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Meakin Armstrong: On Extras

February 18, 2010


meakin_armstrong-small.jpgMost films aren’t worth buying—why anyone would purchase the Spider-Man 3 DVD is beyond me. Even the very good ones (such as The Maltese Falcon and a Japanese film, Branded to Kill) I just repeatedly put back on my Netflix queue. The DVDs I actually buy are those that have turned me into a missionary for them (director Jean Vigo’s work, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, and a few others). After that, I keep a few comedies on hand, such as the Extras DVD set. Created by and starring Ricky Gervais (who also created the superior British version of The Office, this BBC series is cringe comedy as only the British can do it.

With the possible exception of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Americans seem to shy away from the embarrassing in their comedies. We like our stars to say something snappy and then end on a high note. But not Extras. Gervais is a film extra who’s embittered by his lack of success. Guest stars are various celebrities (David Bowie, Patrick Stewart, Samuel L. Jackson, and George Michael) who play out-size versions of themselves: Ben Stiller directs a film and takes himself far too seriously. Patrick Stewart writes a script, mostly about naked women. Everyone is small minded—Gervais is extremely small-minded.

Here’s a sample video. And another.


Bio: Meakin Armstrong is Guernica’s fiction editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @meakinarmstrong.

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