Anyone who first tunes into The Ricky Gervais Show without knowing anything about it is due for a pretty big shock. Even if you’’re aware that it’s adapted from a series of podcasts, being a fan of The Office or Extras does little to prepare you for Karl Pilkington. It’s not that he’s just around, like Merchant, it’s that Karl’s actually the focus of things and Ricky’s largely peripheral to what happens. Oh, he’s valuable to the show in a number of important ways, but The Ricky Gervais Show is first and foremost about Karl, who’s what sets the show apart from possible imitators. The guys telling stories is easy to do, what’s not easy to replicate is Karl’s unique brand of insanity.
If anything the TV version of The Ricky Gervais Show is even more focused on Karl, but at the end of “Doppelganger” we get a glimpse of what the show would be like without its Karl-centric focus. For once Stephen goes on a tangent and tells us about a recent vacation, or holiday as those wacky Brits like to call it, and while it’s a fine enough story for a party, it’s a letdown for the end of the episode. In short, his trip goes awry when he first ends up accidentally naked on a beach and soon afterwards falls sick. The segment is well-told and features some nice animation gags but it’s just tame compared with what we’ve seen during the 20 previous minutes. Without Karl involved, there’s a certain magic that’s missing and when the episode suddenly ends it’s on a weird note that just doesn’t feel right.
Up until then, though, we get a normal dose of wonderfully inane misconceptions from Karl as good as anything we’ve seen before. First there are his thoughts on doppelgangers, which imply that the only reason why he knows where his consciousness resides is because he knows what he looks like. This gradually transitions into some truly weird ideas about what twins are and how they react to the world at large. It’s exactly the type of story he babbles on about the best. From there the show jumps to a section in which Ricky poses a logic problem (the old chestnut about one man who always speaks the truth and another who always lies) and Karl not only fails to solve the problem, he completely fails to understand what the problem he’s being asked is. It’s a little unfair to him, since Karl’s proven time and time again that he doesn’t really understand the concept of a hypothetical problem, but it’s still funny. And honestly it’s pretty hard to pose a question to Karl that doesn’t feel to be unfair.
After that we get everyone’s favorite segment, Karl’s diary, in which we learn that Karl doesn’t understand art. Not that it’s a big surprise, but it’s illustrated well with Dali and has some nice sight gags. As is frequently the case this leads down the path of homophobia for a little while, but this isn’t dwelt on for too long before we learn about the way both Karl and Stephen hate Ricky’s cat.
Finally we come to Stephen’s little monologue, which ends the episode on an odd note. The Ricky Gervais Show tends to have trouble with its endings for a few reasons, but this, since it wasn’t even coming from Karl, felt particularly off. That was the only part of the episode that was a downer, though, so while it wasn’t quite up to what we saw in the premiere, it was definitely a good follow-up and like the premiere had better animation than anything we saw last season.
•“Karl I know you’re fascinated by the concept of the doppelganger.”
•“How would I know which one I was?”
•Actually, a lot of weird problems are caused in the law through identical twins. That being said, Karl’s an idiot.
•“Got some post for God, here. And it needs to be signed.”
•Yeah, who couldn’t see Stephen as the angel and Ricky as the devil
•The detail of Karl putting a chimpanzee portrait on the wall is pretty perfect.
•Dali’s face is a melted clock of sorts as well.
•“Art should be there to tell a story, not just add a splash of color.”
•“To be honest with you, I also hate Ricky’s cat.”
•Vivarium, what a great word.
•To Karl, an ultrasound iis “Science gone mad.”
•Didn’t really need that animated bit of Stephen on the toilet.