“After Life”: a (fairly) new television show

May 2, 2020 • 12:15 pm

Now this is a show after my own heart: it stars a depressed atheist and also features the lovely Philomena Cunk (aka Diane Morgan), long a heartthrob of mine. Created, produced and directed by Ricky Gervais, it’s called After Life, and has finished its second season. Its premise, given on its Wikipedia page, is this:

After Life follows Tony, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He contemplates suicide, but instead decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants. Although he thinks of this as his “superpower”, his plan is undermined when everyone around him tries to make him a better person. It is set in the fictional town of Tambury, where Tony works as a journalist at the local free newspaper, The Tambury Gazette.

Reader Karl sent me three links to YouTube summaries, and this first one, featuring Tony (Ricky Gervais) mostly bantering with Kath (Morgan), who works on the newspaper, got me intrigued.

And then I watched the recaps of the two seasons (below), and thought, “This is one television show I’d really like to see.” It’s not really a comedy, and not really a drama, but apparently a slice of life that could well have been real. And it seems to deal with real human emotions, often dark ones.

I wonder if there will be a season 3. (Since I don’t get cable or belong to Netflix, I can’t watch this, but maybe I should.) I presume at least a few readers have followed this show, so please give your takes below.



80 thoughts on ““After Life”: a (fairly) new television show

      1. “Dropped” would be more fitting than “began”, since Netflix doesn’t show weekly episodes, they made the whole of season 2 available on April 24.

        1. “released”, “published”, “made available”.

          “Dropped” is on Jerry’s list of “words and phrases I hate”. I agree with him. “Dropped” used to mean “cancelled”. I see no reason to change that.

          Get off my lawn!

  1. Season 2 just finished. I think it’s ok. It has its moments. I especially like when Tony smacks would be muggers in the head with his can of dog food. I found that relatable. There have been times I’ve been pissed off enough that I didn’t give a shit what happened to me and was bold like that. One involved being angry at a computer. Most of my anger is from a computer not going what it should.

      1. Maybe it was a typo and she found that “real table” at a yard sale. What that has to do with the rest of her comment is unclear though.

          1. Yeah well what would you rather I say? It seems the best word to select to describe a feeling that I can relate to. Shall I say the long sentence instead?

              1. I know what a cunt I am for using my own words. I shouldn’t be allowed to live since I’m such a cunt.

  2. The first season was phenomenal. It’s odd that Gervais wanted to do a followup because everything seemed to be wrapped up by the end of the sixth episode. But Gervais is full of surprises and is such a smart writer, so I suspect season two will be great.

    1. I laughed at the Netflix arming: suicide, smoking, language. Good grief we can’t even deal with suicide? They never have a warning about murder. They’d just say violence or mature themes. We have such a strange relationship to suicide.

        1. People’s heads are blown off and they bleep “shit”. I always got a kick out of the fact that among all the violence in “24”, the worst that Jack Bauer would say was “son of a bitch”.

          1. I know. An Jack was so violent! Torturing people regularly but he didn’t swear so he was alright.

  3. We get a huge kick out of “After Life,” across which I stumbled after I heard about Ricky Gervais’s speech at the Oscars, or one of those other self-congratulatory actor ego-moshpits. Just the look on Meryl Streeeep’s face was priceless. So when I heard about the show, I gave it a shot.
    “After Life” manages at once to be charming and incisive, and the array of characters reflects many in my own small Rocky Mountain town. Too, as one whose youngest daughter was killed some years ago, I can identify emphatically with much of the haunting of Gervais’s character, Tony. In all, while I’m not overmuch for sitcoms, if indeed this is what we’re discussing here, I certainly do hope for a third season, and many more.

    1. If you’re enjoying Gervais’ comedy, you have to watch Extras. He created that show with Stephen Merchant and it’s just hilarious. Ricky Gervais plays an extra who’s trying (and failing) to break into a real acting career. It also has a ton of hilarious cameos, my two favorites being David Bowie’s and Sir Patrick Stewart’s. Here’s the latter:


      Look up the outtakes for the scene as well (I don’t want to post two videos, but it’s also on Youtube).

