So how’s this whole lock-down/staying at home working out for everyone? I genuinely hope this virus hasn’t effected you too much. We are in the midst of uncertain times and plenty of us are sitting around without much to do. TV has been a last bastion of sanity for many folk recently.
Last year, Ricky Gervais let loose his latest TV show, After Life and it met with huge praise. Now, I have a very love/hate relationship with Ricky Gervais. Sometimes I think he’s the funniest man on the planet. I adore his bluntness, his honesty and he can be extremely observant. But then he can also comes across as very hypocritical and sycophantic at times too.
Truth be told, I’ve never much liked his work as an actor. His multi-award winning TV shows have never really done anything for me. The Office, Extras, Derek, etc have always gotten a big no from me. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a film with Ricky in that I’ve honestly enjoyed either. But when he’s being himself, when he’s just being Ricky Gervais, he can be one of the most heart-warning and entertaining people on the planet. His live Twitter broadcasts which he’s been doing since the lock-down have been really entertaining… just because Ricky is being Ricky. He talks shit, but it’s really interesting shit.
Anyway, I’m kind of drifting off on a tangent here. The point of this article is because series 2 of Ricky Gervais’ After Life aired on Netflix recently. I watched the first series out of sheer boredom last year and I thought… well I’ll get into that later. I wanted to watch series 2 and offer my opinion right here. But then the idea to re-watch series 1 and then series 2 back to back came to mind. So I thought I’d do a full rundown of each episode and give my view on the series as a whole.
Thankfully, one of Ricky’s talents is to know not to run something into the ground. His shows have always been short, a couple of series with only 6 episodes each (specials aside). I honestly don’t have the patience to sit through your average US TV show, 20+ episodes per season with dozens of seasons. I just lose interest due to the fact they needlessly drag things out. After Life follows that Ricky Gervais formula. 6 episodes and 2 series (so far). Which means I only have 12 episodes to sit through, and then they’re only 30 minute episodes too. Short but sweet that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
So here I go, all 12 After Life episodes watched and me offering my opinion on each series overall. I’ll be re-watching series 1, but this is the first time I’ll be watching series 2. But before that, a quick synopsis of what After Life is all about for those not in the know.
So After Life is a black, bittersweet comedy following Tony Johnson (Ricky Gervais). Set the fictional small town of Tambury, Tony works as a reporter/writer for an independent, free, local newspaper The Tambury Gazette run by his brother-in-law Matt (Tom Basden), the kind of free paper that covers inane local news. Tony recently lost his wife, Lisa (Kerry Godliman) to breast cancer, but she still talks to him via a pre-recorded video guide offering him life advice. Tony is in a pit of depression, he’s had enough, he’s suicidal due to his depression with his only real companion being Brandy, Lisa and Tony’s dog. Tony wants to try to set the world to rights, he says what he thinks with no censor, he has no moral compass anymore since the death of his wife. His ‘superpower’ as he calls it, is his cantankerous funk as he feels he can’t be any lower, so can’t be dragged down anymore, he has nothing to lose. Every time the people around Tony try to lift him, he just undermines them as much as he can. Tony is strangely content in his depression and no longer cares for anyone or anything… except Brandy.
Before I crack on, I’ll just pop up one of my obligatory SPOILER warnings here. If you’ve not seen After Life, then stop reading and go watch it now.
Tony beings to adapt to life without Lisa. His sink is full of dirty washing up that’ll never be done. There’s no food in his house, not even for Brandy. On his way to work Tony meets his new postman called Pat (Joe Wilkinson)… yes postman Pat, who seems to have an issue with putting post though people’s letterboxes. Tony get’s called a peado by a 10 year old boy… and has a very cutting response, which really sets the tone of the character he is. Stopping off to see his psychiatrist (Paul Kaye) where Tony outlines his bleak look on life.
