‘After Life’ review: Ricky Gervais mixes comedy and grief in bittersweet Netflix series

Gervais’ TV output has taken a darker flip since “The Office,” with the nice “Extras” adopted by the a lot much less worthwhile “Derek.” As an outspoken atheist, his new current provides with weighty materials — particularly, how one can course of dying and loss with out the comfort that religion brings to our understanding of them — whereas nonetheless veering, usually awkwardly, into quirky comedic situations.

Here, he performs Tony, a reporter for a small newspaper (the bizarre people he meets engaged on human-interest choices current quite a lot of the comedy) devastated by his partner’s dying as a consequence of most cancers.

“It broke me,” he confesses in a later episode. “I just don’t see any point in living.”

Those spherical Tony try and tiptoe spherical his fragile emotional state, beginning collectively together with his brother-in-law (Tom Basden), who moreover happens to be his boss. But the precept conceit is that Tony’s indifference to carrying on turns right into a kind of “super power,” as he locations it, allowing him to say precisely what he thinks and typically put himself in damage’s means when the state of affairs requires it.

At first, there’s not lots satisfying in hanging spherical with a character who’s every surly and suicidal, inclined to sulking as he watches films of his late accomplice, whereas being launched via a series of unpleasant encounters with random people. About the one creature he displays any affection is his canine, even snapping on the children who attend faculty collectively together with his nephew.

Gradually, though, rays of hope begin to emerge as Tony sleepwalks by his days — meeting a wisdom-dispensing widow (“Downton Abbey’s” Penelope Wilton) on the cemetery, experimenting with drugs and shopping for and promoting barbs with the nurse (“Extras” co-star Ashley Jensen) attending to his rising outdated father (“The Strain’s” David Bradley), who’s in throes of dementia.

Gervais’ comedy sometimes thrives on a mannequin of misanthropy, pushing to the sting of that bleak analysis of human nature sooner than stepping once more from the abyss. So when Tony says early on “There’s no advantage to being nice, and thoughtful, and caring,” it’s principally serving uncover that “After Life” will include the strategy of establishing in direction of discovering some motive to think about in some other case, nonetheless hopeless all of it could presumably appear at first.

Tony’s uneven evolution might be an inevitable aspect impression of contemplating existential factors all through the confines of this six-episode format. Ultimately, though, Gervais has produced a series that tackles the biggest of questions and darkest of concepts in a characteristically uncomfortable, comparatively modest and lastly satisfying methodology.

“After Life” premieres March 8 on Netflix.

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