blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Extras (2005) s01e01 – Ben Stiller

It takes about halfway through the episode to learn both leads’ names. One is Ricky Gervais, I mean his character name. Ashley Jensen is the other lead. They’re both movie extras, working on the set of a serious Ben Stiller genocide movie. When the episode starts, it’s them after a shot and they’re talking to another extra and it’s unclear in that moment he’s not a lead. Shaun Pye, I think. He’s funny. For a while I was worried the show wasn’t going to be funny without him around.

I was wrong.

Lots and lots of funny in “Extras.”

Writers and directors Gervais and Stephen Merchant slowly reveal the extent of the heroes’ character defects, whether it’s Gervais manipulating still-grieving genocide survivor Boris Boscovic into a speaking part in the film or Jensen deciding a guy just isn’t for her based on a physical characteristic she hadn’t noticed. But it’s not a sitcom about the situations they naturally find themselves in, it’s one of those British sitcoms where the nasty characters gin up their own situations. Gervais and Jensen do a great job ginning up trouble for themselves, particularly—it turns out—when they’re together.

After trying to get out of Liza Sadovy’s birthday party, both Gervais and Jensen end up wanting to go for different reasons. The evening concludes with Gervais and Jensen being really racist in front of a bunch of bigwigs. It’s hilarious. But it’s a really easy joke. “Extras” seems to be very much about amping up easy jokes to get the biggest laughs or biggest surprises, like how Ben Stiller is a completely self-absorbed asshat who can’t shut up about his box office grosses. He’s got some absolutely phenomenal monologues.

The end of the episode even hits a heartfelt note, which sadly seems appropriately optical for Gervais—turns out he and Jensen are better people even if they’re proudly ignorant racists versus being closest elitists.

Sure, Ricky. (He totally voted leave, didn’t he?)

Show’s funny though.

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