Sandy (Mandeep Dhillon) is the new reporter hired by the paper and she finds Tony’s downbeat attitude hard to take. Tony crosses paths with a local drug addict Julian (Tim Plester) on his way to visit his father, Ray (David Bradley) who is in a nursing home and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Ray is looked after by nurse Emma (Ashley Jensen). Tony and his father’s relationship is strained and Ray keeps asking to see Lisa. Matt takes Tony down the pub with Lenny (Tony Way), photographer at the Tambury Gazette in an attempt to help him out of his rut. Matt sends both Tony and Lenny to cover a big story for the newspaper about a man who has received the exact same birthday card five times (typical local news), the kind of non-stories that make Tony resent his work. As minor as the story is, the recipient of the cards gives Tony something to really think about.
When Tony is accosted by two young muggers on his way home, he soon sets them straight in his own unique, uncaring way… with the help of a tin of dog food. Lisa offers him more life advice through one of her recordings.
Sitting in the bath, Tony holds a razor blade to his wrist… until Brandy walks in looking for food. The only thing really keeping him alive is his love for his dog. Going to visit Lisa’s grave, Tony meets Anne (Penelope Wilton), an older widow who often sits on a bench talking to her dead husband at the graveyard. Visiting his father again, Tony begins to feel sorry for nurse Emma and just how/why she has to look after elderly people who no longer remember their relatives, but he massively misunderstands her motivation.
On his way back into work, Tony crosses paths with drug addict, Julian and arranges to try heroin for the first time later that day. Matt asks Tony to babysit George (Tommy Finnegan), Tony’s 10 year old nephew. After covering a story about a teenager who can play two recorders with his nostrils, Tony tries to work out why people want to be famous and get in the paper. In the newspaper office Tony is hounded by talker of bullshit and head of advertising, Kath (Diane Morgan), Sandy the new reporter and Tony find some common ground and actually get on as she begins to understand his attitude and straight talking, not caring demeanour.
Matt drops George round at Tony’s place and the two hit it off. Taking George to a cafe for something to eat, Tony gets into an argument over why he can’t order a meal from the kids menu for himself but manages to get one over on the obnoxious waitress. Back at Tony’s place and Matt is late in picking up George… and Tony has Julian coming round with the heroin. After giving Tony a cannabis joint with heroin (as it’s safer than injecting), Tony passes out as Julian helps himself to Tony’s money from his wallet and leaves.
Just about managing to remember that Julian stole from him last night, Tony confronts the druggie on the street and learns he has spent the money on more drugs. Tony meets prostitute… sorry sex worker, Daphne aka ‘Roxy’ (Roisin Conaty) who is a friend of Julian and will do anything for £50. Tony hires her and takes her back to his place, but it’s not sex that he’s after. Tony spends £50 and asks Daphne to clean his house. The pair chat and Daphne opens up and tells Tony all about her life and teaches him a thing or two about sex worker myths.
On another visit to his father, the subject of Lisa is brought up again and nurse Emma suggests that Tony should just humour his father always asking to see the dead Lisa. Emma also gives Tony a few home truths about his attitude towards other people. Tony and Anne meet at the graveyard again and she imparts some worldly advice on losing someone close. Visiting his psychiatrist again, Tony gets some pointless advice… stop feeling sad. Matt arranges a works outing to a new comedy club that night. Meanwhile, Brian (David Earl) is (as Tony calls him) the ‘local nutter’ who wants to be in the newspaper. He brings what he claims is Freddie Mercury’s tooth, which Tony dismisses.
In one of her videos, Lisa tells Tony to take the dog to the beach for a walk. He does and Brandy enjoys herself, running around, playing catch. But Tony has other ideas, just walk into the sea, kill himself that way. As Brandy sits on the beach, Tony tries to kill himself again only for Brandy to begin barking. He can’t so it, he can’t leave his best friend so Tony gets out of the water. At the comedy club, a comedian begins making jokes about someone committing suicide. Noticing Tony isn’t enjoying the jokes, the comic picks him out in an attempt to ridicule him… big mistake. Tony just unloads, calmly, and tells the comic how his wife died of cancer and how he wants to kill himself, putting the comic in his place. Matt begins to really worry about Tony’s frame of mind.
