The Ricky Gervais Show Review: Drawing A Blank

April 23, 2010 by  
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THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW: Friday 23rd April, Channel 4, 10.30pm ALERT ME

Having created one of the best comedies in living memory, Ricky Gervais has set about spreading himself in the world of Hollywood films, to different comedy formats, and even getting amongst children’s books. Now, it would appear, he is trying his hand at cartoons.

Well, to say it is his doing is a little generous, because The Ricky Gervais Show is simply HBO filming one of his podcasts and turning Gervais, his sidekick Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkingon into well conceived doodles.

You can imagine the phone call he received from America, “Hey Ricky…we want to turn you, Karl and Stephen into a cartoon.? “…Ok then?.

As a Ricky Gervais podcast, it is as funny as ever; Ricky and Stephen quiz Karl on various topics ranging from the bizarre to the bland, and he gives his usual dead-pan, monotone retorts. Subject matter covered includes Karl’s worry about the progression of technology, his ideas on how to preserve life, and the story of the first monkey in space. Ricky gives his screaming laughter in all the right places and Merchant backs the proceedings up with sarcastic asides.

However, the point of the cartoon element is a mystery. It’s not a problem, it just doesn’t add anything to the dynamic that the famous podcast has created, and you are almost left wanting to see their real facial expressions to consolidate the fun. Although there’s no reason why Gervais shouldn’t have agreed to this, there’s just not a lot of reasons to support its existence.

Moreover, to call it a cartoon would be misleading. Apart from occasional cut-aways to illustrate a point Karl is trying to make, the three drawings do not move from their studio positions. I thought there would be more movement, perhaps a small story or narrative for the three to overcome, but it did not materialise. Indeed, if this were the case, it would almost certainly have been cringe worthy and unwatchable – but it would have at least justified the cartoon aspect of this new show.

I’m a fan of a lot of Ricky Gervais’s work, including his audio podcasts with Karl Pilkington, and I inevitably enjoyed this as well. You can’t help but smile and laugh as the conversation expands into the same ever more ridiculous direction we were treated to on the likes of XFM, and to its credit, the drawings are subtle, and there’s none of the fanfare that America can sometimes add to English material.

The whole point of a cartoon in this context, however, infinitely evades me. Perhaps it’s some mission to dominate every single corner of visual and audio media on Gervais and Merchant’s part. If this is the case – good luck lads. But it might be more advisable to stick to what you know.