Monday, February 05, 2007

"Would you come to the Welsh BAFTAs?": Extras

Apologies if all you saw was the photo. I hit "publish" too soon.

So Alan Sepinwall has said that one of the things that keeps him from liking Extras as much as he might is how limiting some of the cultural references are. When we hear that Andy (Ricky Gervais) lost his virginity at the age of 28 to a woman who looked like Ronnie Corbett. Now, this is probably a lot funnier if you know who Ronnie Corbett is (and, indeed, one of Sepinwall's commentors chastises him for NOT knowing, since apparently Corbett was the star of a British show that was also popular in the U.S. -- who knew?!), and the gag where Corbett is snorting cocaine is also apparently funnier if you know that Corbett would never do such a thing.

That said, though, Gervais and his co-creator Stephen Merchant (who also plays Andy's agent, Darren) do a pretty good job of making the jokes around these British personalities specific to the people they're about so that you can sort of guess from context what everyone's talking about (and the episode plays better a second time through when you know what Corbett looks like).

Fortunately, the show has the truly famous in it (tonight -- Chris Martin of Coldplay) for we sly Yanks to latch on to. Normally, I would deplore the use of big guest stars to float episodes (I certainly did in Will & Grace), but it usually seems a cool bit of meta-commentary on both Gervais' newfound fame and the ways that sitcoms use big stars to float along after a few seasons. What's more, these stars are usually playing slimier versions of themselves, which makes their appearances that much more amusing. Is Patrick Stewart going to play a pompous buffoon or an idiot? Figuring out how Gervais and Merchant tweak the public images of these figures is half the fun.

I'll have more to say in an HND review that will be going up soon, but suffice it to say that I quite liked Martin tonight -- especially the silly way he was written into When the Whistle Blows (perhaps a commentary on Extras' use of guest stars itself?).

Your thoughts?

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