Tuned In

Is He Having a Laugh? Is He Having a Laugh?

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OK, let’s be clear about this. I love Ricky Gervais. Hell, everybody loves Ricky Gervais. Funny podcast. The Office, a modern classic. He even helped us believe Ben Stiller is a credible kids’ movie star when not playing a cartoon zoo animal. I am not worthy, I am not worthy, etc., etc.

But–and tell me if it’s just me here–is there not something a smidge self-serving about the second season of Extras? Namely: the storyline in which Gervais’ less-successful alter ego, Andy, has to prostitute his vision of writing an intelligent, realistic workplace comedy, turning it into a lowbrow gagfest with funny wigs, slapstick and catchphrases? Let’s repeat that: an intelligent, realistic workplace comedy. Ring any bells?

Look, we get the point. The Office was sui generis, and yes, it would have been a shame if some BBC idiots had watered it down into a lowest-common-denominator yukfest. (Kudos to Gervais, by the way, for reminding Americans that, in fact, Britain produces plenty of sitcoms as stupid as ours.) But they didn’t. And yes, keeping one’s creative integrity in the marketplace is tough. Do we really need a six-episode arc to make that point? What is this, Studio 60 on the Thames?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just picking on my betters because it’s no longer any fun to kick Aaron Sorkin while he’s down. And seriously, Extras is far, far better–more surprising, more willing to challenge its audience and characters–than Sorkin’s sancticomedy. But I hope that in his next go-around, whatever it is, Gervais turns his brilliance to something other than another showbiz-on-showbiz show. Orlando Bloom will still be able to find work, trust me.

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