Julian turns up at Tony’s place with a peace offering… more drugs. Tony thinks they have a lot in common until Julian sets him straight as they share a cannabis/heroin spliff.
Tony’s battle with postman Pat and his issue with not putting post though through the letterbox continues. Tony and Lenny cover more inane local news stories, one at the same hospital where Lisa died. Tony’s degrading of his job continues as he asks just why Sandy wants to be a journalist. Matt reveals that he has set Tony up on a blind date, a date he really doesn’t want to go on because he’d rather be dead with Lisa and resents Matt for trying to interfere with his life.
Tony visits his dad again and apologises to Emma for his attitude and behaviour. The two bond over the rather risque behaviour of Ray recently. Tony confides in Emma that he’s being set up on a blind date and she suggested he should go. At the graveyard, widow Anne offers Tony some dating advice and help as Tony agrees to go on the date. Sandy takes Tony shopping for date clothes and he realises just how out of touch he is. Tony gives Sandy some rare positive advice on her career. Bumping into Daphne on the street, she convinces Tony to give her the keys to his house as his ‘cleaner’ in front of Sandy, where as she most probably wants to use the house for her sex work. When Tony finally returns, worried at exactly what she has done in is home, he finds Daphne has completely cleaned his house and for free too.
Tony goes on the date and his date calls him out on his suicidal tendencies, claiming he’s putting it on. She ridicules Tony for putting his dog first after claiming Brandy is the reason he hasn’t killed himself yet. After ending the terrible date, Tony confronts a pair of muggers on a bike who try to steal a woman’s purse. They drop a claw hammer they were using as a weapon and Tony picks it up. Back at Tony’s place, Julian turns up again with more drugs. The two philosophise as Julian reveals more about his life. Julian tells Tony how he wants to kill himself with drugs after all he has been through if only he could afford it. Tony gives him a large sum of cash and Julian leaves, stopping off at a drug dealer with the intent to end his own life.
Walking past the school, Tony learns that his nephew, George is being bulled. Tony threatens to kill the 10 year old bully with the hammer he took from the muggers. At the nursing home, Tony tells Emma his his date was a disaster and the two agree it’s best to be single. Matt tells Tony that Julian has been found dead from a heroin overdose and Tony confesses that he was the one who gave Julian the money. Tony makes a second visit to the nursing home, not so much to visit his father, but more so to talk to Emma… but he has nothing much to say.
Tony and and Lenny cover a story about a woman who makes rice pudding with her own breast milk and bread with her virginal yeast. Top-notch journalism. Tony sends postman Pat a postcard to be delivered to his (Tony’s) place to prove that Pat keeps reading Tony’s post. After another fruitless visit to his psychiatrist, Tony puts an annoying street clipboard warrior in his place. The local nutter, Brian finally convinces Tony put him in the paper. Taking Tony, Lenny and Sandy to his house, Brian shows off his rather worrying hoarding. Tony says there is no story to publish, not even for a free, local non-story newspaper and leaves but Sandy stays wanting to find a story as Brian ‘entertains’ Lenny and Sandy with an off-beat puppet show.
Matt calls Tony into the newspaper office as he received a call from the school about a man threatening to kill a 10 yer old boy. The two have a heated debate over why Tony acts like this and Matt says that if Tony continues his destructive behaviour, he can no longer see his nephew. Tony meets Anne at the graveyard again looking for advice about how to deal with the pain he is in and she seems to get through to him… a bit. Back at the newspaper, it seems Sandy did find a story to write about Brian. She shows her story to Tony who thinks it’s brilliant, worth publishing. He even suggests it could be front page material.
Tony meets up with Daphne and offers her a shoulder after the death of Julian.
