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After Life


What's the next show you should binge on Netflix? If you aren't one of the many millions who have done so already, drop everything and immerse yourself Ricky Gervais' brilliant After Life.

Tamara and I finished the last three episodes of Season 1 and all 6 episodes of Season 2 last night. We limped away exhausted from laughing until our faces hurt and the almost breathless sobs of grief that were pulled up in us by Gervais brilliant writing.

AFTER LIFE's subjects are close to home for us. In the past six years, we've lost our daughter and watched my Mom slip into the depths of Alzheimer's where she lives her life in hours or snippets of time instead of hours & days.

Those subjects are not touched on by the series, they're delved into, along with addiction, grief, religion, atheism and social status but always with a brilliant balance of laughter and drama that heightens every moment into something much more tangible.

Gervais stars as Tony, a recent widower who's lost the love of his life. Lisa (Kerry Godliman) secretly recorded video messages to Tony to watch after she's gone. Tony starts and ends most days watching them.

His day job, which he floats into and out of at will, is as a reporter for a local, non-profit newspaper. His fellow staff are the most hilarious, eclectic bunch of characters you've seen since Gervais' classic original "The Office".

Tony Way (Edge of Tomorrow) is Lenny, staff photographer and pudgy ladies man. Mandeep Dhillon (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) is young new reporter Sandy. Diane Morgan (Me Before You) is office mystic, Kevin Hart megafan Kath and Tom Basden is editor and Tony's brother-in-law Matt.

Like "The Office" and another all-time fave "The Vicar of Dibley", the cast is large and every person in Tony's life has impact on the story.

A local sex worker, Tony's postman, a wealthy owner of the paper and the random lot of oddities that fill the front page of the local paper all provide targets for Tony's acidic attacks. But interestingly, none are quite who you expect them to be.

Tony is one of the most miserable people on the planet. But in Gervais hands as actor/writer/director, you see behind the hateful barbs and sarcasm. You're with Tony alone, when the incredible pain of his loss overwhelms him. Gervais is a powerful actor.

Having been through crippling grief, Tamara and I turned to each other several times and said "he's really captured the worst moments". Those times when everything feels meaningless and you dont feel like continuing. It's crippling. In After Life, it's tangible.

Gervais brilliantly balances the tears with huge laughs. Some of my favorite moments are Tony's chats on a cemetery bench with Anne (the excellent Penelope Wilton) a recent widow who's husband's grave sits adjacent to Lisa's. Their conversations are so much more therapeutic than Tony's laugh-out-loud horrific sessions with his loose cannon, vile psychiatrist (Paul Kaye from "Game of Thrones") that they form the heart of the show.

Tony also makes daily visits to his Dad in a care facility. Racked by Alzheimer's his father (the terrific David Bradley of "Harry Potter" fame) rarely knows who Tony is, but will often ask about Lisa. His Dad's care nurse (Ashley Jensen) is one of the first people to see past Tony's hard shell to realize there is a heart beating in there...somewhere.

Gervais navigates an amazing journey across the two series. In lesser hands, Tony would grieve and get better, meet someone nice and move on to a comfy next chapter. Gervais doesn't settle for any false notes or storybook bullshit.

Suicidal, buried in pain, racked with platitudes from well meaning people, Tony ponders taking his own life, saying that he'd "rather be nowhere with her than somewhere without her."

Like real-life, AFTER LIFE is wonderful, profane, painful, hilarious and loaded with redemption and set backs. It's Gervais best work and one of my favorite, arguably my favorite series of all time. A+++

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