What You Should Be Watching: Extras

Extras Sundays @ 10 PM on HBO In a nutshell: The Office + Curb Your Enthusiasm Aren't you Americans lucky? Ricky Gervais's second hit BBC show (since The Office) is here on Pay Cable! Gervais plays goofy and awkward (sound familiar?) bit-part actor Andy Millman who spends his time playing the role of an extra in crappy British TV shows and movies. His agent, Darren Lamb (Office co-creator Stephen Merchant) can't actually get the guy a good part to save his life - his role is really that of being more pathetic than Andy than actually getting him work. Ashley Jensen (the wardrobe closet manager on Ugly Betty) plays Gervais' co-extra and best friend Maggie, who, while not more pathetic than Andy is actually more clueless. But sweet. She plays Andy's conscience. Andy gets some local recognition - mostly from people on the street who hate him or directors that dispise him. Like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, he is pretty good at unintentionally pissing people off just by opening his mouth - a role not too far off from Gervais' Office manager David Brent. By the second season (the current HBO season), Darren manages to land Andy his own TV show to write and star in, but the show quickly spirals into a dumbed-down version of his vision. Andy plays a factory supervisor with a funny wig & glasses and a catch phrase. Andy's popularity grows but he is miserable - the running gag of this season is that the show caters to the lowest common denominator - which happens to also be the largest tv viewing audience. Now instead of sneering at him, people on the street ask for his goofy catch phrase. But his peers still think he's crap. The absolute hilight of this show is the guest stars each week - famous British actors playing a cartoon version of themselves. A lusty Kate Winslet, an insane Ian McKellan, a horny bragging Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), a pretensious Chris Martin (Coldplay), a slimy David Bowie, a dispicable Ronnie Barker and of course the over-the-top vain Orlando Bloom. The "real" famous people give the show an edge over just the humdrum of Andy's life. Another great part of this show is getting to see more GervaisdespiseTVhighlight and Merchant ipretentiousnterplaydespicable, which was missing on The Office where Merchant was not a principle. Merchant & Gervais's podcats became hugely popular in 2006. So much so that they became pay-for podcasts. But the two work brilliantly together, like a pair of British Napoleon Dynamites, two idiots playing off each other. Add in Shaun Williamson as Darren's lackey Barry - a sort of Karl-like character (see podcasts) - and the so-dumb-it's-funny just drips out of the screen. Unfortunately, this series is only available in the US on HBO...but if you are clever you can lap it up elsewhere. Or really if you're that clever, you can afford HBO. If you're really serious about this mission, get the first series on DVD. For those of you who just aren't clever...I guess you'll have to wait until season 2 comes out on DVD. You're also reading the wrong blog.

  1. Do you think this show could be translated to a U.S. network sitcom, like The Office? I loved the original Office (UK), and we just got The Office (US) Season 2 and it’s almost as great. Or do you think Extras is too centered around Gervais and Merchant?

    January 16th, 2007 at 3:59 pm
  2. While I thoroughly enjoy Gervais and Merchant and would watch them in anything, a huuuge part of the draw for this show is the guest stars. I probably should have added “Entourage” to my nutshell description, too, because that’s a current show that features real stars acting as cartoons of themselves (Bob Saget, Seth Green, etc).

    It’s actually more like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” than you’d think – pathetic semi-star and his goofball agent make awkward in public, famous people play a version of themselves. Only big difference is the incomes of the main characters in both shows (“Extras” = poor, “CYE” = rich). That and the fact that Larry David is actually friends with these folks on the show (Ted Danson, Julia Louis Dreyfus) and Andy Millman just gets humiliated by them.

    As for a network sitcom, I don’t know. “CYE”, “Entourage” and now “Extras” are all on premium channels. Perhaps the guest stars are way too expensive for network TV.

    Check out this article from the New Yorker that de-constructs and compares the two versions of The Office. http://www.newyorker.com/critics/television/articles/061211crte_television

    January 16th, 2007 at 4:15 pm
  3. Patrick Sewart was hilarious. I totally want to see that movie he was talking about.

    D Wallz
    January 17th, 2007 at 12:06 pm

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