Matt asks Tony to cover a story about a baby who looks like Hitler. Finding a fatal flaw in the story Tony picks it apart. As stupid as the story is, Tony finds some humour in it and begins to lighten up. The newspaper talking bullshit machine, Kath begins to question Tony on his lack of religious belief. She tries to put up a good argument but Tony manages to easily answer all her queries. Tony goes to the crematorium to see off Julian but misses the service. Daphne is there and Tony says how he is going to ask Emma out on a date as Tony slowly begins to see a way out of his depression.
At the nursing home, Ray’s Alzheimer’s disease is getting worse, thinking Tony is someone called Charlie for sometime… he eventually remembers Tony as his son… kind of. Tony finally calls his psychiatrist out on his bullshit and gets shot of him as he was doing nothing to help with Tony’s life anyway. Tony learns that Matt’s marriage is on the rocks and talks to him offering some help. Realising how much of an awkward pain he has been to everyone, Tony begins to apologise and tries to right the wrongs he has been responsible for since Lisa’s death.
Tony goes back to the nursing home and asks Emma out on a date. She doesn’t say yes, but she doesn’t say no either and Tony leaves her to think about it. Tony and Anne meet at the graveyard again and she revels how happy she is despite being a widow. Anne comes out with more worldly advice that really gives Tony a lot to contemplate as he realises that life is actually worth living.
Emma agrees to the date and the two walk off into the sun as Tony finally finds happiness after Lisa.
I could do this the short way. After Life is one of the most amazing pieces of modern TV.
The longer version is more worthy though. I laughed, I cried. After Life features some of the best writing I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in a TV show… ever. Now, this show will not be for everyone. There is that Ricky Gervais humour, that use of swearing… lots of harsh swearing, he can be a bit preachy too and that style of humour is not for everyone. But under the crassness of some of the jokes is a real, emotive story about a man struggling with the loss of a loved one.
The dialogue between the characters feels very real and often heartbreaking, even when it’s being funny and lighthearted. The way Ricky as penned these scripts and story is amazing, truly masterful work. The characters are all memorable, from the main cast to the secondary and peripheral ones. The tricky subject of depression is handled very well and the pit Tony finds himself in is completely believable, even when he’s being his arsehole best, he’s still utterly charming. You will go from hating this guy to loving him and back again. The acting throughout is top-drawer stuff, even Brandy (Anti) the dog puts in a great performance.
The subject matter may not appeal most people, especially if you are currently going through a loss yourself. Yet some may even find it a rather cathartic release. After Life takes a very prickly subject matter and yet presents it in such an engrossing and endearing way.
“But get this through your head. I’d rather be nowhere with her than somewhere without her, all right?”
– Tony Johnson
So here we are with series 2. Now, I just re-watched the first series and loved it just as much as the first time, but I do have some trepidation going into this second series. See, I feel the first one ended perfectly, Tony made amends for all his wrongs, he apologised to those he upset and (possibly) found happiness with Emma. Roll credits, a perfect ending. As I write this bit right here, I’ve not yet seen any of series 2 (except a trailer) and I’m just kind of concerned it’s going to be a bit superfluous.
Tony’s journey in series 1 was (for want of a better word) perfect. A miserable story told beautifully that ended just as it should have. In my mind, there is no need for another series. One and done. So I’m not really sure if I’m looking forward to seeing this second series to be honest. I’m sure it wont be terrible or anything, I just feel it’s going to have to undo several things resolved in the first series for Tony’s story to continue, a bit of retcon if you will.
Well, here I go. All 6 episodes of Series 2 of After Life… I’ll offer my thoughts at the end.
So Tony and Emma didn’t really work out, they’re friends and nothing more because he’s still not over losing Lisa and their dog, Brandy is the only thing keeping him sane. Everyone is still pretty much where they were before, no one has moved on any… except for nut case Brian who now deliverers the newspaper. Tony and and Lenny cover a story about the oldest woman in Tambury and what a mouth she has on her too. Tony is still in his depressive funk and decides he needs to be more Zen. While Matt’s marriage is all but over and he is living in the newspaper office.
