Pynchon News Is Good News

Shortly after it was released, Thomas Pynchon’s Against The Day was gifted to me and quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time. This novel is a monster. And because it’s so huge, and his previous novel Mason & Dixon came a decade prior, and it was also huge, and Pynchon is getting on in years, I had this impression it might be his last book.

Fortunately I was wrong and he quickly tossed off Inherent Vice, a hilarious detective novel set at the end of the hippy era. Supposedly, Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie adaptation of Inherent Vice is filming now with rumors of a ensemble cast full of stars. But what’s even more exciting is that Pynchon has a new novel coming out later this year. The novel is called Bleeding Edge and it is set in New York between the collapse of the dot-com bubble and September 11, 2001.

Read the first page of Bleeding Edge here.

I’ve read just about everything Pynchon has written, and his longer novels are my favorite. I particularly love Gravity’s Rainbow and Against The Day because there is so much going on in them, so many different angles to the narratives, and so many different ways to read them, that every person who reads the novel comes out of it with a different experience.

A while ago I picked one angle and wrote a review of Gravity’s Rainbow.

Article first published as Book Review: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon on Blogcritics.

GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon

Dubbed “The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II” (The New Republic), Gravity’s Rainbow is a massive, freewheeling, paranoid journey through Europe at the tail end of the Second World War. Novelist and esoterica buff Thomas Pynchon is in top form for this, his third novel. A dense, challenging epic, Gravity’s Rainbow is highly rewarding for those with the attention span and patience to take it on.

From the first line we know the concept of The Preterite, or passed-over, is going to be a prominent theme. “A screaming comes across the sky…” A screaming what? The allusion is to a rocket, faster than sound so its target has no way to hear it coming. And the hunt for this preterite rocket, codename “00000”, and its mysterious black device, the S-Gerat, is a loose analogy of our main character, Tyrone Slothrop. In Pynchon’s own post-modern, self-reflexive words, “Some called [Tyrone] a ‘pretext.’ Others felt that he was a genuine, point-for-point microcosm.” (p. 753) This atypical approach to writing defies expectations, assuring Gravity’s Rainbow a prominent place in the history of the novel, even if it is often overlooked.

Pynchon loves to play with the form. The book introduces a madman’s variety of characters in a stunning array of literary styles. Often hilarious, sometimes shocking, Gravity’s Rainbow is no simple story. Perhaps not since Ulysses by James Joyce has an author swung through the canopy of styles so freely, offering up slapstick, scientific realism, hallucinatory stream-of-consciousness and more. The novel slides from one heterodox story to the next, immersing the reader in the chaos spread across Europe by World War II. Some characters hide, some fall in love or dive into obsession to distract from the reality of wartime, while others charge in headfirst, hungry for glory. And all the while, the real question is being asked – why? Why was there a war? Who made the decisions leading up to it, and how was it determined that war is the best option?

Tyrone isn’t introduced until page 61, but even before that we get a sense of his complicated personality. Tyrone has been the subject of bizarre, pseudo-Pavlovian conditioning that somehow leads him to be sexually aroused just before a rocket strike. Stranger yet is that he seems to have subconscious knowledge of exactly where the rocket will hit, though he thinks he’s just following his libido. We begin to understand that Tyrone’s motivations are not wholly his own. Like everyone in the war, Tyrone is deeply affected by a terrifying situation beyond his control. And like the 00000, we sense that he will only become aware of his true role in all this when it’s too late.

Gravity’s Rainbow has been called meta-historical fiction. The historical context of the story is completely true, but Pynchon draws the reader into the mania of the characters, little tangents and cul-de-sacs of fantasy that elevate the story to the realm of mythology. This sounds intellectual and heady, and it is, but the story never feels dry; sex, drugs, love and mystery drive the plot forward with a knowing humor that is both laugh-out-loud and profound.

Following a variety of WWII fringe groups brings the story into even stranger realms. Shadowy organizations like The White Visitation, PISCES, and Operation Black Wing look at the war through lenses of parapsychology and the occult. Delving into Nazi legend, corporate conspiracy, Kabbalah, the elusive Schwarzkommando, ballistic hermeneutics and a unique brand of rocket mysticism, Gravity’s Rainbow offers up a paranoid dream for hippies and soldiers alike. The novel seems to say that some special form of mass insanity must be responsible for something on the magnitude of a World War. What the cause of this insanity is, exactly, is a little more elusive.

