Friday, August 17, 2007

Extras is Something Extra and The Comeback Should

OK I'm a few years late on this - you know, the not having cable thing and all - but I just caught up with Extras and what a smash. The second series from Ricky Gervais of 'The Office' fame, Extras is just as good if not oftentimes better. It concerns Gervais as Andy Millman and the luminous Ashley Jensen as Maggie Jacobs, two professional background artists. Andy is an actor and always looking for that elusive part (or line) while Maggie keeps looking for that elusive man. Each episode centers around the particular project the two extras are working on and thus involves the particular star of said project.

The first epsiode with Kate Winslet is classic television. Her explanation of why she is doing a film on the Holocaust is tasteless and hysterically funny. But then she tutors Maggie on the fine art of phone sex and I will never look at her the same again. Kudos to Winslet for lampooning her celebrity and going along with the script.

Other actors do the same: Ben Stiller and Ross Kemp are certainly in on the fun. Stiller's rant on his movies's grosses and his take on the signifigance of Dodgeball to this particular drama he is directing is over the top and spot on all at once. And Maggie's confusion over why Kemp is NOT a member of Spandau Ballet mirrors the confusion most Americans would probably feel when watching this scene but, for me, it gently solidifed Ms. Jensen's skill as an actress. (I've never seen it but I read that she is now on Ugly Betty; gotta start watching that one - which my mother has been telling me for the last year.)

I found the tone of this series similar to that of The Comeback, the HBO series by Michael Patrick King and Lisa Kudrow. The Comeback was not a ratings success (although it was certainly an artistic one) and was cancelled after one season. The episode of Extras with Les Dennis is as funny and painful to watch as many of The Comeback's best including the second to last episode, Valerie Shines Under Stress. Both of these series' are beautifully written and wonderfully acted.

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