Tony visits his dad and the Alzheimer’s is getting worse as Ray doesn’t recognise Tony as his son (again). Anne is still at the graveyard as her and Tony exchange wisdom, Tony confesses he’s still no better then he was but no longer thinks about suicide anymore and really wants to try to move on and improve as a person. Matt begins to see Tony’s old (and useless) psychiatrist in order to help him with his marriage problems.
Postman Pat stops off at Tony’s place to ‘use’ his bathroom, which tests Tony’s patience. Tony and Matt attend a Zen meditation session and the instructor’s personal habits bring out the worst in Tony as he loses his cool, which puts Matt on edge. Tony begins to drink more than usual as he gets emotional over an old video of Lisa.
Tony does his best to stick to his goal of improving but it gets harder each day. At the newspaper office, Matt quizzes Tony on his drinking, a talk Tony doesn’t take much notice of and quickly deflects. Kath starts badgering Tony on her beliefs again and of course, Tony makes short work of her inane rantings. At the graveyard, Tony tells Anne how everything went wrong at the Zen session and how he decided to get drunk afterwards.
James (Ethan Lawrence), the son of Lenny’s girlfriend is taken on at The Tambury Gazette on work experience. James suggests that the newspaper could cover the local amateur dramatics, The Tambury Players, an idea Sandy thinks is a great one. Tony, Lenny and Sandy all turn up to find a story where Tony meets a face from his past. With help of the organiser of the amateur dramatics, Sandy decides to write a gossip column in the paper and also cover their up and coming cabaret show. Matt goes to see his psychiatrist again for more completely pointless help.
At the nursing home, Emma is getting very friendly with the son of one of her patients, Simon (Bill Ward). something Tony begins to notice. Tony admits he’s trying to move on, trying to improve to Emma, but he’s just not ready to move on from Lisa yet. Back at Tony’s place, he and Daphne share a meal. Tony realises just how useless he is without Lisa after cooking a terrible meal. As a favour to Pat, Tony puts in a word for him with Daphne in an attempt to get them together.
Tony tells Pat all about Daphne, including the fact she’s a sex worker. That tit-bit of info just makes Pat more interested and a date between the two is arranged. Tony’s nephew, George begins to worry that his parents are going to divorce and Tony sets his mind at ease. It’s Sandy’s 30th birthday and she’s feeling down about getting older, Tony does his best to cheer her up, but the topic of discussion soon turns to Lisa.
Emma and Simon seem to be getting on better at the nursing home, as Tony learns… perhaps a little jealousy is creeping in? Emma confesses she likes Simon, but she doesn’t feel the same way about him as she does about Tony. Just a shame he’s too scared to commit. Back at the psychiatrist’s, Matt is told he needs to get back out there and find a woman. Meanwhile, Tony and Lenny talk to a woman for the paper who claims she can talk to cats. As crazy as the woman seems, she has a few nuggets of wisdom for Tony that gets him thinking.
The owner of The Tambury Gazette, Paul (Peter Egan) tells Matt that the newspaper is losing money and he wants to close it down and sell the building. Everyone will be out of a job if The Tambury Gazette ends publication and Sandy takes the news badly. Tony promises to save the paper and keep everyone (especially Sandy) in a job. Matt thinks Sandy’s gossip column could save the paper… with a bit of embellishment. Matt asks Tony to join him for a drink and back him up on his desire to find another woman. Down the pub, they bump into the psychiatrist and his rather obnoxious friends and the night doesn’t go very well… especially when Emma turns up with Simon.
Pat and Daphne meet up for their date. The two really hit it off and a second date is arranged. Tony consoles himself on his bad night in a bottle of wine and more videos of Lisa back at his place with Brandy for company.
Pat and Daphne arrive at Tony’s place for breakfast… uninvited of course. Back at the psychiatrist, Matt gets more useless help as his life unravels as the shrink is more interested in talking about his sex life than Matt’s failing marriage. Tony and Lenny interview a woman addicted to cosmetic surgery for the newspaper with disturbing and funny results. Back at the office, Kath asks Matt out on a ‘date’ to the cabaret being held by the amateur dramatics society, which he pencils in just to get rid of her and then tries to use Tony’s suicidal tendencies as an excuse not to go.
