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{Friday}

 
EXTRAS
{with a few EXTRA bits...

Have to say I thought that EXTRAS hit new lows last night - and I don't mean in 'bad taste' (as per all that fabricated hoo-hah in the Press last week).

One minute EXTRAS has aspirations to well-filmed, sophisticated meta-narrative commentary; the next minute it's just THE OFFICE with glitzy cameo spots, replaying all those OFFICE-bound scenes that feature long agonising moments of look-away-now embarrassment or embarrassed befuddlement. It has to be said that at least Gervais knows how to script, time and play the latter - even if they're no longer the least bit funny. (Last night's one about not knowing a makeup girl's name, and a previous one in which Gervais-as-Milman* tried to squirm out of buying Ashley an expensive dress, had the common trait of going on FOR EVER, and not getting funnier with each passing protracted beat.) Gervais founders in amongst all the Big Name acting talent - because, well, because he can't act. He has zero range. (Milman is just a nice-guy version of Brent. Although at conveniently lazy plot points - such as his I'M NOT GAY outburst last night, he seems to revert to pure touchy Brentdom. Would Milman - who has spent X years in and around the acting profession - really be so spikily homophobic?)

Unlike PAUL WHITEHOUSE say - who, altho occupying a vaguely parallel terrain of 'Wot, ME Arty!?' blokey bonhomie offscreen, can completely occupy the Other skin of the characters he takes on (and submerges himself in) ONscreen; Gervais doesnt even seem to like any of his fictional friends, neighbours or dopplegangers much. With Whitehouse you get both genuine affection (for older or marginal, unhip characters), and hints of genuine pain. (I can't be the only bloke in the land who shed trickly little tears during episodes of both 'Ralph and Ted' and 'I Was VEH VEH Drunk' Man.) There is no real pain in Gervais land - only smugness and/or social awkwardness. (Which makes his comedy heir to a rather middle class, STAGE bound ethos, far more than something like the ego-free NEXT PLEASE! aesthetic of the FAST SHOW. It's a suspicion I've harboured of Little Britain, too - without the help of a visually sharp director, in the third series especially, the whole thing had the feeling of one long overly prissy, queeny, misognyistic Green Room IN-JOKE.)

Whitehouse likes his characters enough to listen long and deep enough to detect traces of real pain. (No coincidence that he ended up in a smart show about psychoanalysis...; but thats a topic for another - possibly painful - post.) Gervais listens to surface banter only; the only emotions Gervais/Milman betrays in EXTRAS are frustration, condescension, disbelief, self pity, meanness, avarice. He wants, most of all, the acceptance (or help) of people he really doesnt like. The world is one big undeserving audience.

Which might just work, in a Pooterish sort of way (because even tho he is of spite and sulk compounded, Milman is still essentially a naif: someone who doesnt know how the secret world of Showbiz works, what code words and codified winks it is run on) - but then all these crashingly boring SPECIAL CAMEOS keep cropping up, whose real intent seems to be to signal to us (a FURTHER bloody wink wink - how many codified winks can one wanky show contain without bursting at the post modern seam?) that GERVAIS ISNT MILMAN - he's a puppet master now, he can make SUPERSTARS dance to his un-generous whims. There is a problem here both of being overloaded with too much META, and not enough emotion. Or - of using this boxes-within-boxes trick to ... well, to say stuff that one suspects aint necessarily very nice.

Take the first series episode with Les Dennis. Dennis himself appeared to be playing a fairly complicated, or at least 'knowing' - well, for him - game of 'I know that you know that we all know that I'm doing this knowing that YOU all know that...' etc. Except that, ultimately, the episode left a very sour taste. Gervais & Merchant were exploiting the tabloid meta-verse of Dennis for what I suspect are themselves less than generous motives. Gervais can't identify completely with anyone else's dilemna or perplexity or pain. There is a basic comedy/drama problem here, in that he doesnt have the generosity of spirt to stretch things that far. Or, sometimes, maybe he nearly does - as with Dennis, when he got halfway there, and then ... couldnt resist the Cheap Laugh, finally. (This is a big and recurring problem - as we saw again this week when Milman's duff agent had a date with the winsome Ashley; but more on that in a moment.)

Even in The Office, the laughter was very seldom - at least for me - a joyous, bursting roar-out-loud kind of laughter. It was wincing, partial, like some form of half phobia. EXTRAS collapses this in on itself several wince turns further. Laughter itself becomes a form of after-thought reference, something between scare quotes - a mere footnote. The Office at least, with some of its more dubious moments, might have made you think 'SHOULD I be laughing at this?', twined around with icky tendrils of moral unease. Extras forces the same ruminative PAUSE - - but unfortunately, this time round, the 'SHOULD I be laughing at this?" is because you're secretly thinking: is it just me, or isn't this all a bit self indulgent and FLAT AS ALL GET OUT?

