So, yes, I got a pleasant e-mail from Mike last week informing me that the new season of the Ricky Gervais Show will premiere tonight (Friday, Jan. 14th) at 9pm on HBO. Not that this post is some unabashedly promoted one (I am still waiting on my cheque after all), I happen to like Ricky Gervais and while his brand of comedy can be sometimes cringe-inducing, it is nonetheless funny.
What the show does highlight is the ability of animation to adapt to real-life situations rather well. It’s been done before by Aardman Animation with the very successful Creature Comforts, in which conversations with members of the public are turned into claymation scenes featuring animals, all in a very British style of course. The Ricky Gervais Show is similar, except that is uses irreverent podcasts from the man himself where he discusses various bits of nonsense with his partners in crime, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington.
I bring up all of this because it harks back to the early days of animated shows on TV and the derogatory label they gained as a result of their move to this new medium: illustrated radio.
Basically, illustrated radio was a way of looking down on the kind if limited animation that Hanna-Barbera became known for. Of course they had a good reason for using it as they couldn’t afford anything else! Critics, however, pounced on this and were keen to point out that there wasn’t much to be gained by adding some moving pictures to the sound.
The Ricky Gervais Show is basically an animated conversation, which in a way, is exactly the accusation that was levelled at Huckleberry Hound all those years ago. The difference now, is that the writing has improved and takes centre stage over the animation.
Although podcasts allow the listener to let their imaginations run wild, a show like that of Ricky Gervais’ has proven to be successful as animation and is proof that good writing and inventive, companion animation can go along hand in hand. Below is the obligatory video that features the trailer for the second season.