The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season

The Ricky Gervais Show: The Complete First Season
According to Ricky Gervais, Karl Pilkington is a "little round-headed buffoon." This, in fact, is how Pilkington is introduced in every episode of The Ricky Gervais Show. He is also an "idiot" and a "twit," according to Gervais, who also remarks that he has seen Pilkington "blossom from an idiot to an imbecile," and on and on. The Ricky Gervais Show, an animated series based on Gervais's enormously popular podcasts, is about nothing more or less than Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant making gleeful fun of an apparently on-the-level dim bulb they met during their days at XFM radio. And you have to give them some credit: Pilkington is a real find (in the first episode, he seems to think that man and dinosaurs co-existed, etc.). This sort of rambling, shooting-the-breeze discussion is best appreciated through the intimate, casual podcast medium, and the animated format both ruins its simplicity (do we really need to cut to a goofy dinosaur scene during a discussion of the prehistoric world?) and makes the viewer too conscious of how unstructured the conversations are. But there's a deeper, simpler problem with The Ricky Gervais Show: it's really nasty. This isn't Gervais taking pot-shots at celebrities while hosting the Golden Globes; it's two smart, successful television personalities inviting us to laugh at someone less intelligent and successful. It allows us to be the school bullies' little lackey at a real-life Dinner for Schmucks. Does the fact that Pilkington appears unfazed by the mockery make it okay to laugh at him? Is it alright to laugh at the people in carnival "freak shows," even if they're willing participants? Karl Pilkington is undeniably fascinating, and an interesting show could be made of his strange perspective on reality (his thoughts on the afterlife in the "Freaks" episode are particularly weird and amusing), but that's not what The Ricky Gervais Show is about. It's about Gervais and Merchant's cleverness; it's about David Brent morphing into Chris Finch. DVD extras are limited to storyboards and a bonus cartoon. (Warner)