blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Extras (2005) s01e02 – Ross Kemp & Vinnie Jones

This episode introduces co-creator, co-writer, and co-director Stephen Merchant in an acting role, presumably a regular. He’s Ricky Gervais’s agent. Gervais is mad because he can get any parts whereas Merchant is mad Gervais can’t get any parts; no one wants Gervais is the idea. Certainly not on the movie he’s working on, a period piece starring Ross Kemp.

Who’s Ross Kemp? He’s a British TV action star, which is apparently a category of acting pursuit….

Gervais sucks up to Kemp, who’s fixated on his ability to beat up other men. He wants to be a real-life “hard man,” like Vinnie Jones, who was a footballer, and is filming a movie across the alley.

Shaun Pye, who I thought was the best thing in the show last episode for his thirty second opening scene, is back again with a lot more to do. And he’s definitely the best thing. Because Gervais’s character is too ill-defined when it comes to his experience of the absurdity around him. It initially appears he’s above the movie star nonsense, but then it seems like he’s abjectly credulous, which puts him below it, making it less about a commentary and more about positioning the show for laughs from punching up and down.

For example, Ashley Jensen’s subplot. She’s man-hungry once again and sets her sights on actor Raymond Coulthard. Their entire arc involves Jensen thinking she’s too stupid for posh Coulthard and Coulthard being the perfect guy… until just the right moment to wound Jensen the most. It’s a thing to do I guess. Not really a flex just… a waste of Jensen’s time and everyone else’s.

Coulthard played young Scrooge in Muppet Christmas Carol, in case you’re having trouble placing him.

It’s got some okay laughs but not very many. It’s nowhere near as funny as last episode, not even once Gervais fumbles his way into escalating tensions with Jones (on Kemp’s behalf).

Clearly the guest stars matter.

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