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After Life - Season One - Advance Preview

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After Life will premiere on 8 March 2019, on Netflix.

Since Bojack Horseman, Netflix has not put out a show that personally made me feel as depressed as After Life. Each time I turned on my computer to watch my stomach was in knots, but I needed to write notes for this preview, so I endured the entire season. It has been several weeks; however, my mood has not recovered. This feeling might have been caused by my own depressive disposition, or maybe it was watching twenty minutes of Ricky Gervais's character, Tony, walk around dejected, offensive, mean-spirited, bitter and sweet at the same time. After Life takes you through a series of events that occur a couple of months after Tony's (Gervais) wife expires. The story is told from Tony's point of view but with an emotionally manipulative counter-narrative from videotapes of Lisa (Godliman). The videos provide a completely different perspective of Tony, and that's where the show takes your breath away entirely. You want to hammer Tony's head in each episode, but he cries for Lisa, and your heart aches instead.

In the first episode, we meet Tony and Lisa's dog Brandi, the only creature that can get a smile out of Tony at the moment. Tony is a writer for a local paper - The Cambury Gazette, operated by Lisa's brother Matt (Basden) who is quite troubled by Tony's current helpless nature but also acts as a semi-counselor attempting to get him to deal with his emotions. Matt is cautious of Tony but lets him babysit his son George (Finnegan). When around Brandi and George, Tony is kind and vulnerable - he does not hide his feelings. His nephew and the dog signify the happiness Lisa brought to his life. Tony abhors the little town he lives in because it reminds him of his wife.

The Cambury Gazette has other writers who never miss a chance to remind Tony of his obnoxious behavior. If you are thinking of David Brent and The Office right now, then you are not far off in your assumption. The Gazette's offices have the aura of Wernham Hogg's Slough branch. Kath (Morgan) is a writer who loves Kevin Hart and spends her days arguing with Tony about God. Lenny (Way) is a cheerful photographer who ignores Tony's jabs about his weight and overall looks. Sandy (Dhillion) is a new trainee, who is shocked most of the time at Tony's abrasiveness but sees through the facade he uses for the grief that consumes him. Each episode deals with at least one local towner calling up the paper with a scoop for a story that Tony deems unworthy. Despite Matt's effort at reemphasizing the value of the local newspaper, Tony continues to decry the need for locals to have their stories published.

From the first episode to the end we meet characters that help him begin to look at life differently. We meet his dad (Bradley) who has Alzheimer's and is living in a geriatric nursing facility. His nurse (Jensen) cares for him without reservations even when Tony exposes his ignorance when he visits. Some of my favorite scenes occur in this nursing home. In a conversation with the nurse, Tony asks how she can spend her days talking to a patient that doesn't respond, and she explains how her job is to give comfort and not demand anything back. Her words are powerfully delivered, and they shine a light on professional caregivers. There are a heartfelt few minutes when his dad recognizes him but only as a little boy.

Julian (Plester) is a homeless man who delivers The Cambury Gazette around town. He deals with a lot of mental health issues. He develops a bond with Tony, and they spend plenty of time together. This friendship will break a lot of viewers hearts but from it springs an incredible connection between Tony and Daphne aka Roxy - a sex worker. I loved every scene with Roxy. Her story is handled with so much care that for a second I worried that I might have switched to a different show. The narrative was not only enlightening but pure. Any aspect of shaming was swiftly dealt with affirming words. Penelope Wilton appears as Anne, a widow whose husbands’ grave is next to Lisa's. Tony meets her every single day he visits with Lisa. Through conversations with Anne, he starts to recognize how he was using his grief and anger about Lisa's death to cause pain to others.

You will meet a mailman who you will be rooting for to get an opportunity to punch Tony at some point. Robbie, the red-headed kid who brings out the protector in Tony and causes a disagreement between Matt and him. This might end up affecting his relationship with George. The show deals with all kinds of topics from mental illness, corruption, sex work, suicide, mortality, bullying, toxic masculinity, drug and alcohol addiction, loneliness, love plus they take shots at a lot of your favorite celebrities but in Tony's own words at the end "everyone deserves a story in their local newspaper."

If you have had the pleasure of watching Gervais's other works, then you are accustomed to his style of storytelling, and After Life does not divert in any way from that form. Gervais wrote and directed each episode so, the consistency from one to the next is entrancing. He not only makes you sit through his darkness under grey overcast skies, but he also makes you feel his sorrow through the words of Daughters' "Youth." and Alex Lasarenko with David Little's "Gamine."

After Life is funny in ways I find hard to write down, did I laugh through it? You bet I did. Do I still feel depressed after writing this? Absolutely. All I will tell you is that you MUST watch the two and a half hours of this depressive show and it will leave you believing in Ricky Gervais's brilliance.

Don't forget to come back and share in our discussion on March 8th after you watch.

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