Media Rights Capital produces the show with Wildbrain, the animation house behind "Yo Gabba Gabba."
"The Ricky Gervais Show" started out as a radio program in London; in 2005, Gervais and Merchant decided to turn it into a podcast -- and brought Pilkington, a radio producer they had met years earlier -- along. The podcasts began to focus particularly on the eccentric mind of Pilkington.
The podcast became wildly popular -- and even scored a Guinness World Record in 2007 for being the most-downloaded podcast on the Internet.
For HBO, the TV show utilizes the audio from the "Gervais" podcasts and opens each week with the animated version of the trio. Then, once Pilkington begins telling one of his unusual stories, the animation delves into those worlds.
MRC fully finances the show and will take it to the international market shortly. Animated series is their second at HBO, along with "The Life and Times of Tim."
Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington exec produce with Wildbrain's Bob Higgins.
Show has performed modestly for HBO. Variety's Brian Lowry gave it a good review, but had some reservations:
There's no adhesive to the episodes. The three guys sit and bullshit for 20-some-odd minutes -- at times entertainingly -- until the program simply ends. Perhaps that's why the effect diminishes as the episodes wear on, though Glyn Hughes' jaunty score does play them out on a high note.
On a broader level, radio seldom translates very well into visual media -- witness the gap between Howard Stern's vibrant radio shtick and his flat forays into television -- and that's sometimes the case here.
Everything about "The Ricky Gervais Show" speaks to its modest expectations -- an inexpensive way to exploit Gervais' acute observational comedy in another niche. In that respect, it's not unlike approaches used in the past with Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers" (prank phone calls replicated by puppets) and Robert Smigel's "Fun With Real Audio" cartoons on "Saturday Night Live."
Notably, the program is premiering outside HBO's Sunday showcase for original fare, mitigating the risk.
Here's a clip from the show: