Ricky Gervais Is Writing a TV Show About An Atheist in Heaven

Comedian Ricky Gervais is in the process of writing a TV show called Afterlife about an atheist who finds himself in heaven…

 

 

[Gervais and former Dexter showrunner Clyde Phillips] are writing the pilot episode now and plan to film in early 2012, though no studio is yet attached. Gervais will take a cameo role.

I’m all for more Ricky Gervais and we could always use another popular TV show starring an atheist character (House, M.D. isn’t enough!), though I’m not sure how this concept would last more than an episode or two. It sounds more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a series designed to last a full season (or more).

I’ll make this prediction, though: no major network will pick up the show. It’s probably for the better — HBO or Showtime will give the creators far more flexibility and creativity to develop the show as they wish. The networks would try to dumb it down for the American audience with its religious sensitivities.

(Thanks to Rainbowfishymike for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Horsegirl71

    Don’t forget about “Bones”! She’s an atheist as well…

    • http://disienai.tumblr.com/ Semipermeable

      I am a big fan of Bones, she’s a really refreshing character. I wish they’d leave off the hints of romantic sub plots and get to more bits with the insects and science, but sometimes we can only ask for so much

    • http://disienai.tumblr.com/ Semipermeable

      I am a big fan of Bones, she’s a really refreshing character. I wish they’d leave off the hints of romantic sub plots and get to more bits with the insects and science, but sometimes we can only ask for so much

    • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

      I love Bones!  I was coming here to leave that exact comment.  She’s also open and vocal about her atheism and skepticism, and even though Booth challenges her atheism all the time, she hasn’t changed very much.  It meant a lot that in the second to last episode of the 6th season, the writers didn’t use the situation to change her character.

    • Quesita

      I came here to post the same thing.   Bones is a much more likeable.  House is mean and selfish. 

    • Quesita

      I came here to post the same thing.   Bones is a much more likeable.  House is mean and selfish. 

    • Quesita

      I came here to post the same thing.   Bones is a much more likeable.  House is mean and selfish. 

  • J.R. Ward

    Anyone see the fundamental and obvious flaw to this premise?   The lead character goes to heaven to prove their is no heaven? Once the atheist gets to heaven wouldn’t he cease being an atheist? Why can’t the atheist JUST be an atheist without having to prove the “afterlife” as credible and true?  Yes I’m sure it’s  fantasy or dream, but come on Ricky… You are better than this.  I guess the atheist is gonna go to heaven and prove that the christian god is a mean, jealous, and vengeful but still. I’m not a fan of this idea at all.

    • Anonymous

      I’m with you on this one; I just can’t seem to follow where this idea is going. It’s not that one can’t write a fictional world in which religion is real and use that to show the flaws in religion, but this particular example just doesn’t seem to lead anywhere useful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miles-McCullough/1026691196 Miles McCullough

      Maybe it’ll be like Yes, Minister where Heaven keeps trying to help people out and keeps failing, because humans are so unpredictable and Heaven is such an incompetent bureaucracy.

      Maybe Ricky is grudgingly tasked with being a guardian angel and convincing people to believe in a god he still hasn’t seen, because God is too busy… only a little digging reveals that God seems to be missing and all the old souls are frantically trying to hide the fact from the newbies.

      Ricky decides Heaven’s not all it’s cracked up to be and leads a rebellion. Maybe the show will turn into Saving Private Ryan set in the clouds with the weapons of Heaven being used in a bloody civil war. Hopefully he pulls the Winchester boys in for a cameo liberating the denizens of hell.

      Let him explore the concept before you decide it’s no good at all.

      • Anonymous

        There was a manga with that premise I read years ago, that there was no god in heaven. Basically what you said except that the angels weren’t really immortal, so there were no living angels who could remember a time when god was in heaven, it was just a matter of faith for them as well. And demons were angels who were shown god’s empty throne room and couldn’t handle it, so they rebel.  The premise works there because manga plots are often insane, I’m not sure how it’ll play out in a live action TV series but I hope Gervais can make it work. I would expect he’d put a decent amount of thought into it before shoving it on the air.

      • Anonymous

        There was a manga with that premise I read years ago, that there was no god in heaven. Basically what you said except that the angels weren’t really immortal, so there were no living angels who could remember a time when god was in heaven, it was just a matter of faith for them as well. And demons were angels who were shown god’s empty throne room and couldn’t handle it, so they rebel.  The premise works there because manga plots are often insane, I’m not sure how it’ll play out in a live action TV series but I hope Gervais can make it work. I would expect he’d put a decent amount of thought into it before shoving it on the air.