Tyrone is an American-born rocket specialist, a guidance man who frequently peeks his head up into the realm of superhero. His irresistible urge toward sex and predilection for drugs find him stumbling into situations oblivious to the big picture, though he often ends up in the right place. When a hashish pickup goes awry Tyrone raids an opera costume trunk and becomes “Rocket Man”, a stylish WWII hero if ever there was one. Tyrone is not a typical hero, just as Gravity’s Rainbow is not a typical novel. Tyrone is both Preterite and Elect. He is a Chosen One, the special subject of strange experiments in behavioral conditioning. But he always manages to stay out of the limelight, passed over at crucial times while danger misses him by a hair. In one of the more brutal scenes in the book, pair of doctors search a spa for Tyrone, who by now is dressed as a giant pig. Through a case of mistaken identity, Tyrone avoids a horrible future that would more than dampen his sex life. Both his preterition and election save him from the worst of the war.

The same goes for the novel. It is a Bible of countercultural intellectualism, an underground epic for dope smokers and mystics that by its undeniable brilliance was awarded a National Book Award. On the other hand Gravity’s Rainbow was passed over for a Pulitzer Prize despite a unilateral vote. The Pulitzer committee decided instead to hand out no prize that year, presumably because of the morally questionable material throughout the book. Despite the real horrors of WWII and the Nazi party, apparently this fiction was too much for the Pulitzer board to handle. A book like this will likely never be given the prestige it deserves because it deals with too many fringe elements in a sympathetic way. Gravity’s Rainbow blurs morality, details too much real-world corruption and power politics, discloses too much about the business of war, GE and IG Farben, looks at behavioral conditioning and fetishism, and all with strong undertones of anarchy. Books like this are almost always passed over by the Establishment.

Gravity’s Rainbow takes place in the tumultuous fallout of war, and much like the victims of a rocket strike, swirls and writhes to recover what has been destroyed. “My mother is the war,” says mathematician Roger Mexico. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and in a war like this one everyone is affected. Everyone reacts in his or her own way to the visible and invisible causes of war. Despite the chaotic and multifaceted paths taken by our heroes, the many become unified in their loves and fears, all raising a glass in song at the absurd, sublime condition of our world. Nothing is the same after the war. And those who make it through the dense prose of Gravity’s Rainbow will remember it as a benchmark novel like no other.

Gravity’s Rainbow is a novel to be read and re-read, a companion to be studied over a lifetime. Thanks to the grandness of the story, the prodigal complexion of the prose, and Pynchon’s ability to weave minute detail and lofty abstraction into the telling, Gravity’s Rainbow reveals more and more of its secrets with subsequent reads. It grows with the reader, like an old man dispensing wisdom through the years, unafraid to offend or enlighten.

Bottle Rocket

This is my review of Bottle Rocket, the Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Bottle Rocket on Blogcritics.

THE FILM

Bottle RocketBottle Rocket is the debut film from director Wes Anderson and introduces brothers Luke, Owen, and Andrew Wilson. The Blu-ray edition was released by The Criterion Collection in late 2008, fully four years after its release of Anderson’s second film Rushmore. Though less polished and flashy than Anderson’s successive work, Bottle Rocket remains Anderson’s most genuine, warm and sophisticated film. My appreciation for it seems to grow with every viewing thanks to its subtlety. Fortunately it is one of the most re-watchable comedies I have ever seen.

Bottle Rocket is a quietly funny masterpiece. There are no major gags, no crazy set-pieces, and it’s not a jokey movie at all. Its hilarity comes from the depth of its touching characters. A nuanced character study is not usually the most fertile field for comedy, admittedly, and it might take viewers a few watches to appreciate the precision of Anderson and Owen Wilson’s script (and of course Luke and Owen’s performances). But the film’s honesty shines in the hands of Wes Anderson and these talented actors.

James Caan has an good interpretation of the title, as mentioned in the commentary. A bottle rocket is a small explosive. As a kid, you might be excited to light one off, but the explosion is more or less tame and probably won’t get anyone into serious trouble. And that is true of these characters and the movie as a whole. All have a beautiful capacity to dream, but the goals are never as big a spectacle as the enthusiasm. As the film’s biggest dreamer Dignan plans a bookstore heist featuring explosives and a .357 Magnum, he draws himself as the star on the map because in his own mind, he is a star. Naturally he draws the getaway driver Bob as a “zero”.

