Since the original British run of The Office propelled them out of obscurity and into the comedy big leagues, Stephen Merchant has largely existed in the shadow of his friend and creative partner, Ricky Gervais -- the gawky Samwise to his jerky Frodo. Initially, his sidekick status was something as a hindrance as much of the attention and acclaim that greeted The Office and later Extras was directed at his co-writer. But in the long run, being in the background has probably paid off for as Gervais has steadily gone from being the life of the party to the guy nobody wants in the room (courtesy of those initially funny, then disastrous Golden Globes gigs), Merchant's career prospects and public persona have remained largely unchanged. He's still the gangly guy who practices the same brand of awkward humor as his buddy, but seems far less mean about it.
If you're a fan of Ricky Gervais, either because of his witty stand-up routines or the original (and superior) Office or the clever, cameo-ridden Extras, then you are probably chomping at the bit for any new material he produces (aside from some of his misguided movies --can we just pretend that The Invention of Lying never happened?). The folks at HBO know about his rabid fans (and I'm one of them, too) and wisely greenlit this new show as part of their attempt to expand their Friday night lineup. However, the simply titled The Ricky Gervais Show isn't exactly offering up any new or ground-breaking material. In fact, it's just his legendary podcasts (which made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most downloaded podcasts ever) in animated form. But while you might be inclined to write them off if you've already heard them, as I initially was, I found them totally worth watching.
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