TV Review: After Life

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A (very) brief plot overview

Tony (Ricky Gervais) struggles to cope after losing his wife to cancer, but the people in his life are determined not to loose him to his grief.

What’s good about it?

If I answer ‘everything’, does that make this a good review? It would be accurate if that was allowed to be my response…

I have always been a huge Ricky Gervais fan but for me this is his best work. It’s a finely crafted series that is so beautifully human. The characters feel like your neighbours or people you could walk past on the street, the Tony’s grief is unflinchingly recognisable and the feeling of searching for a meaning in life is something everyone can relate to on some level.

In my opinion, everything Ricky Gervais creates touches you because he is such an incredibly talented writer, but After Life is on another level. I found that I couldn’t stop watching it and binge watched the whole series in one (very emotional) night. Tony’s grief is so consuming and the way he speaks about his wife could break even the hardest heart. Even reading lines like ‘I’d rather be nowhere with her than somewhere without her’ makes me well up, never mind seeing Ricky Gervais looking distraught and saying them.

Watching the show isn’t all crying because your heart breaks for Tony, though. Tony is surrounded by love and you are never made to forget that even though he is in this cloud of grief, he has people around him who want him to be okay. Even though After Life centres around the idea of losing someone you love to cancer, there is no denying that this show is a comedy. In true Ricky Gervais style, it is full of witty word play, laugh out loud, shocking moments and oddball characters that have you crying with laughter. One minute you’ll be cringing, the next you’ll be laughing, then you’ll be crying, then you’ll be back to laughing again. Such is Ricky Gervais’ genius – he provides you a rollercoaster of emotions for half an hour, but one you walk away from feeling undeniably fulfilled.

That’s one word I would use to describe After Life – fulfilling. The whole premise of the show is about you can get through even in the hardest of times and how there are always things to smile about and enjoy in life. Nowhere is this shown as well as in the scenes in the graveyard with Ricky Gervais and Penelope Wilton, which are so beautiful written and acted. They show two people who have lost the love of their lives, but also two people who both have a life left to life them self. For me, those exchanges sum up what After Life is – a celebration of life, death and everything in between.

One final thing to note is that After Life completely refuses to shy away from painful topics like suicide, addiction and assisted dying. It’s a comedy, and a very funny one at that, but it doesn’t ignore real, important issues. I think if anything the fact that these topical and difficult discussions happen in a comedy show like this make them more impactful because they come from characters who we relate to because they seem so real. Assisted dying and addiction doesn’t become a scaremongering headline or clickbait, but a person with a backstory that’s asking for understanding and not judgement. Anything that humanises these ideas is only a good thing in my eyes.

What’s not so good about it?

You will cry at least once in every episode. Accept it and prepare for it.

Rate Me: 10/10. Thought provoking, life affirming, touching, funny, honest – the best of Ricky Gervais.

12 Comments

  1. I was hooked. It’s compelling viewing but you also feel like you are intruding into the most deepest, darkest moments of his life. You go through so many emotions with him and also at points dislike him, pity him, love him ,laugh with him.
    It is brilliant!

    1. It really is compelling – I couldn’t turn it off! It is probably a TV show I have felt the most emotion watching, and like you said sometimes you don’t even like Tony but you want him to get through it. I just wonder how the second series will be because to me this one ended so perfectly

  2. It is the best show I have watched this year. Watched twice less than two months apart! Grief is covered so well. Ricky has done a phenomenal job ☺️

  3. This one has been on my list since it came out, but your praise made me move it to the top, so I’ll watch it sooner, rather than later.

      1. Loved it! Didn’t cry every episode but at least I got misty eyed. The last two were more emotional. Especially the final during which I cried several times. The most surprising in that respect was the scene where coworker’s girlfriend stops by with a snack.
        I like the role of the nurse in which he cast his old costar from Extras. I looked her up on Wikipedia and found out her husband took his life in 2017, which made me wonder if this wasn’t the inspiration for Ricky.

      2. I am so glad you enjoyed it! I cry at adverts on the tv so I think I am pretty easy to set off haha the scene where his dad remembers him is brilliant but so heartbreaking, I think that was my saddest moment.
        I love that he works with the same people he has on different shows. I wondered that too, I also wondered if that might be why she did it to show other people about grief

      3. Yes the last one with his father was probably the strongest for me as well. I lost my mom over 2 years ago and I see my father over Skype from time to time because we live on different continents. They had over 40 years together. I used to be freelance journalist… there’s a bunch of parallels in my life.

      4. BTW I believe Ricky puts a lot of himself into his characters (from what I can gather from his interviews) and that’s why his humor is so universal.

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