Here’s the plot of After Life, courtesy of IMDB: “After Tony’s (Ricky Gervais’) wife dies unexpectedly, his nice-guy persona is altered into an impulsive, devil-may-care attitude taking his old world by storm.”
This particular synopsis is hilarious to me because “devil-may-care” is a pretty understated description of Tony’s mindset when the series starts. Plus, his wife had cancer. Not an unexpected thing. ANYWAY. Your favorite atheist, animal-loving, Twitter trolling actor/comedian/film-maker, Ricky Gervais, gives us another series, and it is a gorgeous roller coaster of emotions.
“Hell is other people” is the tagline for the show, and I get it. Tony has lost his wife. He works at a newspaper that’s distributed for free in his locale (not Pulitzer material). He’s grumpy by nature, but his horrific loss only magnifies the grump factor. Tony feels like it’s only a matter of time before he cashes it in, so why not just throw away all the fucks and say everything you feel deep down to the humans you’re forced to live on Earth with? It’s a premise that really appeals to me. We’ve all desired that instinct at some point, right? Tony does some reckless stuff in these six episodes because of the utter despair he feels, but there’s someone who seems to pull him from the brink every time: Brandy, the dog. Eventually, the coworkers at the paper, the sex worker he hires, his cemetery pal, the weirdo who keeps trying to get local fame in print, and his dementia suffering dad join Brandy in keeping Tony around and on the path to a new outlook.
I loved this show because laughing at the awful state of 90% of our humanity is one of the few things that keep me interested. I love stories that punch you in the gut while making you laugh at phrases like “I fingered Jackie Collins”. I love that there are so many Game of Thrones actors in it. The dog is adorable. Penelope Wilton makes anything she’s in a million times better. More importantly, Ricky Gervais shows he’s one of the best television creators ever. He keeps getting better and emotionally layered. I can’t wait for the second season.