Karl Pilkington Sick of It Review
Sick of It by Karl Pilkington
The slack-jawed, balding, cretinous Manc is back, predictably whinging throughout the entire self-indulgent and overly-complex vehicle for desperately wringing the last vestiges of humour from a laboured, ‘planned spontaneity’ gag.
But that’s enough about me – we're here to talk about the latest release from Karl Pilkington.
After much plugging by the host network Sky, last night brought the first two installments of his new six-parter, Sick Of It.
To be honest, I feared I’d regret my opening paragraph in case it was to become an uncanny reflection of the truth. However - and happily - that wasn’t the case.
For those already familiar with Pilkington’s work, such as An Idiot Abroad, The Moaning of Life and, the podcast that heralded his rise to fame, The Ricky Gervais Show co-starring Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this marked the end of his self-imposed, three-year exile from TV.
He’d decided to retire after his success had enabled him to pay for his house outright, before becoming bored. Unsurprising for a man who, aside from having just celebrated his 46th birthday, has a very busy mind, despite the ‘simple’ label he is often unfairly given.
So after some persuasion – a career in TV was never in his plans – he not only created and wrote this new sit-com but plays the main character too. Although not an autobiographical series, the story centres around a forty-something bloke called Karl who finds himself living with an older relative after the demise of a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Zoe.
Those expecting to be rolling around the carpet and laughing like a drain, as we did at The Ricky Gervais Show, will be disappointed. Not because it’s not funny – it is – but because it’s not the same kind of thing. In those earlier series, Pilkington was the patsy; a subject of Gervais and Merchant’s often juvenile mockery who became an unlikely hero with his gentle, agreeable manner and distinct way of seeing the world.
Here, the majority of the laughs are provided by Karl’s inner voice, who lurks about - somewhat awkwardly at times - in the background and chipping in with what he feels is helpful advice from time to time. He is also played by Pilkington, though handily he’s wearing a woolly hat so we can tell the difference.
This inner voice is particularly cynical, frequently telling the real Karl that people are “taking the piss” and doing what Pilkington does best: echoing our own inner thoughts that we don’t (generally) say aloud.
As you can imagine, the fact that the show is scripted means that naturally there aren’t too many opportunities to do this credibly, so you won’t be laughing from start to finish.
What I found to be the biggest surprise, was the fact that this didn’t matter; when we laughed, we chuckled out loud. The rest of the time we were shaking our heads along with Karl at the almost-farcical nature of some of the events, most of which being the kind you hope wouldn’t plausibly happen but equally wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
In addition to this, there was a poignancy to it that caught me off-guard. Karl Pilkington is often derided by his critics for being a simplistic persona who lacks depth and whilst I’ve always thought this unfair, there were plenty of arty, metaphorical elements to Sick of It that show this is patently not the case.
Some of this, I think, is down to his own self-deprecating nature which, while undoubtedly part of his charm, may influence how others see him.
Although the main character is adamant he doesn’t want to get married and have children, there is an underlying romanticism running throughout. In the first two episodes, available on Sky On Demand, he is already questioning whether this is truly the case.
In real life, Karl Pilkington expresses self-doubt in his own intelligence, citing his lack of academic success at a Manchester comprehensive school however, the emotional intelligence he displays – often, admittedly, poorly-articulated – belies himself.
He deliberately cast the central character as having few friends, not just because “that seems to be covered on telly quite a lot”, as he told the I Love Manchester website, but also because that’s quite often the reality.
Sick of It is about the struggle of becoming an individual, after so long of being one of a partnership, and the conversations with his inner-voice articulate his journey through that struggle. In describing it as being “..about having a relationship with yourself and getting through life with the one person you can’t get away from: you”, the importance of accepting and, at the very least, liking yourself as part of that journey demonstrates a disarming insight. In a society where we are constantly bombarded with reasons to feel inadequate, this is refreshing.
There are similarities, certainly in terms of the type of humour, to Peter Kay’s Car Share and, while it pains me to say that Pilkington’s effort might lack the sophistication of his Bolton-born fellow comic’s show, it’s definitely worth a watch.
It’s funny in places, ridiculous in others but moving throughout and at just twenty-odd minutes an episode, is worth spending the time on. I like this character Karl with his enduring optimism, despite the cynical nature of his humour, expressed by his comment “..still the 1% chance” after hearing near-improbable odds, and I hope he ends up liking himself by the time the series finishes too.