Tony spends some quality time with his father at the nursing home before talking to Emma about her and Simon in the pub last night. She really likes Tony, but says that she can’t put her life on hold because he still can’t move on from Lisa. Matt’s wife turns up at the office and he asks her to go with him to the cabaret to get out of going with Kath and maybe to help patch up their relationship? Noticing she is fed up, Tony asks Kath out for a coffee to try and cheer her up. Taking a detour to the shops, Tony buys a bottle of wine and after drinking half a bottle on the streets, he heads to the graveyard again to talk to Anne who tells him he shouldn’t drink alone. Tony breaks down taking about Lisa, saying how he feels like nothing without her. He strives to be ‘normal’ but just can’t do it.
Tony bumps into Paul, the owner of The Tambury Gazette and asks him to not close down the paper and sell the building. But the money he will make from selling the building is too great to turn down. Tony manages to convince him to hang on for a year and give the newspaper another chance, if things don’t improve, he’ll sell it then. Sandy is covering the cabaret for the newspaper when Tony tells her that the paper and building aren’t being sold… for at least a year anyway.
Tony has a particularly worrying visit with his dad, asking Emma if he’s okay as he looks a bit worse for wear. She tells him that he’s fine and that he has his good and bad days, this is a bad day. Tony asks Emma if she wants to go to the amateur cabaret with him, but she’s working so can’t go. At the graveyard, Tony and Anne share a few laughs. After asking Anne if she’s lonely, Tony invites her to the cabaret, Paul also agrees to tag along.
It’s the night of the big (and very poor) armature dramatics cabaret and everyone is there… except Emma who is back at the nursing home looking after Ray. Tony tries to, very slyly, set up Anne with Paul, which doesn’t quite work out. Brian is on stage trying his best and his version of ‘comedy’, which goes down as badly as you’d expect. The whole show is a complete disaster. Emma sends Tony a message for him to call her, he leaves the show and phones her… she tells him that his father has died. A very clearly upset Tony begins to reminisce over his childhood to Emma back at the nursing home. Tony finally admits he feelings toward her.
Back at his place, Brandy does her best to cheer Tony up.
At the psychiatrists, Matt says how his marriage could be on the mend and it turns out that maybe the psychiatrist needs a shrink himself. Sandy sets about writing her story in the paper covering the cabaret last night. Tony delivers the news to Matt his dad died. Now his father has gone, Tony has even less to live for, he asks for space from his friends and co-workers, not sympathy. With Ray now dead, Tony has no reason to come to the nursing home and see Emma anymore, but Tony tries to rationalise their (lack of a) relationship.
Daphne pops round to see Tony and worries about his state of mind after finding a bottle of sleeping pills, concerned he’s back on the suicide idea. At the newspaper’s office, Kath didn’t get the memo that Tony doesn’t want sympathy. Tony and Lenny cover a story about a 50 year old man who identifies as an 8 year old girl.
At Ray’s funeral, Tony delivers a rather moving eulogy and thanks Emma for looking after his father. Tony is home alone, just him, Brandy and another bottle of wine. After watching some old family videos of Ray and Lisa, Tony gets very emotional and rediscovers those sleeping pills… And… that’s where I’m leaving this one. Despite my earlier SPOILER warning, I just don’t want to spoil how this all ends… But I will say it’s a hell of a heavy and emotional ending.
So I may as well get right to this. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this series as much as the first. I’ve been pin-balling around in my mind why that is… and I think I have it. But before I explain that…
Series 2 has been just as funny/offensive and just as emotional as the previous one. I decided to not cover the end of the last episode in my round up simply because I feel you need to experience it for yourself. After everything Tony has been through, you need to not have the end ruined. The last few minutes of the episode are extremely satisfying and my watching all the episodes back to back made it even more impactful.
