Moriarty Gets An Early Listen To THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW SERIES 5 And Gets An Early Look At GHOST TOWN!
Published at: Sept. 7, 2008, 5:31 a.m. CST by Moriarty
Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here.
If you’re a Ricky Gervais fan, you’re about to get very, very serviced. The next year or so should be a pretty continuous slow drip of new Ricky, and I think we’re getting the good stuff now with the great stuff later, which means we’ve got a lot to look forward to.
I didn’t realize that he was getting together with Stephen Merchant and Karl “Head Like A Fucking Orange” Pilkington (Cunt) to do a final series of podcasts. If you read that last sentence and wondered, “What the hell did this Karl Pilkington ever do to Moriarty?” then I’m going to assume you haven’t heard any of the earlier seasons of THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW, which basically consisted of these three guys in a studio talking, and Gervais and Merchant gasping in horror and laughter as they listen to Pilkington spout the most insane, bizarre prattle you’ve ever heard. He really is tuned to a different radio station than everyone else. Wait’ll you hear his take on Anne Frank. It’s a stunner.
There’s really no spine to the shows, no throughline, no general theme. It’s just the three of them fucking about. And that’s sort of the beauty of it. This final season of the podcast is four episodes long, each one a half hour, and I played them all back-to-back-to-back-to-back as soon as I got them. They’ll be available on iTunes on September 16th, and if you are a fan of the earlier seasons, the only bad thing I’m going to tell you about this season is that it’s waaaaaay too short. I would have been content with this as one show. But a whole season? It’s just a taste, and the most beautiful thing about Pilkington is that he’s unchanging. There’s no danger of show business spoiling the majesty of Karl Pilkington. He’s as cooked as he’s ever gonna get. He’s not going to come in and suddenly be this canny, careful, studied comic performer. He is who he is, and that’s what is funny. Ricky always approaches him like you approach something you caught and put in a jar. He’s intrigued by Karl, and he’s a little grossed out by him, but he’s going to feed him and poke him and see what he does. And most of the time, Ricky’s either shrieking with laughter or barking with outrage. I think he’s genuinely aghast at what comes out of Karl in some of these episodes, and yet he can’t... stop... looking...
I also recently had a chance to see GHOST TOWN, David Koepp’s film that is having its first public screenings at the Toronto Film Festival right now. I hope it does well for Paramount. It’s probably Koepp’s most complete film as a director. I’m still not crazy about him, and I don’t think this is a great film by any means, but there are things in it that are pretty damn good, and I’ll give him credit for indulging some of the best of his instincts. There is David Koepp work that I really admire, like his script for DEATH BECOMES HER, a grossly underrated black comedy cartoon haunted house, and I think he shows some restraint and taste in how he tells the overly familiar tale of a dentist named Bertram Pincus (Gervais) who dies for seven minutes on the operating table during a routine colonoscopy. When he recovers, he learns he is able to see ghosts, and they all want him to help them settle their unfinished business so they can move on. The main ghost in the film is Frank Herlihy, played by Greg Kinnear. It’s his death that opens the film, and it’s his wife Gwen (Tea Leoni) with whom he has the unfinished business. By coincidence, she lives in Bertram’s apartment building, and so Frank harasses the people-hating dentist into helping him save his wife from her impending marriage to a new guy played by Bill Campbell. There are some other familiar faces as ghosts, including Alan Ruck and Judith Ivey, and Gervais wants nothing to do with any of them.
You know what this is? It’s W.C. Fields in TOPPER. Gervais is believable as someone who has little or no tolerance for other people, a man who is near agoraphobic in his desire to get into his apartment, away from everyone, so he can just be quiet and calm and enjoy the absolute lack of everyone else. He’s a great misanthropic curmudgeon, and I suspect much of his dialogue was tweaked by him onset. Too much of his delivery and his phrasing and his word choices... it’s too distinctly his. Either this role was absolutely written for him, or he had a hand in the reshaping of his dialogue. Either way, he is often very funny in the film, even if some of the comic set-ups are predictable or less than provocative. He and Kinnear have some genuine chemistry, and many of their scenes are quite good. Leoni also does very easy, warm, approachable work, a real about-face from the sort of thing she played in SPANGLISH. It’s easy to imagine Gervais becoming smitten with her. It’s one of the most appealing performances she’s ever given.
Here’s the thing... I’ve been to the set of Gervais’s next film, THIS SIDE OF THE TRUTH, and I am convinced that’s going to be something truly amazing. GHOST TOWN is the movie that has the difficult job of introducing him to mainstream movie-ticket-buying America, who don’t necessarily give a shit about “the guy who created the original British OFFICE.” Not yet. But they might. And something has to be first. There has to be some test. Can Gervais be a movie star here? Is there room for a W.C. Fields in today’s comedy landscape with audiences? Are they in the mood for that? I think GHOST TOWN is a strong attempt to make that introduction, and I think it could do well. Gervais is ultimately likeable here, and his transformation into someone who actually considers others is an effectively staged one. The film never quite tips into serious sap, but it flirts with it a bit. It’s a fine line, and Koepp ultimately stays on the right side of it.
You know how I mentioned the way BURN AFTER READING was shot so it looked like an espionage thriller and not a comedy? Well, GHOST TOWN is shot to look like a comedy. Mr. Beaks quipped to me as we walked to the car after the film, “If Ricky Gervais wasn’t in that, it would be HEART AND SOULS.” The fact that he remembers that film impressed me. The only reason I do is because I was a tour guide at Universal when it came out, and they screened it for us three times. It’s a terrible plastic movie full of big obnoxious ham-handed emotional grabs, and GHOST TOWN could have been that. I’m impressed how much it resists the urge, and although I don’t think it’s going to be a significant film creatively for Gervais overall, it could be an important one at the box-office.