        • Spookster

          Do you remember the name of that manga? Sounds interesting!!

          • Anonymous

            It just took me 15 minutes to find it, but it’s called “Happy World”. Be warned: it’s fucked up at times. Also I just remembered a surprising cameo by Jesus I’d forgotten. There’s a scan on Mangafox.com

            • Spookster

              Thank you! And no worries. I’m a fan of fucked up mangas.

    • Anonymous

      Even if there were a god, you wouldn’t have to believe in him. Or more accurately, worship him.

      If I knew without a doubt that the god of the Bible existed I still wouldn’t be a Christian

  • J.R. Ward

    Anyone see the fundamental and obvious flaw to this premise?   The lead character goes to heaven to prove their is no heaven? Once the atheist gets to heaven wouldn’t he cease being an atheist? Why can’t the atheist JUST be an atheist without having to prove the “afterlife” as credible and true?  Yes I’m sure it’s  fantasy or dream, but come on Ricky… You are better than this.  I guess the atheist is gonna go to heaven and prove that the christian god is a mean, jealous, and vengeful but still. I’m not a fan of this idea at all.

  • J.R. Ward

    Anyone see the fundamental and obvious flaw to this premise?   The lead character goes to heaven to prove their is no heaven? Once the atheist gets to heaven wouldn’t he cease being an atheist? Why can’t the atheist JUST be an atheist without having to prove the “afterlife” as credible and true?  Yes I’m sure it’s  fantasy or dream, but come on Ricky… You are better than this.  I guess the atheist is gonna go to heaven and prove that the christian god is a mean, jealous, and vengeful but still. I’m not a fan of this idea at all.

  • J.R. Ward

    Anyone see the fundamental and obvious flaw to this premise?   The lead character goes to heaven to prove their is no heaven? Once the atheist gets to heaven wouldn’t he cease being an atheist? Why can’t the atheist JUST be an atheist without having to prove the “afterlife” as credible and true?  Yes I’m sure it’s  fantasy or dream, but come on Ricky… You are better than this.  I guess the atheist is gonna go to heaven and prove that the christian god is a mean, jealous, and vengeful but still. I’m not a fan of this idea at all.

  • NewEnglandBob

    “…an atheist who finds himself in heaven…”

    Sounds like a dumb premise and a non-starter.

  • NewEnglandBob

    “…an atheist who finds himself in heaven…”

    Sounds like a dumb premise and a non-starter.

  • Sydney Dunn

    Perhaps he’s in a coma and is fantasising he is in a heaven. That would be funny and would work.

  • Heidi

    Might be amusing even at movie length, but a whole TV show? As in 22 episodes or so? I don’t get it.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      The Seinfeld show was very successful and it was a “show about nothing”.  If done right, it could work.  They could have an adventure each show where they do stuff and try not to “get caught” by God so they aren’t thrown out of heaven.   

  • Renshia

    I think this is great. There are a lot of different angles this could take. Hopefully it is not animated. As far as a whole 22 episode season. Hell they had a number of successful seasons of two and a half men. if they could do that, why not a show about heaven?

    That being said, for an atheist to find himself in heaven would immediately end the premise, Proof is proof, so where can it go, he obviously won’t be an atheist any longer. he will probably come back as a rabid evangelical, that would suck. Could be interesting, hopefully it’s not to stupid to be enjoyable.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    SPOILER ALERT: Atheist goes into coma, wakes up inside an empty IKEA. Empty save for 72 members of the Women’s Swedish Beach Volleyball team.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    The premise of an atheist in heaven has been used before to criticize the very notion of heaven.  All those rejecting the premise before seeing any of the material, just watch this http://youtu.be/TLGGKraKmXc and tell me if you think the message in the end is: “Heaven is real and you should believe in God.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I think he should “flip-it” and have the atheist in Hell.  That would be a lot more interesting because of all the interesting and intriguing personalities that would be in hell.  Most (good) authors, playwrights, poets, scientists, comedians, satirists, etc. would be in hell.   Not to mention all the blowhards that think all their life they would be in heaven (Falwell, and the like).  He could get a lot more mileage out of a comedy show about hell.  There could be little glimpses of heaven with straight and narrow people (all two or three of them) flying around with wings playing harps and in constant worship…  but the heaven scenes would quickly get boring.  Hell is where the interesting dialog would happen.

