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TV Review: After Life

TV Review, After Life, Netflix, Ricky Gervais, Ashley Jensen, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton

Synopsis: Tony (Ricky Gervais) had a perfect life. But after his wife Lisa dies, Tony changes. After contemplating taking his own life, he decides instead to live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes from now on. He thinks it’s like a Super Power — not caring about himself or anyone else — but it turns out to be tricky when everyone is trying to save the nice guy they used to know.

TV Review, After Life, Netflix, Ricky Gervais, Ashley Jensen, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton

Review: Ricky Gervais is an acquired taste. An outspoken critic on Twitter, his political and social beliefs have divided audiences for years. But, regardless on whether your beliefs align with his, Gervais' creative legacy has solidified him as one of the most original comedic talents of the last twenty years. Starting with The Office, Gervais has had far more success on the small screen than in feature films. His series including Derek, Extras, and Life's Too Short have all represented his signature style that has also been seen in his frequent stand-up performances. But, Gervais' newest project, the Netflix series After Life, blends the funny with the brutally honest in a manner that makes this series better than I expected.

After Life gives us Tony, a man left broken after the death of his wife of twenty-five years. Suicidal and depressed, Tony goes through the motions of his life simply but no longer cares about anything. In the first episode, Tony goes about his daily tasks without any sort of filter or regard for the bullshit that most of us ignore on a regular basis. Lazy postmen, annoying coworkers, snobby pedestrians and big-mouthed children all earn vitriol and ire from Tony delivered in a deadpan manner that is matter of fact and absolutely hilarious. Tony says things that all of us wish we could say if not for common courtesy and decency. And yet, through the acid-tongued comments that he utters, Gervais imbues his performane with a deep pain that forces the viewer to empathize with Tony and the magnitude of his loss.

TV Review, After Life, Netflix, Ricky Gervais, Ashley Jensen, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton

There are many moments in After Life, which was written and directed by RIcky Gervais on top of his starring role, that echo The Office. Tony works at a small town newspaper run by his brother-in-law which is populated by a bunch of weird and kooky characters including newcomer Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon). Gervais does not play a character remotely like any he has played before but the interactions at the newspaper office feel like his classic BBC series. Then there is the supporting role of a nurse played by his Extras co-star Ashley Jensen. Their chemistry and dynamic with one another is as evident here as it was on that series which should give you a hint as to which direction this story is eventually headed.

There is also the rest of the cast which is populated by familiar faces like Penelope Wilton (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) and David Bradley (HARRY POTTER, Game of Thrones) who round out the parts of Tony's life that he is trying to forget. Then there are the videos he constantly watches featuring his late wife Lisa played by Kerry Godliman (Derek) whose sense of humor perfectly complimented her husband. Her death from cancer resulted in her husband's funny bone becoming caustic. For a while, I thought the show was going to be like Jim Carrey's YES MAN or LIAR LIAR but instead it is deeper than that. Early in the six episode series, Tony smokes a joint laced with heroin and you can see his character reaching rock bottom. Despite everyone around him trying to help him move past his mourning period, Tony falls deeper into his despair and grief.

TV Review, After Life, Netflix, Ricky Gervais, Ashley Jensen, David Bradley, Penelope Wilton

You cannot help but laugh at the brutally honest things that Tony says and Ricky Gervais delivers them all with barely a smile. His pain presents itself as an onslaught of truth that is absolutely hilarious and in the very next scene, absolutely heartbreaking. This series works well thanks to a limited episode run and the brief thirty minute run time, but you will blow through the entire show in one sitting. Ricky Gervais' talent as a writer and performer has never been more obvious than in this series. After Life is funny as much as it is serious, heartbreaking as much as it is heartwarming, and absolutely brutally honest along the way. Few films or series have effectively displayed how grief can manifest in a way as accessible as this show. If you have ever lost someone close to you, you will likely relate to Tony's journey on this show. Definitely not for those looking for a clean show free of profanity and darkness, but if you want to laugh as much as you do cry, this is the show for you.

After Life premierers March 8th on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com

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