      1. Yes, thank you. As I said, “one of those other self-congratulatory actor ego-moshpits.” I looked it up AFTER I sent my earlier comment, and had many a chuckle. Then I fell into a YouTube rabbit-hole of Ricky Gervais interviews with Richard Dawkins and others. Interesting fellow, “not just another funny guy.”

  4. I also want to recommend Ricky Gervais’s other sitcoms. There’s the famous “The Office”, of course, both in UK and American versions. But one you might have missed is “Extras”, one of my favorites.

    Gervais plays an “extra”, an actor playing a very minor role. This premise brilliantly allows them to devote each episode to a different show in which he’s an extra and cameo all kinds of big stars playing the main actors on the show within a show. My favorite episode is the one with the late David Bowie.

    1. “Extras” – brilliant! That one scene when Bowie serenades Gervais with his impromptu song “Little Fat Man” is one of my favorites!

      I also loved the episode when Ian McKellan explains to Gervais what acting actually is: it’s pretending something that isn’t true. “You know when I’m Gandalf” Sir Ian says, “I’m just pretending. I’m not really a wizard.”

      Gervais has also explored these “after life” or ideas about religion in movies, with mixed success IMHO.

      Larry Smith

    2. Ah, all I had to do was read one comment further to see someone already recommended Extras! And you even mentioned one of the two cameos I did.

      I never liked The Office much (though his original creation was certainly far superior to the little I’ve watched of the American version). Still, I’m a big fan of his, including his standup comedy specials.

  5. Have not seen Season 2, but Season 1 was brilliant and Gervais is deserving of all the accolades he has received. Will watch Season 2 for sure. You should splurge, Jerry!

  6. Excellent choice. Although not really a comedy I found the first season to be quite humerous; the second less so but certainly had its moments. Poignant.

    1. I love the psychologist or therapist guy, though I don’t see why anyone would seek advice from him. If I remember correctly, he was in the first season but he seems to be featured more prominently in the second, though I have only watched 3 episodes so far.

      1. I kept asking why Tony’s brother-in-law kept going to him. The character was almost too much; I didn’t find him funny just completely repugnant.

        1. It seems like most of the characters are over-the-top and unrealistic. I figure they’re calculated to make Gervais’s character appear normal.

          Although the therapist is really over the top, he’s just an extreme version of guys I’ve run across when I was young. It’s the so-called “locker room banter”. Mostly just talk but it still reflects a broken view of life, IMHO.

  7. I loved both seasons, well written funny poignant and thoughtful. The only bad part is the episodes go by so quickly.
    I think NetFlix still offers the first month for free, cancel anytime after that.

  8. Season 2 (or “Series 2”) just came out, so it will probably be awhile till it’s even decided if there’ll be a third.

    We watched season 1, and season 2 is on the watch list. I liked season 1, but towards the end it got dark in a bad way. (The whole thing is dark, but there’s good dark, and bad dark.)

    I did enjoy “Philomena” (and Shaun of the Dead’s mum)!

    1. I liked when he told off the kid and that kid deserved it. And when he introduced his sex worker friend as his cleaning lady and gave her the keys to his house because he “didn’t want to back down”.

  9. We just binged watched both seasons. Don’t read any further if you want to avoid spoilers! The first starts out marvelous and is quite funny with Gervais’ type of humor that walks a tightrope between being hilarious or just cruel. But it runs out of steam toward the end and really should have stopped after season one. The second season was much more of a slog where each episode seemed a repeat of will he or won’t he: commit suicide; get it off with Emma; run out of videos of Lisa to cry about. (no to the first, ends with a yes to the second, probably not to the third). All the oddball loner characters end up paired off with a complimentary oddball. Typical happy ending you could see coming from a mile away. The only really funny parts are the occasional interviews of Tambury residents like the 50 year old man who declares he is now an 8 year old girl. Oh, and the dog steals every scene she is in.