Which, all this is a conventional 'suspended belief' problem, but also a meta-narrative problem. Because not only isn’t most of the current storyline in the least bit believable, NEITHER ARE THE META NARRATIVES! And EXTRAS only works, comedically, if you believe the basic premise. It has basic pretensions to being a 'realistic' look behind the scenes. Some of the time. Except when it isn't. (What world is Milman's awful Sitcom supposed to exist in? It looks like something that would have been REJECTED, and quickly, in 1975; not commissioned, unthinkingly, in a post-Victoria Wood post-Fast Show world.) It's all over the place.

Take last night. Would (Sir) Ian McKellan have hired Milman in the first place?**
Why? Why would he have hired a podgy unattractive TV skit comedian with no stage experience to play what looked like some kind of Young Rupert Everett role? And then, having got this role - which would have brought him kudos, and career change and peer acceptance and, in short, All His Soul Desires - would Milman really have thrown it away (and in that fashion) for the sake of a few Blimpoid mates-of-mates he barely knows thinking he was Gay? (Again, it feels very 1970s, somehow.)

(Or: it only works if we take an enormous - and frankly unconvincing - leap of speculation, and think of the entire second series as some kind of long purgatorial phantasy/nightmare a post-lunch napping Milman is having on some Elstree Thursday afernoon from the first series. No, me either.)

As I say - "and in that fashion"? For each episode seems pre-planned to crescendo with a spot in which Gervais-as-Milman gets to play a would-be virtuoso scherzo of fudge and pause and embarrassment. Which at least is vaguely consistent (if a tiny bit wearing and predictable), like Larry David always having to say what he thinks.
Worse still, worst of all, is what's-his-face as Milman's agent (does he have a name? is it a surprise I can’t remember it? Would he have been indulged half as much - as bad actor, as unconvincing character - if Merchant wasn't also Gervais' real life Best Mate? Isnt he, again, just a barely shaded replay of the "specky geek" he played in The Office?).

Until now, Crap Agent has been played as unreconstructed Crap Man - he wears notably, astoundingly crap clothes (a constant rollneck of pre-NEXT vintage and inexplicable - not even CHARITY SHOP - provenance) and a really bad haircut; and seems to have the limited sexual and interpersonal nous of - well, of some old fashioned 1970s Sitcom character (probably played by a mommy's boy Corbett, say). Then last night he gets a date (unconvincing) with Ashley...

Cut to his flat: all of a sudden he has this scarcely believable ultra trendy flat, he is dressed in Susannah & Trinny smart-choice clothes, his hair is no longer Mummy's Boy anachronistic/absurd, and he is cooking (well) and chatting (amiably, ably), at the same time, and making (utterly out-of-character) charm-laden headway with Ashley.
If this 'from pinstripe to cape' phone-box change wasn't perplexing enough, just as new Trendy Smoothy Man has got Ashley relaxed, he then launches into this preposterous skit about turds stuck in the toilet, which I won’t even detail; but, the point is, he would actually have to be sociopathic or autistic or otherwise have some form of medically certifiable arrested development to be THAT stupid, THAT lame, THAT insensitive. It would be like Frank Spencer becoming Jason King for 10 minutes, chatting up a mini skirted dolly model, then blink blink, he's back in "the cat's done a woopsie!" land. He's gone from being 1973 Sitcom Thick/Crap to being post-Makeover slick n relaxed n confident and trendy, to being Beyond Even Sitcom Thick/Crap - and all in the space of about 15 minutes. This is incredibly poor, lazy, unreflective writing - from a duo who (whether you rate them or not) did at least, with the Secret Romance in THE OFFICE, seem able to write real men and women, sharply, tenderly, affectingly.
But then again - in The Office, Gervais had surrounded himself with proper, capable actors. (And not stupid pointless lookit-me-I-can-hire-my-new-showbiz-pals Actor/Luvvy cameos, but good, ego-free comic actors.)

EXTRAS is a gigantic folly - it's a gigantic narcissistic love note from Gervais to himself, essentially.
He's in virtually every scene - and 95% of the emotional tone and ripple in the series is set off by Milman. This would be a lot for any actor to handle (never mind co writing & co directing too) - especially as the stock in trade Milman moment requires subtle often silent RE-action from him; which is one of the most difficult acting-for-a-camera skills to master - but for someone with the limited capability of Gervais, it's vainglorious to say the least.

