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TV Review: The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO

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HBO has just aired the final episode of The Ricky Gervais Show season 3. Sadly, if we’re to believe Gervais’s Twitter feed, one of the funniest shows on television is at its end.

Based on the immensely popular podcast, first impressions of The Ricky Gervais Show were tempered by Gervais’s seemingly mean-spirited humor as host of the Golden Globes. And he pulls no punches on his obsession with co-star Karl Pilkington. During the show, Gervais and Stephen Merchant pry into Karl’s mind to explore his worldview, often calling him an idiot and pointing bad logic.

But Karl is more than just a punching bag for them; he is a close friend of Gervais and Merchant. They appreciate Karl’s simpler point of view (even if it is confused most times). The dynamic between Ricky’s cynicism, Stephen’s quiet mediation, and Karl’s wide-eyed wonder reflects a beautiful, triangulated expression of each of us. We all have these facets to our personality; our hearts agree with some of Karl’s musings, even when our brains reject them.

The cartoon treatment of the podcast brings out the innocence Gervais finds so fascinating in Karl. The characters are lovably-designed, and the animated flights into Karl’s imagination are a laugh-induced ab workout every episode. Despite the name-calling, we get a definite sense from the show that Ricky Gervais has a profound respect for his friend Karl that goes deeper than off-the-cuff insults. We get the sense that Gervais really does believe that life in Karl’s mind must be more fun.

The fun these friends share is never sentimentalized or drawn out. Ricky, Karl, and Stephen are who they are, and they don’t script anything. Though they set the stage with discussion topics, the humor is allowed to come out naturally and spontaneously, often with unexpected digressions and asides. It never seems forced, but like a living-room discussion you might have with your friends.

The conversational hilarity and storybook imagery fit into a nostalgic socket in our brains. The Ricky Gervais Show feels like an old friend we can talk to again and again without getting bored. Now that the show has run it’s course, let’s hope a complete box set is released with a ton of special features. Until then, we’ll have to be content with An Idiot Abroad, Derek, Life’s Too Short and Ricky Gervais…Obviously.



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