Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pilot Review: After Life

After Life (Netflix)
Premiered March 8

A comedy about a man who loses his wife and then decides that he can say whatever he wants to anyone since nothing matters anymore? Sure, that could work. Cast someone like Jim Carrey in the lead role and you probably have a recipe for success. But this is one case where the person playing the protagonist can be truly problematic. Ricky Gervais as someone who says horrible things to anyone around him isn’t hard to fathom since that’s a character he’s often played, but what is impossible to believe is that he could have been a nice guy before all of it. I’m not sure that there’s too much in the way of sincere originality here, but Gervais casting himself in the project is what made it least convincing for me. This isn’t his first crack at a television show by any stretch, with “The Office,” “Extras,” and “Derek” all coming before this in terms of projects he both starred in and created. He’s a personality that takes some getting used to, and Tony feels like a natural fit for him. Having an idealistic reporter who just wants to write features while he constantly mocks the poor reputation of the newspaper seems like a forced attempt at sentimentality, something that probably won’t work too well. All told, nothing in this first half-hour was all that funny, and I think many who tune in might be disappointed just to see Gervais being mean to people rather than getting the opportunity to experience someone continuing on after their natural time on earth.

How will it work as a series? Like most of Gervais’ past shows, this one is only slated to run six episodes, which means there doesn’t need to be too much filler content. If nothing else, this episode did dive right in, using one introductory video to do all of the exposition and seamlessly filling in the other details as it went on. It’s going to have to decide where it wants to be funny or heartwarming or risk being neither, which is what I’m imagining will happen.
How long will it last? The reviews may not be superb, but Gervais is a bankable commodity. None of his previous shows have lasted more than two short seasons and a holiday special, and so it’s completely reasonable to expect the exact same here. I’m actually predicting that it won’t be renewed, but I think it’s definitely a toss-up.

Pilot grade: C+

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