Remember the days where Friday nights consisted of “Full House” and “Family Matters” being the most exciting TV line-up of the week? I’m not sure what was going through my head at age 10, but apparently big families and a theme song that repeated “shoo-be-do-bop” made for great television. Ah, those were the days. Now, I can’t even remember the last time I looked forward to Friday night television. My Friday TV regime usually consists of me flipping between “Degrassi” and “Smackdown.” (Ironically, they sometimes have similar plots and quality of acting.)
But this Friday was different. For the first time in over 10 years, I was looking forward to a television show on a Friday night. Not only that, but I was surprised to be tuning to HBO on a Friday night. I typically only land on HBO on Sunday nights or when they are showing John Cena movies (guilty pleasure.) What kind of show could have this power? A Ricky Gervais show of course. Actually, “the Ricky Gervais Show.”
Ricky Gervais, who we all know as the creator of “the Office” and “Extras,” has come up with a show that seems so completely simple in theory that while you are watching it, you may kick yourself for not coming up with the idea yourself. Ricky and his longtime collaborator, Stephan Merchant (the Office, Extras) place their podcasts (which are essentially their random conversations with each other) to animations. The animation looks like a combination of “the Flintstones” and “Rocco’s Modern Life,” but the animation takes a backseat to the real genius of the show: Karl Pilkington.
According to Wikipedia, Karl Pilkington is a radio producer and author from London. According to Ricky Gervais on every talk show he visited this week, Karl is a man who learned everything he knows by the age of 12. The latter is definitely the more accurate description. Karl Pilkington has stories and theories and ideas that not only are farfetched, are constantly disproved by Ricky and Stephan. The entire half hour consists of them presenting Karl with a subject, Karl responding with his theory on the subject and Ricky and Stephan making fun of his theory. For example, in the first episode Karl announces that everything we ever needed was invented in the 1920’s. We didn’t need anything like airplanes because now that we have them, we can travel to countries that require a vaccine and die. When Stephan Merchant asks Karl how he expects us to learn about culture and be educated by travel, Karl responds “by watching about it on the Telly.” This is when Ricky and Stephen point out that the telly is a post-1920’s invention.
Besides proving his theories wrong, Stephan and Ricky consistently call all of Karl’s stories “rubbish” and “lies.” Ricky often has fits of hysterical laughter in the middle of Karl’s ramblings. Ricky’s fits of laughter are contagious and not even five minutes in to the show I found myself doubled over with laughter. Karl’s theories are so poorly thought out yet said with such a matter-of-fact attitude that when they are questioned, Ricky and Stephan are saying exactly what you are thinking. I constantly found myself going “yes, exactly.”
Karl never once seems phased or bothered by their comments. He never retracts any of his statements after they are proven wrong and he never once has a sudden moment of clarity. Because a character this daft is not commonly on television, Ricky and Stephan have been accused in the past of writing for Karl. Not only did both deny this accusation but they made the point to say, “If they could come up with a character this good, they would not squander him away on podcasts.” Thanks to HBO, Karl Pilkington is no longer being squandered away. He is the perfect straight man to fuel the genius fire that is Ricky and Stephan.
Could I have taken a couple of my dumber friends, recorded podcasts and had random funny conversations with them? Yes. Was I smart enough to do it? No. We all missed the boat on that one. The silver lining of that missed opportunity? Friday nights are suddenly a great night for television again.