One reason I was both excited and reluctant to cover The Ricky Gervais Show is how incredibly different it is from pretty much everything else on TV. It’s not quite reality television, a genre in which I have pretty much no interest. It’s probably closer to documentary. But the show’s also animated, making the whole thing even more difficult to categorize. It’s probably most similar to is Ari Folman’s film Waltz with Bashir—another interview-based documentary that’s animated—but there’s obviously a world of difference in what the two are trying to accomplish. The show is ultimately a glorified version of Gervais’ podcast, but they’re put together in a way that’s almost completely unique.
So the show can’t be covered the way I like to look at other comedies, addressing plots and characters and such because there are none. Seinfeld called itself a show about nothing, but Gervais’ truly is—there’s never been any attempt at pretending the show’s anymore than two comedians and their buffoonish friend having a chat. It just so happens that the trio is a wonderful mix, with Karl Pilkington offering insane ideas, Ricky Gervais getting frustrated listening to Karl, and Stephen Merchant sitting on the side offering snide comments. The show’s tagline pretty much explains the entire premise: “For the past few years, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington have been meeting regularly for a series of pointless conversations. This is one of them.”
With Season 2’s premiere the show takes on the simplest form we’ve seen yet. Every episode is edited together from the best parts of a podcast the trio recorded years ago, but they’re usually a bit more heterogeneous, featuring segments such as readers’ questions for Karl, monkey news, etc. Here there’s just two parts: Karl explaining a terrible, terrible movie idea he pitched and reading from his diary. The former comes out of a project we may see more from in the future, Ricky’s attempt to get Karl famous (because these aren’t full episodes of the podcast, it can be difficult to say what will make it in), while the later has quickly become the best segment of the entire show.
Karl’s pitch is exactly the sort of reason why you watch the show. Clive Warren [sic] and Rebecca De Mornay star in a movie about what happens when a guy gets killed, or perhaps in an endless coma, and she decides to put half of his brain into hers. Also, the doctor doing this is Morgan Freeman, because why not. It’s a typically nonsensical story idea that has more plot holes than 2012, and best of all it ends up as a really strange lesbian fantasy for Karl. As Merchant says, it’s a compelling story, not because it’s any good (it isn’t), but because you just want to see where Karl will take things next.
The final third of the episode is devoted to reading from Karl’s diary. We mainly learn that he hates camping and when he does so tends to camp on the trash left by other campers for reasons that make logical sense only in his head. We also learn that he spent a day hanging out by a pool acting as a bug lifeguard. As with many of his diary entries, the lesson seems to be that Karl has way, way too much time on his hands. What was previously the show’s most regular segment, Monkey News, was intermittently interesting but frequently rather frustrating, since from almost their first line you knew where they were going, but Karl’s diary remains an infinitely fascinating look into the wonder that is Karl Pilkington.
In all, a very strong premiere episode that has some long stretches of the craziest stories the show’s featured thus far. It was also very nicely animated, which might be part of why it was chosen. Illustrating Karl’s interview with the producers and all the craziness of his film gives us some nice visuals away from the studio. Ricky Gervais Show episodes can blend together pretty easily, but the brain transplant story and bug life-guarding are some of the most memorable ideas that it’s explored thus far.
• The animation seemed a little bit crisper and more fluid to me here than last season, but I could be wrong.
• “When you just talk I find that your mouth comes out with stuff.”
• “There’s no such thing as a brain donor. I’ve explained it to you before.”
• “The point of the film is that the dead man can remind the girl what breakfast cereal she likes.”
• “It’s the greatest love story ever told, set in a head.”
• “Relationships is a love of two brains.”
• Karl won’t accept sausages from strangers because he thinks it’s an invention for sex. “It starts off with sausages and then, you know…”