    1. Season One was brilliant. Season Two, not so much. Started to become tedious with some players dissolving into weak caricatures of what they could have been. If there had been a shark in Episode 4 of Season 2, someone would have jumped it.

    2. I liked season 2 more than season 1. I think it is very real in how he is feeling and how he thinks about suicide. If you’ve ever had depression I think it is dead on to how that feels and your weird relationship with suicide.

  10. Yeah, it’s worth a watch. I’m only two episodes into season 2, and am a little concerned that it’s playing some running gags into the ground, but we’ll see. Only a couple new, but minor, characters have been introduced, and Gervais is still hopelessly morose, which is getting a little old.

    1. Of course he is still morose – he lost the love of his life. I lost my husband two years ago and it brought me to my knees. Time is a great leveller, and I’m getting stronger day by day, but I’ll be forever broken. You spend your life thinking if only I had said this, done that – the same thoughts that haunt Tony. Weirdly, sad as it is sometimes, the series has helped me come to terms with losing a loved one – made me realise there are so many people out there going through the most terrible grief and that we are not alone.

  11. I liked both seasons. However, to some extent season 2 is a repeat of season 1. The epiphany at the end of 1 seems non-existent in 2. That is my quibble, but I still liked it.

  12. I’ve not seen any of it yet but I will. The reviews didn’t show Morgan in season 2. Is she not there? That would be a disappointment.

  13. Didn’t know there was a second season out, so thanks for that. Loved the first season and recommended it to numerous people who hadn’t heard of it.

    My favorite bit was with the fat woman who asserted that being fat saved her life because a sharp object missed her vital organs, to which the reply was: “Not really. If you’d been thinner it would have missed you altogether–no problem.” Wonderful stuff.

    Gervais’s brilliance lies in his sheer, unrelenting honesty. He goes over the top sometimes, but when he’s on, he’s on.

    1. He just cracks me right up. I loved his show on XM and I’m sad he’s not doing it because there were times I was listening in my car and I thought I’d have to pull over because I was laughing so hard it was unsafe.

      1. Him and Karl had some kind of falling out. It’s tragic for us fans but towards the end of the relationship it was basically just Ricky prodding Karl to talk about hairy Chinese kids over and over again.

        I also remember laughing to the point of endangering myself during one of Karl’s Monkey News: the one where he’s talking about the first monkey to ‘fly a rocket into space’. It’s the dynamics between Ricky, Steve and Karl, and particularly Ricky’s shrieking, disbelieving laughter when Karl says something especially absurd: that’s what I really miss. I used to listen to it as I fell asleep.

        They’re all so stupefyingly wealthy by now though so they don’t really need to reform. And comedy reunions are almost always terrible anyway. Look at Arrested Development…

  14. The premise reminds me of one of my favorite films, Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School.

    It is a bittersweet story of a man losing his wife to suicide, fulfilling the last wish of a motorist he encounters on the road and personal growth and redemption.

  15. We loved the entire two seasons. It seems like a lot of people here don’t seem to care for season two so much. I think they’re wrong. Both seasons are brilliant, and worth watching.

  16. I’ve just watched the first episode of season 1 of After Life. Some funny moments, but I found it too depressing. I don’t think I’ll be watching any more of it.

  17. In common with almost everything Ricky Gervais has done this show is really good. He has an amazing ability to convey a serious and moving underlying message while making you cry with laughter. His characters are very real and relatable, and his positivity and belief in human kind’s better qualities show up everywhere in his material. Even the characters that start off appearing to be unpleasant eventually show their humanity, displaying decency, vulnerability and kindness.

    I believe Gervais was nearly 40 when he first became successful. So, like many of us, he had a few crappy jobs before he found his calling, and this definitely comes through in his material. In all his shows there are characters stuck in frustrating jobs and situations, there are also people that are content just to plod along. The local newspaper office in After Life is a perfect example – the sense of ennui and malaise is palpable, but it makes it all the more relatable.

