After a string of comedic outings partnered mostly with his co-creator on The Office, Stephen Merchant, few could have foreseen Ricky Gervais’ next collaborator would be Clyde Phillips – formerly of Showtime’s hit series Dexter. Strange as it may sound, Gervais and Phillips are teaming to bring the religion-centric show Afterlife to television in 2012.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the duo is working on a new series, which follows an atheist’s journey to heaven after his death.
Unlike The Office or Extras, Afterlife won’t be a starring vehicle for Gervais, but will instead feature another actor in the lead. Like the comedian’s upcoming series for BBC Two and HBO, Life’s Too Short, Gervais will simply make a cameo, or a series of brief appearances throughout the run of the show.
At present - and because Gervais and Phillips are reportedly in the first stages of writing the pilot episode - there is little to go on in terms of casting or the network on which the show will air. It’s not a far stretch to see the BBC interested in yet another Gervais comedy – with HBO waiting in the wings for US distribution.
In terms of content, Gervais’ work has often toed the line between making his audience laugh and making them cringe with discomfort at the awkward or confrontational situations the various characters find themselves in. Sometimes, Gervais needn’t even be present – as is the case with his constant torment of Karl Pilkington in An Idiot Abroad. Additionally, if the comedian’s work as emcee for the Golden Globes earlier this year was any indication, Gervais is not one to shy away from topics many consider off limits.
In interviews, his work, and during performances or hosting gigs, Gervais has often let his feelings about religion be known. Most recently, it was through his film The Invention of Lying, wherein Gervais’ character introduces the notion of God and an afterlife to a world incapable of anything but the truth, and his sign-off during the Golden Globes earlier this year when the comedian said, “Thank you to God for making me an atheist.”
As strangely prophetic as those words were, perhaps Gervais’ comments in 2010 are even more so. The funnyman told The Sun that he would like to write a television program for the US in the same vein as Dexter.
"I would like to write a show for US TV because there's different ambitions. They're coming out with the best comedy and drama the world has ever seen at the moment. I'd probably like to do something like Dexter. It's great, really different and dramatic but funny too. We're nowhere near quality like that in the UK.”
While many would disagree with Gervais on the quality of many UK programs, its worth wondering whether his comments caught the eye of Phillips and helped birth this current partnership.
Though the project is still in its infancy, the concept alone is enough to garner some serious interest. With Gervais (at least somewhat) at the helm, Afterlife will undoubtedly be something to keep an eye out for.
If everything goes according to plan, filming on the proposed series should commence sometime in early 2012.
Look to Screen Rant for more information on Afterlife as it becomes available.