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"The Ricky Gervais Show": Insane Ramblings of a Perfectly Circular Headcase

by on January 17, 2011

For a few years now, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington have sat down to have some pointless conversations. Since 2010, HBO has animated them. On the eve of their second season, HBO has released the first season of discussions on DVD. They are much less Ricky Gervais: The Animated Series and much more The Ramblings Of Three Brits.

Ricky Gervais is, most likely, the only one of the three that most Americans could even recognize; he starred in the British version of The Office, has had a few roles in movies and cameos in television shows, but hasn’t become an iconic figure in Hollywood, despite that being a goal in Extras. Stephen Merchant is his buddy, co-writing and co-starring in many productions, such as playing the agent to Ricky’s actor in Extras. Karl Pilkington, the odd one out and nearly the star of this podcast series, is a friend and producer, and by many accounts, quite possibly a madman of the kind who believes that babies should pop out of the elderly when they die at the set age of 78.

Therein lies much of the drive for the series. The purported insanity of many of Karl’s beliefs and streams of thought become the focus of most of the series; the intro to each episodes epitomizes this with Ricky and Steven just wanting to listen to Karl’s comments. The comments are so insane at times that, reportedly, Ricky and Stephen have had to maintain that Karl is not a character they’ve created, and pointed out that it takes them a year to write six episodes of television.

Throughout each episode, they go through recurring segments. Usually they start with a point of discussion or fan question, threading to an update on Monkey News from around the world, and later in the season adding excerpts from Karl’s diary (once they discover that a tome of such madness exists). There’s no plot or adventures, just bits of discussion with recurring jokes. Much as with Shorties Watching Shorties, the animated format allows the hypothetical or referenced situations to be animated with much comedic styling.

The series is a hard beast to review using traditional benchmarks. There’s no soundtrack to speak of, no voice acting to criticize, no script to bemoan or praise, and honestly, very little animation to nitpick. What is there are funny comments and observations, and the bizarre thoughts of Karl Pilkington contrasted against the arguments of Ricky Gervais and the intrigue and teasing of Stephen Merchant. The discussions are entertaining, but when they hit a dry patch, they can stay there for a few minutes. Still, the discussions are above average, even if at times they can amount to not much more than great background noise.

The design work is award winning, though honestly, it’s a little hard to see why. True, there are no real faults: monkeys are monkeys, the two actors you’ve seen from British television are recognizable once you see them morph from live-action to animation, and that perfectly circular head is perfectly circular. If anything can be said about the designs it’s that they seem to echo The Flintstones and The Jetsons at times, almost as if the designers had studied at Hanna-Barbera Studios.

Disappointingly, there are only two extras: an animatic for one episode, and a promotional piece done for a charity program. Sure, commentary on what amounts to commentary would be a little redundant, but some insight on what goes into the production of the podcast, HBO promos, or anything would have really added quantifiable material to a qualitatively-driven show. Given the digital age we live in (and this show is a by-product of), it’s almost surprising that a download of the equivalent episodes of the audio podcast (presuming these segments were recorded as such) wasn’t included with a redemption code.

What’s there is quality: the transfer looks great, the audio sounds fine (excepting one or two places where you have to rewind to catch what a heavily accented Brit actually said), and the two extras are worth a run through. Still, you can fly through the set in a day or two. It’s a great little diversion, but much like listening to your friends ramble on about something, the occasional funny comment or joke doesn’t make it any more of an actual story. It’s worth checking out, but no rush to get to or through.

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