    • Sue

      The radio show Old Harry’s Game is rather like what you describe.  The lead character is actually Satan (as played by Andy Hamilton) but another main character is an atheist who’s in hell on a technicality.  And most good authors, etc. are indeed in hell.  (Along with all the popes.  I always enjoyed the Pit of Pregnant Popes.)

      It’s currently available on CD, and an animated version is in the works.

    • Sue

      The radio show Old Harry’s Game is rather like what you describe.  The lead character is actually Satan (as played by Andy Hamilton) but another main character is an atheist who’s in hell on a technicality.  And most good authors, etc. are indeed in hell.  (Along with all the popes.  I always enjoyed the Pit of Pregnant Popes.)

      It’s currently available on CD, and an animated version is in the works.

    • Sue

      The radio show Old Harry’s Game is rather like what you describe.  The lead character is actually Satan (as played by Andy Hamilton) but another main character is an atheist who’s in hell on a technicality.  And most good authors, etc. are indeed in hell.  (Along with all the popes.  I always enjoyed the Pit of Pregnant Popes.)

      It’s currently available on CD, and an animated version is in the works.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    In the hands of lesser talent this concept would probably be a dud. But I’m going to give Gervais the benefit of the doubt. If anyone can pull it off he can. And if you find yourself in heaven, all that proves is that there is an afterlife, not that there is a God. A true atheist would demand more proof than that, and the show would probably focus on the atheist retaining his skepticism and searching through heaven to find God. 

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    In the hands of lesser talent this concept would probably be a dud. But I’m going to give Gervais the benefit of the doubt. If anyone can pull it off he can. And if you find yourself in heaven, all that proves is that there is an afterlife, not that there is a God. A true atheist would demand more proof than that, and the show would probably focus on the atheist retaining his skepticism and searching through heaven to find God. 

  • Marguerite

    This made me think of Twain’s “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.”  Could be funny, but as has been pointed out, once the main character arrives in Heaven, he will presumably no longer be an atheist.  He might not like it there, but he’d have to believe in it, I should think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

    The TV show Community has an atheist (Brita) and an agnostic (Jeff).

  • Marlinbetagamer

    Isn’t Sheldon from Big Bang theory also an atheist?

    • Marguerite

      Except when he goes bowling, when he yells, “THANK YOU SWEET BABY JESUS… uh, as Mom would say.”  But yes, overall, he is:-).

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Another atheist main character is Tara from United States of Tara. She mentioned her atheism in episode four, Inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Carvin/100001033684440 Andrew Carvin

    This is insulting on so many levels. #$?! you Ricky Gervais.

    How about you write a show about a religious person who dies, and his/her body is eaten by worms. At least that would be original, less insulting, and I might even laugh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Carvin/100001033684440 Andrew Carvin

    People who made stuff up to explain a world over 2000 years ago without the technology to know how things actually work can not be trusted as authorities on anything let alone morals. This is partly why human society is the way it is despite most people being religious to various degrees. In fact with decreasing religiosity over the centuries things have only gotten better because with the advent of science/technology/research we are gaining true moral insight, and uncovering the lies religion previously taught.

    True morality, true goodness if you like that term better, can only be found with Atheism, because morality (like a house) has to be based upon something real in order to hold up. There is nothing more real than FACTS because facts are not based on opinion, and remain true regardless whether you like them or not. We discover facts by the scientific method.

  • Claus

    Tom Flynn, Executive Director, Council for Secular Humanism, writes about what he hopes shows like Gervais’ will help accomplish.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/a-new-dawn-for-atheists/2011/07/20/gIQABMWmPI_blog.html

  • Beautriz66

    I’m continually amazed that the absurd premise of “heaven” being some geographical or cosmological “place” is such an unquestionably accepted part of our cultural mindset. Heaven is a state if being unrelated, at least as of now, to some set of coordinates. The show could do well, only because so few will actually THINK about the premise or the characterizations in each episode. Regardless of the venue (network or specialty channel) it will only appeal to an audience of shallow thought. Preaching to the choir, essentially.

  • Csk8sinitim

    I like tv shows and I only watch those tv show where storyline of the show is unique and interesting.  And House MD TV Show is one of them. Its excellent program.

  • Mrcold38 Ja

    this show doesn’t make sense to begin with. A atheist can’t make it to heaven because he doesn’t believe in god and so god would reject him making it to heaven. I don’t think if this series does get off the ground that will go very far.


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