One of the things that really sets The Ricky Gervais Show apart from other television shows is that it’s almost story-less. Of course, there are plenty of other reality shows, but even something like American Idol has a plot, which is the journey of how one person out-sings the rest to win the competition. The Ricky Gervais Show is closer to a talk show than anything else, though, a format which relies upon the host or guests to supply stories. Karl Pilkington just happens to be a fantastically terrible storyteller, unaware of whether what he’s saying is interesting or not and liable to switch topics randomly just when things are getting good.
So because of the great likelihood that in the middle of telling us about doing his laundry Karl will become distracted and start ranting about monkeys or freaks or whatever, the show tends to jump around a lot and we rarely get real stories, at least not ones that follow logically. But there’s a reason why I said it’s “almost” story-less, which is that sometimes (usually with help from Stephen and Ricky) an interesting story does get told, and in “Mrs. Battersby” it’s a strange ghost story.
Of course, the subject doesn’t get broached in anything approaching a normal manner. Karl’s explaining that maybe there’s something strange going on in his brain, which might explain why he seems so dim-witted but occasionally has brilliant observations. How this flows into him meeting a ghost is kind of difficult to work out, but it happens naturally and before you know it Karl’s telling a recognizable ghost story. Ricky and Stephen of course ridicule this idea, but it’s nonetheless fascinating, especially when you consider that this may have also just been the result of Karl’s mother telling him a ghost story. In any case, it makes for an entertaining first half of the episode, and a memorably strange bit of Karl’s life.
After a break, Karl begins a segment with the pronouncement that the world is old. Ok, fair enough. He then analogizes it to his aunt Nora, though, and things get weird once more. I truly wish they could one day get his aunt Nora on the show, since she sounds just as strange as her nephew, but in any case this is another strong bit, even if it’s fairly random.
The episode unfortunately goes downhill fast after this, though. First there’s an exceedingly long section about Karl’s dislike for people not coming into work due to snow. Ricky tries to take this into interesting territory, but Karl doesn’t bite. This is followed up with some entries in Karl’s diary, which are decent enough but nothing special. The diary segment also ends the episode with a rather lame joke that makes the episode really peter out.
“Mrs. Battersby” is one of the least consistent episodes of The Ricky Gervais Show, which isn’t a good thing. It was also a bit less focused than the last few—long-ish segments, but pretty unrelated to one another. Let’s hope that the show picks it up a bit more as we start finishing off the season.
•“I just think he’s been dealt a bad hand in the brains department … thoughts Karl?”
•Nice detail that Karl’s reading about freaks.
•Wait, Karl was stuck in a bush of nettles for an hour and a half?
•”Fuck me, he’s like a cartoon.” – Well, yes.
•”I don’t understand why you don’t have direct access to your memories.”
•”I know that when I was a kid I ate a beatle.” – what makes this so great is that he finds this sentence totally normal.
•Karl on eating wasabi: “I thought it was one mushy pea.”
•”All I had for company was a calculator.”
•”We have to face facts here: the world is old.
•”We are not the same as the first man nature made … and that is where we went wrong.”
•Another really nice detail, this time not from the show’s animators, is that that Sheila’s wife is “Karl, who doesn’t work.”
•”Every noise has been used at least five times.”
•”Say like a new frog comes out.”