He was alright in The Office because, as we subsequently learned from various chat show appearances, Brent was essentially just Gervais playing ... Gervais. Same mannerisms. Same love of anti-PC jokes. Same hesitant vocal rhythms. Same distrust of social consensus. (BTW, does anyone remember the AWFUL little skits Gervais did, pre-Office, for the awful C4 11 O Clock Show? Which - from Gervais' grumbling Tabloid Man to the wan, inexplicably indulged Daisy Donovan***, to the nascent Ali G - essentially had one note, and one note only, of provoking sudden-gasp oh-cringe social unease.)

But at least the playing of Brent required a Brechtian distance of sorts to be established - in that Brent did skirt, a lot of the time, being genuinely despicable or dislikeable.
Ironically, it is in choosing to play an only barely modulated version of his pre-Office self, that Gervais has come a giant cropper. EXTRAS really hasn’t caught on in the public imagination with a twentieth of the to-the-heart power The Office had. (The sole element that caught on first series round was the sympathetic character of Ashley - whose role has, unfortunately, been downgraded in the second series.)

Mind you - Gervais is lucky, inasmuch as for the past few weeks his folly has been followed, on BBC2, by a likewise much-hailed comedy series that is, unbelievably, even less successful, even less funny, than Extras. I have tried to watch - two? three? - anyway - I have tried and TRIED to watch THAT MITCHELL AND WEBB LOOK, because I absolutely adored PEEP SHOW. (Mind you, I think Peep Show was written by some other duo, whereas That Mitchell and Webb Look is M&W's Own Work.) It is shockingly awful, amateurish, inane, awkward, badly acted, sub college review standard.
But again we see comedy programmes on BBC3 that are a thousand time wittier, sharper, better acted, more imaginative - being given the bum's rush of zero publicity, while two middle crass EX OXBRIDGE twits get given the prime time spot. Just saying, like.

It's almost enough to make you welcome back BO' SELECTA!

Almost, but ... well, not 100% shall we say.
Although it bears a moment's reflection at some later date, and I will - dutifully - try and sit through some of the new series ... just because when Leigh Francis started the whole SELECTA conceit, I loved it to bits. Almost alone of his new generation, he had the power to reduce me to states I used to be in between the ages of 11 and 15 watching Python say (or The Producers for the first time): laughter as sheer abject, fallen to the floor, hitting the floor with my hands, as fists, tears rolling down my cheeks, bladder threatening inarticulate SURRENDER. I loved Michael Jackson, and Craig David, and Mel B. I loved Trisha's "RICE AN PEAS" catchphrase (the latter, for some reason, made me laugh more than anything else)****. I even liked the rude BEAR, at that point.

But I don’t think I have ever swung so violently away from something, 180 degrees, from sheer uncritical love, to sheer pathological ALLERGIC hate. By the third (I think) series of BO SELECTA I literally couldn’t stand to watch it, a few minutes of its seemingly unscripted, swearing + swearing + swearing + self consciously RUDE BITS + swearing + NAFF D-list celebrity in-joke slagging off + more putrid 10 year old boys' idea of "RUDE" BITS + more OTT swearing for its own sake... it seemed more like the admission notes for someone who had been SECTIONED by their friends for their own good, after having a 15 pints and too much coke breakdown one Friday night. (Have you ever been with someone when they stepped over the line from being edge-of-drunk saying-the-unsayable genuinely riskily funny ... into red-faced unstoppable babbling hysteria? It was like that - only stretched out into yawn inducing length. And for some reason, Channel 4 seemed to indulge every last shoddy minor idea Francis/Merrion had, resulting in various 'specials' that were anything but.

Maybe there is hope, tho'.
Last night I saw a trailer for the new BO IN THE USA (makes me laugh, already: I'm sorry, but it does) series, and it featured a skit called Michael Jackson’s PIMP MY BRIDE!. I blew tea out my nose. Maybe all is not lost in this department.

Coincidentally, last night I caught an advert I'd never seen before (I swear) - for the new - what else? - SCARFACE video game, with the nicely apropos tagline 'TONY MONTANA DOESNT DIE THAT EASY." Thanks, guys, for making my post on Scarface's 'iconic' afterlife look even more on the money, heh heh.

BE the ORIGINAL.
BE Tony Montana.
BE Scarface.

Seriously - WHAT WERE THE CHANCES OF THAT HAPPENING!?