When Anthony’s enthusiasm ignites Dignan, we want to see his dreams explode into reality. Although he’s not that smart, has skewed morals, and is a terrible criminal mastermind, we want Dignan to succeed because we know how happy it makes him to live out his fantasies. Characters without cynicism are rare these days. Owen Wilson’s enthusiasm is hilarious, but his fragility is heartbreaking. That is the theme of Bottle Rocket. These characters struggle to bring their dreams to life, to have that explosive moment of danger.

These characters are products of an environment that requires no risk. Anthony has retired to a mental hospital for exhaustion despite having never worked a day in his life. Dignan has a criminal mind but uses the money he steals for pinball and fireworks. Bob is well dressed but still lives with his parents, where he grows marijuana plants. Only Mr. Henry (James Caan) seems to be successfully living his dreams. Mr. Henry inspires Dignan to make his mark as a criminal while Anthony’s little sister, the most cynical character in the film, acts as the voice of reason.

Anthony is on the verge of growing up. When he meets Inez, a housekeeper where the gang is laying low, his emotions threaten Dignan’s 75-year plan. But Dignan is an iconic dreamer. Like Henry Hill from Goodfellas, Dignan always wanted to live outside the law. But his dreams take him further from reality; when his big heist falls through he literally seeks escape in a door labeled “No Exit”. His plan of incorporating dynamite, laughing gas, and pole vaulting into crime were never going to happen. His dreams are destined to fail because they are unrealistic. Even still, we get the sense that for Dignan, their attempt, their brief brush with danger, might have been enough. Maybe his dreams were only ever meant to be dreams.

THE DISC

The video, 1080p at 1.85:1, is a nice improvement from standard definition, but the clarity does not blow me away. I am able to make out some nice background action, out-of-focus business I hadn’t noticed before in standard definition. But some noise is there if you look for it, especially in scenes with washed-out, overcast skies. Considering Criterion released Bottle Rocket several years after its first DVD release, I was hoping for a better image.

The making-of documentary, new for Criterion, is an interesting 25-minute retrospective that incorporates the memories of several key players including the three Wilsons, Wes Anderson, James Caan, James L. Brooks, Mark Mothersbaugh and plenty more.

The disc includes a commentary from Anderson and Owen Wilson. Recorded exclusively for Criterion, it’s a nice casual dialogue which starts slow but adds a few nice insights and two likeable opinions. One story told by Anderson fits nicely: a big screening in Santa Monica went brutally, and only one comment card was full of enthusiasm for Bottle Rocket. They kept the card and memorized it for inspiration. Later Anderson coincidentally met the girl who left the card and said, “Here’s our audience. One in five hundred.” Fortunately the careers of the key players following the movie have helped that number significantly.

Deleted scenes are raw and unpolished, but a welcome bonus of somewhat indulgent scenes. Correctly edited out, in my opinion, there are still good laughs and more content for enthusiasts. An anamorphic screen test gives us a taste of what could have been a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it has promise. Murita Cycles by Barry Braverman is a strangely tangential short film that chronicles the life and junk-hoarding of a bicycle shop owner in Staten Island. Murray fills his shop and house with junk and excuses this with a type of sententious dementia. The short film shows a depressing version of the life of a dreamer and in truth, I would rather not have seen it. Though it was supposedly a heavy influence on Bottle Rocket, the tone is just the opposite.

A photo collection from Laura Wilson is a fine special feature; storyboards are for the completists. A storyboard is a tool and I don’t really get the appeal of looking at them. Yes, they came from Wes Anderson’s own hand, but he certainly didn’t imagine stick figures talking in the final film, and he’s no Picasso. The Shafrazi Lectures, No. 1 is a mildly interesting talk with Tony Shafrazi, an eccentric art dealer, but the feature feels too pointless and egotistical to take seriously, despite being called a “lecture”.

As with most Criterion Collection films, this Blu-ray is the current definitive edition on the market. The supplements exclusive to his verison make it a worthwhile purchase. Bottle Rocket is a gem, and in my opinion one of the best comedies of all time. Martin Scorsese thinks so too.