    The Office was his first popular show, followed by Extras – both brilliant. After that was Derek in which Ricky plays the lead role as a care home worker who’s is obviously autistic. He’s also the loveliest person who loves looking after the older people and animals too. Derek’s kindness and tenderness are wonderful to watch and make me feel all is not bad in the world. There is one scene in which Derek sees his favourite dog die – this was one of the most moving things I have ever seen on a screen, period. And even though that was very sad, it truly is an uplifting and amazing series.

    One of my favourite quotes from Derek the character is:

    “I don’t think it matters if there is a god or not. I’ve met people who believe in God that are good and that are bad. And I’ve met people who don’t believe in God that are good and that are bad. So, just be good. I’m good. Not cos I think I’ll go to heaven but because when I do something bad, I feel bad. And when I do something good, I feel good.”

    And Ricky Gervais on his Derek character:

    “He is like us when we were eight. He is like us before we discovered lying and competition and selfishness and started to shut up when we were excited in case it looked uncool. He has everything sorted.”

    And another, about the Derek series:

    “If there is a theme, it’s kindness. Kindness trumps everything.”

    I would say watch After Life, but also watch Extras and especially watch Derek, I’m sure you will love them all Jerry. The episodes will make you cry with laughter and you’ll feel uplifted by the positivity.

  18. My partner and I binge-watched the two seasons last week. We loved it. Apart from Ricky Gervais and Diane Morgan there’s an outstanding set of supporting actors – I particularly loved Penelope Wilton as the woman Ricky meets in the cemetery. It has laugh-out-loud moments but also moments that had us in tears. The second season ends with a twist that hit me hard because it resonates with my own experiences.

  19. I adore this show. I laughed and cried my way through both seasons and plan on rewatching it. If I didn’t have Netflix to watch it, I would absolutely consider myself less than for having not seen it.

  20. I’m enjoying watching it. At times it’s a bit dark and depressing for me in these days of isolation, so i have to do a palette cleanse and watch something more up tempo.

  21. I just now watched all of season 2. That last episode in the last scene really got to me. Not to spoil it but when the dog is barking. OMG something about that is so touching. Figures I am touched by the animal scenes not the human ones.

    1. And because Gervais is an animal lover, the dog is not just used as a prop, she’s a necessary character on the show.

  22. Here’s the blurb I used when sharing this blog entry on FB: This series is a “must watch” for any atheist contemplating human emotional responses to loss. Beautifully acted and full of comedic moments along with a lot of deep philosophical thinking expressed with the kind of clarity which only Gervais manages to pull off.

    The main character played by Gervais comes off as a warm, caring human being who has completely run out of fucks to give and expresses his thoughts and feelings without filter but with sometimes stunning clarity of thought. It was (despite the rather dark backstory) an uplifting experience to watch season 1. I’m looking forward to watching season 2 soon.

  23. To all the people hoping for series 3: it’s unlikely. Gervais has a track record of doing only two series even of his most successful shows. I think he’s concerned about pushing a premise too far.

  24. Spectacular story telling…character actors, just superb…main cast,
    pure talent and believe ability. The writing, direction and production are the “stuff” of must see movies.
    So satisfying!
    S. Coley

  25. “Afterlife” is my favorite show. I’m rationing series 2 but only have 2 episodes left. I love the characters and the way Ricky weaves his best atheist/skeptic arguments into his scenes with Diane Morgan.

  26. This is quite possibly the best show I have ever watched. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole, for sure, but I think it’s well-deserved. I wish it wasn’t only 6 episodes per season. The final two episodes of Season 2 had me alternately crying and smiling.

    1. Agreed. I just finished season 2 today. There is a lot of dark and not so dark humour along with a lot of Gervais’ direct and spot-on truths about life, the Universe, and everything. His interactions with the 5 main female characters in the story were heartwarming and alternately laugh out loud funny and tear-jerking.

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