Final trivia burst.
I need to watch a couple more episodes of the new ROBIN HOOD (BBC1, Saturdays) before I make up my mind. There was stuff in the first episode I thought was fantastic (and - was it just me - but wasn't there a nudge nudge wink wink thematic being traced thru about Blair + Bush + Iraq + Palestine + Old Labour vs. New labour? Mmm? just me?), but there was also some disappointing stuff. (WHY, for instance, is the Sheriff of Nottingham ALWAYS played in that identical pure-evil smirk smirk panto way? Keith Allen is good at it, sure; but I'd like someone to do him as a weak and hamstrung man, caught in a political trap, his heart one place his realpolitick another: a bit more HAMLET and a bit less HAM. Or, then again: a bit more genuinely evil, sheer darkness, no laffs. There's a whole spectrum you can imagine: but we only ever get this one ho-ho-ho xerox (and everyone now will always be trying to out Rickman Rickman I guess...)(altho I wouldn’t mind going back to the early 60s ROBIN, the one that supposedly, infamously, had all the exiled Hollywood Left input, and seeing how the Sheriff was played then...)


______________

* = distant cousin of The Simpsons Hans Mol[e]man? Everything in EXTRAs does seem to have some extra meta-comedy referential dimension)


**Interesting contrast was provided last night - cruelly so for EXTRAS - with a fantastic back-on-form episode of THE SOPRANOS which saw Christopher and slick friend try to 'take meetings' in Hollywood. Impossibly, post SEXY BEAST, one's estimation of (Sir) Ben Kingsley just shot up another ten notches! I feared this side narrative, but it ended up being played brilliantly - on about three or four or five different levels! - right to the excruciating end. Any show which can produce characters who MUG LAUREN BACALL and not only get away with it, but retain our sympathy in the grubby process ... (it makes Gervais gently-gently sending-up of Chris Martin and David Bowie all the more curdled looking and in-joke one-dimensional.


*** Inexplicable, that is, unless you add her to our list of Posh Sorts getting the breaks and publicity over Prole Sorts. Hmmm?


**** Altho I have to add, here; reading through this, a couple of hours later, I just noticed that ALL of these ridiculed characters are black (I mean, Francis/Merrion even restores Michael Jackson's blackness!). I don't know if this merits comment, or censure, of any kind, but I duly note it - just as a recent correspondent to this page noted that Baron Cohen's two main creations were both albeit tangentially "Muslim". (Altho I guess you could just as convincingly claim - in a post modern, color blind kinda way - that what Jackson, David, Trisha and Mel B have 'in common' is being a priori (or a Selectori) absurd, media-flimsy, and way open to lampoon.


Extra unrelated ***** } { Did you notice how Sacha Baron Cohen got PUBLICITY YOU COULDNT PLAN OR BUY for his new BORAT movie, when the unluckily named ROBINSON let in that hilarious own goal the other night? Each time the ball trickled agonizingly into the back of the net, not only did CROATS everywhere get a vertiginously pleasurable subtextual POLITICAL pay off all these years on, but the FLASH ON FLASH OFF digital billboard directly behind the England goal lit up with BORAT's egregiously disingenuous smiling face and the tag line I LIKE YOU ...


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SATURDAY SUPER ADDENDUM

This thing I mentioned re Gervais/Merchant - about nearly getting there, but not being able to resist the Cheap Laugh ... reared its (literally) icky head again last night in the aforementioned new BO IN THE USA. I'm beginning to wonder if this is a generational thing? See, me - if I had shot that scene with The Bear interviewing a gloriously filthy Jenny McCarthy, I would have CUT the moment she put her platinum blonde head down into his furry little lap - CUT! - and CUT because, to me, that is a matter of economy and timing, and it would have been a hundred times more effectively funny. It's the KICKER, as old time comics used to say.

But there's something almost pathological at work here, with some of today's TV-reared meta-comics. Francis-as-Merrion can't resist lingering on a woeful moment longer - he cant resist an extra capper (or geyser) - he can't resist, in all senses, the MONEY SHOT. Because he can. Because no one queries it these days. Because everything goes. And again - I stress, I have no 'moral' Daily Mail style queasiness with this; its purely that I think he wrecks the gag - because just maybe the GAG ISNT WHATS IMPORTANT to him. So he has the Bear squirt off all over the place. Oh - HA HA. (Interstingly, tho': he then follows this by cutting to a 'real life' (or 'BO Life'?) JADE GOODY and her Mum, pictured watching the show at home like any other Friday Night saddo TV-watching couple. The older Ma Goody (who is probably about my age, now that I think about it) protests - 'Oh Jade!, that's not funny, thats GROSS.' But little 'Big Sister' Queen JADE loves it...

