Extras - The Complete First Season
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Extras: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Meet Andy Millman, Actor. Never forgets his lines because he never gets any. Andy (Ricky Gervais) is a desperate man. He's been an actor for five years but thanks to his useless agent (Stephen Merchant), he?s never done any real acting. Instead, he?s a lowly film extra, making his mark in the background while the stars do their work. His partner in arms is the pitiable Maggie, a fellow extra and a hopeless romantic. Andy may be an extra, but he?s a star in his own right. Too bad nobody else agrees.]]>
After the British series of The Office came to an end, co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were faced with an enviable problem: After making the most influential and acclaimed sitcom of the past decade, what do you do next? Amazingly, they've actually created an equally brilliant show: Extras, in which Gervais plays Andy Millman, an frustrated actor who can only get work as a "background artist"--i.e., an extra. Not only does the role continue to mine Gervais' gift for self-humiliation (which, staggeringly enough, may be even more excruciating than his David Brent's behavior in The Office, because Andy is more socially capable yet still can't avoid moments of jaw-dropping embarrassment), but Gervais has also persuaded a glorious variety of stars to tweak their own images. High points include Kate Winslet (Sense & Sensibility) teaching Andy's best friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen, Ugly Betty) how to talk dirty and Patrick Stewart (X-Men) describing his new screenplay about a man who uses psychic powers to remove women's clothing. But Ben Stiller, Samuel L. Jackson, Ross Kemp (sort of the British version of Michael Chiklis), and Les Dennis (sort of the British version of...well, there may not be an American version of Les Dennis) all also turn in deliciously ego-bursting turns. Merchant plays Andy's deliriously dense agent, but the core of the show is the relationship between Andy and Maggie. Over the course of six episodes, the interplay between this hapless, starry-eyed pair grows into a wonderfully tender portrait of friendship that perfectly balances the show's so-funny-it-hurts humor. The extras are few but worth watching: Along with a behind-the-scenes featurette, genuinely funny deleted scenes, and the usual clips of everyone forgetting their lines and swearing, there's a very funny sequence of Gervais and Merchant desperately trying to replace Jude Law (who had to drop out of an episode) with Leonardo DiCaprio. All in all, Extras: The Complete First Season is essential viewing. --Bret Fetzer
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Top customer reviews
It's so bad for Andy that during one scene in which he plays a carriage driver, he attempts to put his face in the frame at the last moment, but when the director yells "cut!" he adds "make sure we keep that fat extra's face out of the scene" or something to that effect. It can't get much worse than that, you might think, but you'd be wrong.
Just as on "The Office," the characters on "Extras" seem to know exactly what the most awkward, socially unacceptable thing is to say in just about any situation. Some of the most hilarious scenes involve Andy's best friend (and "background" acting pal), Maggie (played by Ashley Jensen). In one episode, Maggie gets involved with a black man, but in trying not to appear racist, she takes it to the awkward extreme and ends up bringing Andy, who attempts to jump into a conversation involving Sam Jackson to save her, down with her. And just when he had finally gotten a line!
And then there is Andy's inept agent, played brilliantly by "Extras" co-writer/director Stephen Merchant. When Andy goes in to talk to the guy about what potential acting jobs he has, he either doesn't know what Andy is doing there or he is cracking up over having just learned to spell a naughty word on a calculator.
The big-name guest stars, especially Kate Winslet, must have had a lot of fun working on "Extras" because their dialogue and physical action is often dirty and totally at odds with what you'd think they would be like in reality. Winslet and Patrick Stewart both seem like they would be proper and somewhat conservative people in real life, but on "Extras" they reveal a raunchy side that is brilliantly funny simply because it is so unexpected.
I loved "The Office," but "Extras" has made me a full-fledged Ricky Gervais fan. It's great to see Gervais in action because he really seems to love what he does and he's so good at it. "Brilliant!" is an understatement.
Having seen the previews for the upcoming season with guest stars like Daniel Radcliffe, I can't wait to see what unexpected things Gervais and Merchant come up with for Harry Potter to say.
The "Extras" DVD also features a very funny featurette called "Finding Leo," in which Gervais and Merchant attempt to make contact with Leo DiCapprio after Jude Law drops out at the last minute.
I think there is probably a depth of comedy in this show that I've missed. I may go back and try again at some point, but really can't be bothered right now.