Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Extras! Extras! See all about it!

I treated myself to viewing seasons #1 and #2 of Ricky Gervais' incredible, hilarious, Emmy-winning BBC/HBO creation, "Extras," about background, lineless actors - "extras" - and their struggles to make a living as well as get ahead in show biz as "real actors." Those who have lines.

Pictured here, the Extras core cast l-r: Ashley Jensen, Ricky Gervais, long time Gervais collaborator Stephen Merchant and Shaun Williamson.

Each episode features at least one A-level star put in the position of ridiculing themselves and their coworkers so sharply and over the top, I keep hoping that audiences actually know the megastars he casts are nothing like the characters they portray as themselves!

In the show featuring Orlando Bloom, Bloom "as himself" skewered Johnny Depp mercilessly, describing how horrendous it was to work with him and how he could not understand why people think Depp is such a great actor, making fun of his scissors props and other props his notable characters have used.

Kate Winslet as the chain-smoking naughty nun is priceless.

I do worry if the British show is a bit inside. I fall on the floor laughing at things I've seen, experienced, and know go wrong along the way working on or making a show or film, then wonder if real people in the audience understand how funny it all is because Gervais shows how just about everything *does not* work and why.

Typically, Gervais takes on all the verboten subjects in the most twisted way: racism, politics, homophobia, materialism, celebrity, classism, looksism sexism - all the "ism's," in fact, along with the usual deception, deceit, betrayal, failure, success and camp that is show biz.

One of the things I appreciate about this show in comparison to his original smash hit, The Office, is that Gervais' Extras character has a broader range of emotions, surrounded by people who don't share his depth or see themseleves realistically as he does (and despite himself ends up loving them anyway).

Unlike The Office, however, audiences were steeled for comedy when Extras hit the air. They didn't know The Office was a comedy until well into the first season. Viewers in the UK took it as a serious documentary about a typically dysfunctional office. When they realised it was a joke, they laughed long and loudly.

Suffering as his character does in every episode, we are left with the punch line of a very old joke: What? And quit show biz?

This response comes at the end of a very long story told by a circus clean-up man who follows the elephants and other animals in the parades, cleaning up after all the sick and bodily elimination in their cages, getting paid nearly nothing; worse, he's kicked around by everyone with whom he works - all of whom disrespect him.

Finally, the frustrated listener asks, "Good heavens! Why don't you get another job!?" (Review punch line.)

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