Also watching the episodes in one long run also made me realise how much Ricky took from his old XFM/podcast broadcasts that he used to do with Stephen Merchant and Karl Dilkington. Honestly, direct lines of dialogue, conversations and even character traits have been lifted from their conversations. It’s pretty clear that Tony is based on (an exaggerated) Ricky himself. Matt is definitely has some Stephen Merchant about him and the annoying Kath with her inane questions and beliefs is Karl Pilkington to a T. The idea of postman Pat reading Tony’s mail comes from a chat the trio had 20 years ago. Anne telling Tony the fable of the frog and the scorpion also came from those podcasts… look, I could go on and on, but if you go back and listen to their old chats, you’ll find loads of stuff from them that have been incorporated into After Life.
Series 2 really has some great moments… which is partly why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. This one is some great moments, where as series 1 was just simply 6 great episodes. Yup, series 2 is still a brilliant bit of TV, but it certainly lacks what the first series had in places.
One of my concerns about this series was the fact Tony realised he was a prick and needed to move on from Lisa, not forget about her, just move on. The fact he apologised to those he had wronged at the end of series 1 and the fact he and Emma went out on a date was something I thought Ricky may have to retcon to continue the story. Thankfully Ricky Gervais doesn’t hit the reset button… but he does give it a bit of a tickle. I don’t know, but the slight U-turn of the character at the start of this series and the fact he then has to try to better himself… again just took me out of the story a bit.
But onto the main reason I didn’t like this one as much as the first. The whole series felt like an afterthought, maybe it was? It felt like Ricky hadn’t planned on a second series so by making Tony find redemption and a slice of happiness at the end of the first series, he had painted himself into a corner, hence the tickling of the reset button. A lot of the main plot points of series 2 felt, from an organic storytelling perspective, as if they should’ve really happened in the middle of series 1. I just think most of the story in this series would’ve made more sense in series 1 as apposed to being here.
Yes I enjoyed this series, but just not as much as the first. The humour is there, the characters are there and the writing is just as good, if not, in places better…. but for me, it just didn’t feel right as a whole series. Not as much as the first one did anyway. I’d have been more than happy if there hadn’t been a second one (as good as it is). For me, Tony’s realisation at the end of series 1 of how he’s been acting, his apologising to everyone, the little things he did to make people smile and then with he and Emma walking off together was just prefect. It didn’t spell everything out, but it gave us the viewers just enough information to paint our own future for the character and I really liked that.
As much as I did enjoy series 2, for what it was, it still felt superfluous. Not bad, not at all… just kind of unnecessary. I loved series 1 and I loved re-watching it for this article and I can see myself watching it again in the future. But I just don’t get that with series 2, I’m really not sure I’ll re-watch this one. I may re-watch the odd episode for the moments I really enjoyed, but not the series as a whole. As much as I enjoyed it, I’m happier with Tony walking off with Emma at the end of series 1 and me painting my own future for him than the one Ricky has painted for me here.
But all that aside and looking at the whole damn thing. After Life is an amazing piece of TV. The writing is sharp and bitter, it’s funny and heart breaking. Ricky Gervais as a writer and director has done his very best work here… and I don’t think he will ever better it. As an actor, he had me laughing at Tony’s attitude toward others, his manner of speaking, his directness was like Victor Meldrew times infinity. The emotions Tony feels through the series, I felt them too. I felt happy for him, sorry for him and I cried with him too. After Life is Ricky Gervais’ Sistine Chapel, yeah it has a few cracks, but it’s still an astonishingly beautiful piece of art that everyone should see. It’s (almost) perfection in 12, half hour episodes.
As I said in the intro to this article, I’ve never really liked Ricky as an actor… but this? This is a whole different level and I’m happy to eat my own words. Quite honestly, Ricky Gervais deserves every bit of praise, every award After Life is sure to win.
You’re in lock-down, you’ve not got much else to do. So binge watch After Life.
“I used to drink when I was happy. That was all right, but now I drink when I’m sad. That’s not so good cos it happens more often.”
– Tony Johnson