XFM's roots go back to 1989 as an indie pirate station under the name Q102. They eventually gained a license and became full time in September 1997. The then unknown Ricky Gervais was hired as Head of Speech from his previous job as events manager at University College London. Gervais insisted he had an assistant and the story goes that he picked a CV from the top of a pile which was that of Steve Merchant. After a short interview in a local pub the then 23 year old Merchant was hired by Gervais who confessed the reason he needed an assistant was because he didn't really know what he was doing.
Unfortunately for XFM things did not go well. The station launched the day after the death of Princess Diana and a poor marketing campaign led to the station being taken over by the Capital Group a year later. By that stage Merchant had already left to do a production course at the BBC and Gervais took voluntary redundancy.
In 2001 Ricky and Stephen were re-hired by XFM following the success of The Office. This time they were given a producer in the shape of Karl Pilkington who was purely there to press the buttons. They quickly figured out though that he was no ordinary producer and slowly but surely Karl evolved from a background figure to eventually taking over the show.
The trio’s last show on XFM was in July 2005 before they moved onto doing podcasts later that year. Initially they released 12 free podcasts which were hugely successful breaking records for the number of downloads. A further 12 were released but this time they charged a small fee. Gervais crowned himself the “ The Podfather” and released another three free podcasts at the end of 2007 as thanks to all the fans. These were the last to be released and it is unsure if they will ever make any more.
Update: Obviously things have changed, Series 5 of the podcasts were released in 2008 followed by the release of The Ricky Gervais Guide to...in 2009.