Blog Critics

This blog began as a way to build content and grow a following as a writer. Though I’m still mostly clueless about how to do that, I figured writing reviews is a good way to link my byline to a product people will search for. By reviewing arts that appeal to me, I can identify myself within the context of my tastes. But sifting through previous posts, I realized the reviews seem out of place here.

After a very short search I found BlogCritics.org, a massive site where bloggers publish short articles on politics, food, culture, arts, and other topics of interest. The styles of writing vary, but with such a glut of content there is something for everyone. Already they have published four of my reviews, one as I was write this post. I will continue to publish reviews there as well as the regular weekly installments here. You can find my own page on BlogCritics.org HERE.

Since this week’s post is less of an informal essay and more of an informal update, I’m re-posting the four reviews below (BlogCritics doesn’t mind). In the future I will likely post links to my BlogCritics reviews, or re-post them on a separate page here. Please feel free to comment about these decisions or the reviews themselves, as I always love to hear feedback and constructive criticism.

INTO THE ABYSS

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Into The Abyss on Blogcritics.

Into The AbyssWhen looking for documentaries with depth and sophistication, Werner Herzog is in a class of his own. Recently released on Blu-ray, Into The Abyss is a gripping look at the death penalty, a triple homicide, and the lives of those involved. Straightforward by Herzog standards, it clearly and directly investigates the relationships people have with their societal context, but also, as the title implies, with their own souls.

He believes states should not execute people. But far from the partisan crusades we’re used to from documentary diva Michael Moore and kind, Herzog penetrates different layers of his topic without coloring the opinions of his subjects or putting himself into the limelight. Instead he asks questions quietly from off-screen, letting his subjects paint the portrait.

Michael Perry and Jason Burkett were convicted of murdering a fifty-year old woman, her son, and his friend over a car. DNA evidence puts them at the scene but they both deny guilt. The interview takes place eight days before Michael Perry’s execution by lethal injection. His childlike smile is likely to stick in anyone’s head for a long time. Burkett, meanwhile, received the lesser sentence of life in prison. This lenience was allegedly the result of testimony from Burkett’s father, himself a life-long criminal and by his own admission, no father at all.

Fans of Herzog will recognize his method. Subjects always finish their thoughts. The camera often rolls after they finish speaking revealing facial ticks, insecurities, and emotional composure – the spontaneous truth of the human face. Though occasionally uncomfortable, these moments are windows to internal realities. Simply sitting still and paying attention, Herzog brings us closer to the whole truth than most filmmakers.

Interviews with friends and family on both sides enrich the economical, moral, religious, and personal context, showing the environments that produced these crimes. Interviews with a minister to execution victims and a former law officer who carried out executions expand the emotional territory even further. Because they don’t know the victims, their accounts are not flavored with the anguish of personal loss and show the natural empathy of human beings in the face of government approved life-taking.

The cinematography is familiar; the camera is generally at head level, often handheld except during interviews, and like many Herzog’s films, give us the most human perspective on the subject as possible. He romanticizes nothing, but shoots respectfully and skillfully. The musical score by Mark De Gli Antoni is gorgeous, and sweeps through the film like an elegy for those passed, and those about to pass.

Unfortunately for the enthusiast, this Blu-ray release has nothing in the way of special features. Because there are no sweeping crane shots or computer effects one might be tempted to skip the Blu-ray edition altogether. But the clarity of HD (1080p with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio) reveals nuances in the faces and eyes that won’t come across as clearly in standard definition. The soundtrack is solid, though this is only distincly noticeable during the rich score. I was pleased with the technical aspects of this release, even if the only other thing on the disc is a trailer. Fortunately, those looking for more can find Herzog’s On Death Row, a series of videos with death row inmates available on YouTube.

Into The Abyss is a rock solid documentary that doesn’t shy away from it’s heavy subject matter, nor does it obsess. Master filmmaker Werner Herzog once again goes beyond the mundane facts to the internal truths of his topic. Special features or not, fans of honest filmmaking should be pleased with this release.

 

CAN: THE LOST TAPES

Article first published as Music Review: Can – The Lost Tapes on Blogcritics.

Can: The Lost TapesAsk the average person who the band Can is and you will likely get a confused face in return. But this essential krautrock group has influenced so many of our favorite contemporary artists, it’s hard to avoid their influence. From Radiohead to Q-Tip, Can continues to inspire innovators in music.

Completists and aficionados buzzed at the announcement of The Lost Tapes. But there is always trepidation when material is released so far after a band’s dissolution. Would that spark of sonic exploration be fresh, or are they releasing the dregs of their material as an afterthought or cash grab?

Filed down from about 50 hours of material, this three-CD box set is solid from start to finish. From the outset, Can explores the space of their studio with disciplined liberation. Layered tape hiss, amp hum, and found percussion break into rocking jazz fusion in the opening track “Millionenspiel“, and the pace is set. Over three hours of genre-defying experimentation captures the essence of the band beautifully.

Longtime fans of Can will feel right at home with this collection. Compiled over several years for a multitude of purposes, every track is classic Can. Moving from raucous psychedelia (“Graublau”), to gorgeous melody (“Obscura Primavera“), to freeform soundscapes (“Blind Mirror Surf”), to live renditions of favorites Spoon and “One More Saturday Night” , this box set offers all the essential elements that define Can as a band.

New listeners should set their expectations aside. There are no musical formulas or clichés at work here, and few precedents. Can’s modus operandi is to push creative freedom without regard to specific forms or styles. Some of the songs are careful orchestrations, some are insane live jams, and some tracks are multi-faceted meditations on a particular space. But one thing that is consistent throughout The Lost Tapes, and all of Can’s oeuvre, is the spirit of exploration.

Fans of Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground or Portishead will recognize the beauty of Can’s strangeness. Themselves influenced by classical, free-jazz and anything avant-garde, Can blended styles into a new aesthetic while ushering in the age of electronic music. The Talking Heads, The Cars, The Orb, Brian Eno, Stereolab, and Tortoise all cite Can as influences. But far from feeling like a pastiche, The Lost Tapes has a continuity that can only be described by the simple, liberty-affirming declaration “Can”.

Forty years after the material was recorded, Can’s historical footprint continues to grow. “Drunk and Hot Girls” by Kanye West featuring Mos Def is a surprising (some might say inappropriate) sample of “Sing Swan Song” from Can’s Ege Bamyasi. Q-Tip’s “Manwomanboogie” is a funky sample of “Aspectacle” from a 1979 Can recording found on the compilation Cannibalism 2.

The quality and fidelity of The Lost Tapes is top notch. Meticulously preserved and beautifully digitized, these tapes are as clean and defect-free as Can’s album material. This is quite a feat considering the raw magnetic stock was forgotten about for decades. I only wish this box set was released on LP where the dynamic range and true inner space of the recordings could have been coaxed out of the vinyl medium.

Well priced, nicely packaged, and featuring liner notes from band leader Irmin Schmidt, The Lost Tapes three CD box set is a beautiful look into the creative process of a band whose primary focus was the creative process.

 

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA

Article first published as Blu-Ray: Bram Stoker’s Dracula on Blogcritics.

The Movie

Francis Ford Coppola’s iteration of the Hollywood classic Dracula is arguably the last old-school studio effects pictures ever made. Released in 2007, this Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray is a much-needed upgrade from the previous, bare-bones DVD release.

The story of Dracula appeared right alongside the birth of cinema, and Coppola took this coincidence as an opportunity to elegize old Hollywood. Shot on studio soundstages, Bram Stoker’s Dracula drenches the audience in an otherworldly nightmare where rats scurry across ceilings and Dracula’s malevolent presence is never far away. The epistolary nature of the novel is kept incredibly intact by the use of journal entries and letters, but also through the use of old cameras, telegraphy, and other post-Industrial Revolution technology.

This movie is not perfect. Coppola, already considered past his prime, seems to have romanticized the production itself instead of working with the actors to create a realistic Old London. Excluding Gary Oldman, the acting is the worst element of this film; Keanu Reeves gives a nearly unwatchable performance, Winona Ryder is stiff, and Sir Anthony Hopkins is at times downright ridiculous. Fortunately, Gary Oldman brings his signature chameleon-like mastery to every aspect of the iconic title role, from a furry bat-monster to the elegant, young Prince Vlad.

Though everyone knows the story of Dracula, this rendition goes far beyond previous versions of the movie. As the tagline “Love Never Dies” hints, we are not simply watching a horror movie, but a dark love story that ends in tragedy. James V. Hart’s script teases out Dracula’s damnation, bringing us to the realization that Dracula can never unite with his soulmate because society sees him as a monster. His suffering goes on lifetime after lifetime. When Dracula is finally defeated, our hearts are broken for him because his generations of agony go unfulfilled and history will remember him as a monster.

