Liam Hoofe reviews After Life…
By this point in Ricky Gervais’ career, fans have begun to know what to expect from the controversial comedian. Despite never quite reaching the heights of his earlier work, Gervais’ later output has often attempted, for better or worse, to blend his own personal brand of dark humour with real human emotions, and After Life is arguably his most accomplished work since Extras.
In the show, Gervais plays Tony, a recently widowed man who was stopped from committing suicide simply because his dog needed feeding. From that moment on, Tony has decided that he is no longer going to filter what he says and is just going to let his vitriol spill out freely onto the quaint English town that he lives and works in.
On paper, this sounds like nothing more than an excuse for Gervais to exercise his appetite for offensive humour, and while it certainly provides plenty of that, it also offers a surprisingly poignant insight into tricky topics like death, addiction, depression, and suicide.
At times, the show does begin to feel a bit like a Gervais checklist. There are several appearances from performers who have worked with him in the past, frequent discussions about atheism, and some not so subtle digs at online journalism and today’s PC obsessed society and while these things occasionally feel on the nose, they do also provide the show with some of its best moments.
If After Life is a reminder of anything though, it’s that Gervais is still an incredibly funny writer and actor. The show has several laugh out loud scenes, including one based around the old discussion about five people, living or dead, that you would have over for dinner, and another focused around a bit of mould that looks like Kenneth Branagh, among many others.
The show also provides Gervais with a nice vehicle for Gervais to show off his acting range, and while the ending may be incredibly predictable from the first episode onwards, Gervais and the rest of the cast do an excellent job of making it effective nonetheless. The rest of the cast also deserve their dues here- Diane Morgan, best known for her character, Philomena Cunk, is superb throughout, while the likes of Ashley Jensen, David Bradley and Tony Way also provide the series with some of its finest moments.
After what has been a bit of a creative lull for Gervais, After Life is a return to form for the comedian. While the destination may be incredibly predictable, the journey is more than worth the ride thanks to a script that is in equal parts both funny and surprisingly humane.