This is comedy at its most serene and absurd. How is that possible?
The series was created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais who also stars as the leading character Tony. Tony had a perfect life. As he said, “I won at life.” Nothing else he ever did was worth it. His life was perfect because of his wife Lisa. She had only imperfection and it was a big one—she got cancer and died too young. She is dead before the series starts. But Lisa left Tony instructions on her computer—a video of her talking combined with videos of her and Tony while married before she got sick. Often he is watching the videos alone at night with a glass of wine. This is their after life.
After she died Tony decided the only way he could carry on would be to say and do whatever he wanted. He would give no thought to anyone else. He would not care about anyone else. If all else failed he can always commit suicide. That is what he can always fall back on. He thinks of that as his superpower. In time Tony realizes this is not such a great superpower. “You can’t not care about something you actually care about. You can’t fool yourself.” His superpower fizzles out. So you care and that ruins everything. But thank goodness it does not ruin the comedy.
The series has a host of off beat characters. Lenny his photographer best buddy who says little but makes Tony realize there is beauty in the ordinary. Roxy the prostitute who prefers to be called a sex worker. His colleague Sandy who just wants him to be happy. The mailman is a lunatic. Simple not? No! His demented father who usually sits in his room staring and doing nothing but occasionally making a profound statement. At least so it seems. Postman Pat who wants Tony to find a bird (woman) no matter how undesirable he appears. The drug addict who Tony helps to O.D. What kind of help is that? There are others from the sublime to the ridiculous, in particular the people Tony meets, with Lenny, as they prepare vignettes about locals for their newspaper. Each of them in their own way is trying to find a place where they belong.
All in all, it makes you realize that Tony was right when he says “we’re all screwed up in one way or another. It’s what makes us normal.”
Sitting on a bench talking to Anne who has also lost a spouse Tony realizes that even though he is in pain, “it is worth sticking around to maybe make my little corner of the world a slightly better place.” A modest goal, but one with profound consequences for Tony. As another friend Anne says,
“That’s all there is. Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.” It’s that lovely thing. A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in. Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end. And you’re good Tony. You have so much to give. Smart funny. Lovely.”
And that really is it. You don’t need grand designs. We don’t need huge ambition. We can do a lot with a little. A little kindness goes a long way.
This is my kind of afterlife.