Extras: The Compete First Season

Extras: The Compete First Season
Say this about hot Brit comic Ricky Gervais, The Office plebe, The Simpsons scribe and Christopher Guest co-star - he knows how to manage expectations. Having pulled the plug on Brit hit The Office after two six-episode runs (and two Christmas specials), he returned with his different-but-not-so creation Extras, in which he authors Andy Millman, a pathetic background actor in big UK films. It’s high profile enough to land stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller, who all appear as ridiculous, exaggerated versions of their public personas. Winslet’s Oscar-hungry phone sex fanatic is top-notch, while Stiller channels all his aggression into seeming very method, but Gervais doesn’t forget who brought him to the dance - the British public - and thus doesn’t gear his HBO-produced show toward its inevitable North American audience, highlighting Brit TV stars like Ross Kemp and Les Dennis alongside Patrick Stewart. The ST:TNG star is clearly a fill-in for Jude Law, who dropped out, prompting a hilarious round of late-night cold-calling from Gervais trying to reach Leonardo DiCaprio, chronicled in DVD extra "Finding Leo.” "The Difficult Second Album” acknowledges the high expectations faced by Gervais and co-creator Stephen Merchant (who plays Millman’s pathetic, useless agent). But unlike his The Office character David Brent, Andy Millman is the straight man in Extras, playing off the comic genius of Ashley Jensen’s Maggie, a more clueless background actor than Andy. (She’s now jumped to ABC’s hot property Ugly Betty.) It’s in the boredom-fighting chatter between Andy and Maggie that Extras finds its heart, as well as much of its hilarity. According to the rest of the DVD, the greatest challenge for Gervais, and for all his co-stars, is getting through a take without laughing, a constant struggle. No wonder they can only manage six of these at a time. Plus: deleted scenes. (HBO / Warner)