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.
For those unfamiliar with the podcasts, the talent consists of Ricky himself, his writing-directing partner Stephen Merchant and the wonderfully dopey Karl Pilkington (think of Sherri Shepherd not knowing that the world is round). The majority of these chats start off on one topic and then devolve into Ricky and Stephen just laughing/mocking the inane ramblings about the world at large that Karl spews. My personal favorite segment is "Monkey News" and I was so delighted that it was part of the TV show's first episode.
The animation is clean and colorful, though Ricky's animated self looks more like Fred Flintstone than anyone else and they really exaggerated the much-mocked round head of Karl, while Stephen's cartooned version is pretty dead-on. As they talk about topics like controlling the population, monkeys in space and the best invention of the 20th century, their words are turned into cartoons. There are cute little monkeys, Karl as a caveman in a Flintstones car and some disturbing imagery of an old woman turning into a baby. Clearly, the animators are fans of the podcasts and had a field day with the random subject matter that they got to conceptualize.
Though I've listened to the podcasts, and even read them in book form, I still chuckled again as I watched this adult cartoon. Funny is just funny, no matter the format. And watching Ricky's Flintstone avatar just guffaw constantly at Karl's inappropriate suggestions never gets old. My only wish is that if HBO commissions another season, they insist on the boys recording all-new podcasts to animate, so that there are surprises for those of us who have already heard the audio versions over and over again. Oh, and if they could somehow do a bonus episode featuring Ricky's stand-up bit in which he reads from an old STD prevention pamphlet, I'd probably just put it on infinite loop on my TV.
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