The opulent sets and costumes through every frame of this movie are highlighted nicely by the new 1080p HD transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio). The video isn’t as crisp as other films coming out around 1993, but I suspect the entire finished film was softened slightly in order to smooth out transitions between normal footage, double and triple exposures, and a plethora of special effects shots (all of which are spectacular in-camera effects with the exception of a few optical effects). Overall, the film looks great.

In addition to winning Oscars for make-up and costume, Bram Stoker’s Dracula won for Best Sound Effects Editing, and rightfully so. The audio mix is nicely balanced and used to punctuate the story by providing feeling. You won’t be blown away by the unexpected swells of bass that have come to pass for great sound mixes. But the sound will effectively enchant you into this dark, weird world.

Special Features

This Blu-ray release has been given beautiful artwork that shows off the nuanced vision of the film. The picture on the cover might be one of the best movie posters in history. And while I am disappointed there is no full-colour booklet of images inside, the menus and interactive design are gorgeous.

It comes with over 30 minutes of deleted scenes, some in a degraded, unfinished quality. Many of these scenes were unquestionably nixed for the better, or condensed into other scenes, so don’t expect to find anything mind-blowing here.

Coppola’s audio commentary is enthusiastic and enjoyable, even if he does repeat himself and talk too much.

A making-of documentary and segment on the costumes are interesting, but are not as exciting as the documentary on the visual effects which gives a glimpse into how much unseen magic went into the production. Studios simply do not shoot films like this any more, and this extra gives insight on how the technologies of illusion have evolved over the years.

In Sum

Bram Stoker’s Dracula on Blu-ray is the closest thing to a definitive edition on the market. Previously unseen special features, well-considered packaging, and a nice transfer will leave fans of the film happy and help those not so inclined to appreciate a more contemporary, experimental approach to a classic horror story.

I give the movie and the Blu-ray release 8.5/10. While I’m usually a stickler for marks as high as these, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of my favorite love stories, and the most satisfying guilty pleasure in my media library, and this Blu-ray edition is the best one yet.

 


THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW

Article first published as TV Review: The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO on Blogcritics.

HBO has just aired the final episode of The Ricky Gervais Show season 3. Sadly, if we’re to believe Gervais’s Twitter feed, one of the funniest shows on television is at its end.

Based on the immensely popular podcast, first impressions of The Ricky Gervais Show were tempered by Gervais’s seemingly mean-spirited humor as host of the Golden Globes. And he pulls no punches on his obsession with co-star Karl Pilkington. During the show, Gervais and Stephen Merchant pry into Karl’s mind to explore his worldview, often calling him an idiot and pointing bad logic.

But Karl is more than just a punching bag for them; he is a close friend of Gervais and Merchant. They appreciate Karl’s simpler point of view (even if it is confused most times). The dynamic between Ricky’s cynicism, Stephen’s quiet mediation, and Karl’s wide-eyed wonder reflects a beautiful, triangulated expression of each of us. We all have these facets to our personality; our hearts agree with some of Karl’s musings, even when our brains reject them.

The cartoon treatment of the podcast brings out the innocence Gervais finds so fascinating in Karl. The characters are lovably-designed, and the animated flights into Karl’s imagination are a laugh-induced ab workout every episode. Despite the name-calling, we get a definite sense from the show that Ricky Gervais has a profound respect for his friend Karl that goes deeper than off-the-cuff insults. We get the sense that Gervais really does believe that life in Karl’s mind must be more fun.

The fun these friends share is never sentimentalized or drawn out. Ricky, Karl, and Stephen are who they are, and they don’t script anything. Though they set the stage with discussion topics, the humor is allowed to come out naturally and spontaneously, often with unexpected digressions and asides. It never seems forced, but like a living-room discussion you might have with your friends.

The conversational hilarity and storybook imagery fit into a nostalgic socket in our brains. The Ricky Gervais Show feels like an old friend we can talk to again and again without getting bored. Now that the show has run it’s course, let’s hope a complete box set is released with a ton of special features. Until then, we’ll have to be content with An Idiot Abroad, Derek, Life’s Too Short and Ricky Gervais…Obviously.