Ricky Gervais and The Man Who Ate Crumble with Cauliflower Sauce
PUBLISHED: 16:45 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:24 03 April 2019
Ricky Gervais' After Life celebrates the strange stories we cover on local newspapers from 'The Stain that looks like Kenneth Branagh' to 'The Baby that looks like Hitler'. Liz Nice found one of her own...
We all want what we do to still matter to the world, so it was quite timely that I ended up watching Ricky Gervais’ new show, After Life, on Netflix at the weekend.
“You’ve got to see it, Mum,” I insisted on Mother’s Day.
“I don’t have Netflix,” she replied.
“You’re missing out massively,” I insisted again.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ve got enough to watch as it is.”
She is missing out, however, as After Life, is a perfect gem of a series.
It tells the story of Tony, a widower, who works on the local paper, The Tambury Gazette.
For those of us who work in local newspapers, the characters ring very true. The truly decent editor, Matt, who still believes in his mission to keep the local community informed and connected to each other, the bright-eyed hopeful, Sandy, who dreams of getting her first front page and the weary photographer, Lenny, who plods good-naturedly from job to job, as unfazed by ‘The Baby Who Looks Like Hitler’ (with a moustache drawn on in eye-liner) as he is by ‘The Man Who Got Five Birthday Cards That Were Exactly The Same’. (Stop the Press!)
Then there’s Brian, the reader who will do anything to get in the paper – we’ve all known plenty of those – and poor Kath, the lonely ad rep, whose efforts to liven up the office fall on cynical ears, particularly Tony’s, who now, in his bereaved state, believes that ‘no one cares’ about local news any more anyway and that our chief purpose is to produce fodder for litter trays lined by old ladies.
In dark moments, I have feared this too. But Ricky Gervais is far too clever to leave it there.
He is often seen as a cruel comedian – and if you have ever watched him talking about ‘dead babies’ next to someone who has lost a child, or ‘fat people’ next to someone who is spilling onto your seat, as I have, you will know that he relishes nothing more than the discomfort of awkward social situations and the saying of the previously unsayable.
But anyone, who, also like me, has seen him on stage, and watched The Office finale, knows that he gets away with the awful things he says because, at heart, he is warm, decent and kind.
For all it’s shockability – particularly the tragic outcome for the drug addict, Julian – After Life is positively Capra-esque in its good-heartedness, best expressed by Dame Penelope Wilton’s character, Anne, a grieving widow who spends all her scenes sitting on a bench by her husband’s grave and making ‘Tony’ (Gervais) feel better.
‘Happiness,’ she says, ‘is so amazing, that it doesn’t matter if it is somebody else’s.’
I heard that line, and then watched what happened next, which, without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it and must (Mum), is Tony’s realisation that the little things in life that bring a smile really do make a difference to people, whether it’s a kind gesture to a lonely colleague, or making Brian, ‘The Reader Who Will Do Anything To Get In The Paper’ feel that he does still actually matter to the world after his wife ran off with someone else, and I felt a surge of love for the job we still try to do here.
We don’t have nearly enough people to hold the Man to account as much as we once did and we do have to do stories of suspect journalistic integrity like ‘The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese When She Wasn’t Before’ to improve our web stats, but even if our efforts do eventually end up in the litter tray, if we bring someone a bit of a boost or a smile, then that’s something, isn’t it?
During my family’s Mother’s Day celebrations at the weekend, there was much love and a few scraps – my parents really do need to get Netflix! – but the best thing that happened was when my dad put his rhubarb crumble into the ‘custard’ jug because he couldn’t be bothered to get a bowl.
“It tastes delicious,” insisted, after much hilarity, ‘The Man Who Ate Rhubarb Crumble And Cauliflower Sauce For His Mother’s Day lunch’.
The little things. In this darkened Brexit world, we’re going to keep on celebrating them.
And thanks to Ricky Gervais, I’m proud of that.
Did you enjoy After Life? Do you have any strange stories for the paper? Email me