You either love Ricky or you don't. It is as simple as that. The only other option exists solely based upon the assumption that you have not ever come across any of his works. May it be stand up comedy or hosting the awards shows, Ricky is a person who seems to have made his life's goal to make people tick.
If you are not a fan of proper "dry" English comedy, then After Life isn't for you. If you are not a fan of self-harm, suicide, drug abuse, loss of loved ones, yadi yada then After Life isn't for you. To be honest, there are many things in the series which could easily filter a lot of people out with the "it isn't for you".
It is a must watch!
Ricky Gravis has always walked the fine line. He has tested the limits of comedy to many extents. I am very glad he never went overboard with his limits. However, a lot of his work can hurt the feelings of many people, and After Life is no exception.
Honestly, I did not believe he could pull this one off. I have kept myself far and away from any chatter about the series and protected myself against spoilers like a weeb protects his virginity. Man, was it all worth it! Binging this series was like immediately having popcorn after pouring melted butter onto it. It was very satisfying.
There are some things about the entire series which make me think that it has a very genuine and real part of Ricky in it. Come to think of it, Ricky is a boss at dry and dark comedy, which was also a huge part of the series. Ricky is always walking the fine line of comedy, which also was part of the series. Most importantly, Ricky Gravis has shown (in some ways) that he is a calculative person and the series is made with a lot of precision and calculation.
After all, the story is a very sensitive one. Very easy to get it all wrong. BUT THEY DIDN'T!
THIS IS A SAD SAD SAD SERIES
Don't get me wrong, After Life is a comedy. However, it has a lot about it that is extremely sad. Yes, there are some very excellent and clever jokes woven into the whole story. There is a comedic factor to every character. But there is more than comedy to it, there is a lot of reality woven into the comedy.
And the reality is often more sad than funny.
Was it a good move to weave so much sob story into the series that is labeled as "comedy"?
I think so!
I find most comedy series a touch away from reality and hence unrelatable and way too fantastical. Look at how much comedy I have reviewed. Not much, right? That is because I cannot get passionate about them. But After Life is a different ball game.
When the reality of life hits someone like a truck, especially as hard as it hit Tony Johnson, everything becomes very vivid. You start to see things with a more monochromatic tone. It is either black or white. What Tony fails realize is that the monochromatic tone does not imitate life's vibrance at all. The grays of life is what makes human life and the social aspect of it very colorful.
Although it takes some time, Tony starts finding those grays of life and appreciates them that leads him to somewhat recover. The transition may feel seamless in the show, but it is rather very abrupt.
Just think of how nonchalant was Tony about paying a guy to facilitate his death. The death also does not faze Tony at all. He goes from being a apathic death facilitating murderer to being a kind hearted monkey within a few episodes. That is very abrupt!
ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR RICKY'S ACTING!
I did not expect Gravis to do such an impeccable job. For a person that specializes in Stand-Up comedy, his acting was too good. Especially when you factor in that the comedian is not married himself, but only been in a long term relationship. I guess he took the route of studying depression, being monotonous, and being very respectful of the mental illness as well as the weight of losing the light of your life.
The show hits very close to home. It carefully depicts a person suffering from depression. Losing interests in things you once used to love, living in a horrible and untidy place, not finding the energy to do things like cleaning and refilling, getting strong urges of harming yourself and even acting on those urges, being hopeless and so on.
But it also shines a light on how difficult it may be for the people around someone like Tony. The fight is not alone. Tony's brother-in-law tries a lot but eventually gets tired of it. Tony finds a friend in the graveyard who stays persistent. All of Tony's co-workers try to be supportive and find ways to make his life easier.
While the story is mainly about Tony we are shown about the difficulties in the lives of the people he is surrounded by. The drug addict who works just to be high. Nothing in life matters. However, his depression is not as vivid and outwardly expressed as Tony's.
The prostitute who lives with a stigma hanging around her neck. Even if she is a sex worker she breaks the stigma and turns out to be an excellent human being who also doubles as one the best friends Tony ever makes.
After Life is just as much a story about Tony's struggle as it is a story about how the people around him deal with their difficulties. Tony finds reasons to go along with his plan to end it all in different people who have gone "crazy". But as the days go by he also finds reasons to never go along with his plan. He finds friends, things to laugh at, things to look forward to like Emma.
The show is very well-paced and carefully directed. It is a clear representation of how Tony feels. Monotonous, calmly paced, no upbeat music, no falshy moments. It is mundane, subtle, and there is a feeling of doom in every second.
Now, the impact of arts is undeniable. The heightened numbers of calls received by the suicide hotline after Logic released his song 1-800-273-8255 is a standing proof of how arts can be used to help people in need.
People fight silent wars. And it is often impossible to realize what they are fighting against and hence impossible to help them. A show like After Life is bound to have a huge audience. In fact, it already does. Morever, there is bound to be a part of the audience that has struggles similar to Tony.
In my honest opinion, a dark ending would have been perfect. However, a dark ending would completely rip off any hopes of helping the people that may be facing similar struggles. I think letting Tony live at the end is just as strong a message, if not more stronger, than the 1-800-273-8255 song by Logic.
It should have a similar effect. The ending screams "There Is Hope!". It gives the hurting part of the audience a reason to keep fighting and reach out. A message that Tony had received when he saw Emma.