinitely more offensive; no one is immune from his vitriolic tirades. But, as the series progresses, Tony learns to find the proverbial "light in the darkness" when he is reminded by people around him of the good that they still see in him.
Ricky Gervais is the head honcho of After Life. Not only does he star as Tony Johnson, around whom the entire series revolves, but he also puts on his directorial hat and his producer hat to see his vision realized on the screen.
The series is centered around Tony's development as a character, going from a spiteful and vitriolic man to making peace with the fact there is good in the world and that includes him!
Kerry Godliman plays Lisa Johnson, Tony's deceased wife. Although she is already dead on the show, she is featured in videos she made for Tony before she passed away. She also appears in Tony's flashbacks and memories.
Paul Kaye plays Tony's psychiatrist and one whom Tony confides all his troubles to. But as he grows increasingly nihilistic, Tony realizes- like most things in his life- that it is all futile.
Ashley Jensen plays Emma, a nurse in charge of caring for Tony's father. She provides Tony with a much-needed reality check and a dose of tough love. Her encounter with Tony is the catalyst that helps him turn his life around and find the silver lining amidst the darkness.
Roisin Conaty plays Daphne, a call-girl who goes by the pseudonym, Roxy.
A common criticism of the show is that the first few episodes are hard to digest due to the amount of acrimonious language and the general vitriol the lead character exhibits towards innocent bystanders. Once they get past the hard-to-digest episodes, however, the series has been lauded for its heart and message.
On IMDb, the show holds a rating of 8.4/10 calculated from 49,452 users. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show currently holds an approval rate of 71% based on 41 critic reviews. The audience approval rate is significantly higher, though, and is currently at 93%.
The show holds a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 15 reviews, indicating mixed or average reviews.
Stuart Heritage, writing for The Guardian, said in his review of the show,
"The first episode is wearying, punishing and subtle as a sledgehammer. But get past that and The Office creator [Ricky Gervais]’s new comedy actually becomes a rewarding watch"
He went on to say:
"After Life contains the kernel of a really good series. It’s a redemption tale, keen to demonstrate how all the minuscule atoms of good in the world can pile up and make life worth living. There isn’t a single two-dimensional comic relief character here, either; everyone, no matter how incidental, is nursing their own form of heartache. When it gets things right, it gets things really right. But you have to cut through a lot of guff to get there."
Merrill Barr, writing for Forbes was also appraising of the show, saying:
"Overall, After Life is one hundred percent a series to check out. It's the Ricky Gervais project people have been begging for, for a long time."
Despite seemingly reaching a resolution that the show could end on, a second season for After Life has already been announced.
On 3 April 2019, Netflix announced that the show will return for its second season on 24 April 2020.
Ricky Gervais' brand of comedy is a double-edged sword. It has made him the equivalent of a cult-superstar with the edgy crowd and loathed in some circles for his pull-no-punches attitude.
After Life is Ricky Gervais at his best (or worst). Everyone is fair game on the show, and the first few episodes when Tony is in the nascent stage of grieving over his deceased wife is particularly difficult to watch (and even more so to digest) because of Tony's vicious attitude.
But once you get past the first few episodes, what ensues is a touching tale of grief, acceptance, and ultimately, closure. The overarching arc of Tony's development from a vile human being to one not so vile plays out stunningly on the screen, especially under Gervais' vision.
Ricky Gervais gets the most screen time, and when you watch After Life, you understand why! You can't help but wonder if Ricky's character is a reflection of him in real life, or if it is the other way around. One thing for certain is that Ricky Gervais can work the heartstrings like no one else. You go from loathing this pompous jerk who leaves a trail of tears in his wake, to adoring the grieving widower who went through one of life's worst heartaches.
You should definitely check this one out!