I noticed this GENERATIONAL thing too, last weekend on some 100 GREATEST LAFFS compilation on C4. I hadnt heard of half the "infamous" Internet clips; and I shrugged through most of the rest. So much of this was the sort of clip that is as much CRINGE and UNEASE as it is genuine crafted scripted laughter. (The sort of thing where Richard and Judy imitate someone from the Hipperati, say.) And seeing TRIGGER HAPPY get to TOP 3 out of a HUNDRED, I began to think that maybe DOM JOLY is something like the acid test here. In this arch new world of money shots and real-time larks, hidden cameras and hidden motives, JOLY actually counts as some kind of brave pioneer and innovator; he is now regarded by his peers as, if not some grave King Across the Waters, then at least as some sort of Elder Statesman of rib and put-on and prank.

But I must confess - I have never found a single thng he has done, the LEAST bit funny. Even the orignal TRIGGER HAPPY TV left me completely cold. More - I found it irritating and embarrassing and juvenile.

The only pleasure I have ever gotten from Joly was one of, I admit, rather unpleasant schadenfreude - when he went out on a wing to do his own late-night META chat show experiment, in which he "played" a deeply unpleasant "version" of himself. It truly (but TRULY) bombed; and Joly, like some old time Archie Rice forced to drag on the baggy pants and buff up the squeaky red nose again, had to buckle under and do a "EURO/U.S." Trigger Happy TV re-visited... the problem, again as with Gervais, was that Joly just wasnt relaxed enough (or generous enough) with either himself or his guests, to pull off this actually quite complex "acting" gig.

Some day soon we'll have to do a GARRY SHANDLING revisited post, and draw up a league table of all the massively failed British comic attempts to 'Do A Larry Sanders Show' ... starting, bizarrely, of course, with THIS MAN ...

posted by Ian 10/13/2006 11:27:00 AM

Comments:
Concur with everything here.... (Only question is:why do we keep watching it - i.e. Extras - then?)

Meta-racism, meta-homophobia are surely some of the most unpleasant forms of 'humour' ever --- the pathetic genuflections to PC clearly and transparently a licence to use the same old shit ---

You're right... NO pain... Look at how people queue up to be on Extras, it's embarrassing... Germaine Greer this week, in that awful, leaden skit... (can't the BBC even parody its own programmes effectively?).... all of them falling over themselves to 'send themselves up'... because no-one, absolutely no-one, can fail to see that is precisely what they are - 'gamely' - doing, sending themselves up... Impossible to imagine McCellan, or Ronnie Corbett, or Bowie being even remotely perturbed or challenged by their depiction in Extras, because, plainly, the portrayals have no level of reality whatsoever...

re: the 100 Funniest Things Ever... How did Daisy Donovan even feature, never mind about 30 places above Alan Partridge or something? You'd have thought C4 would have burned all the stock of the Daisy Donovan Show and scattered the ashes on the sea rather than admit that they ever let stupid, vacuous posh no-mark make her awful, pathologically unfunny programme...
 
When a programme has degenerated into allowing Chris Martin to be a "good sport", you just know it's days are up.

Re the gay "thing": it always struck me that The Office was building up to a final bombshell that behind his tragic-laddish bluster David Brent was secretly gay (his touchiness about the subject and incessant joking about it etc) but then they did a 180 degree swerve at the end to make him more "human" while managing to strike the only really jarring moment in both series.

In terms of Extras' growing unbelievability, NOBODY is as unwittingly stupid and tactless as the Maggie character. Her crassness at times makes her actually seem hateful - which I doubt was the intention.

Just to prove that *everything* is interconnected, Ricky Gervais provided one of the voices in that Scarface video game (!!):

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451192/

............. and Keith Allen was of course in Bob Martin. I didn't think that was too bad as it happens - and it's strangely fitting in retrospect that this venture into celebrity deconstruction coincided with the implosion of Barrymore's career.

Steve
 
Just to prove that *everything* is interconnected, Ricky Gervais provided one of the voices in that Scarface video game

That's so unbelievable, it could almost feature in Extras...
 
Does anyone have an opinion on Gervais´ standup work? Me and a friend laughed ourselves absolutely silly to that Animals DVD. I, for one, find his way of slipping between Gervais/Brent, quietly, quite good, making him sort of a one-note Eddie Izzard (who btw has REALLY lost his flair on stage, judging by the time I saw him in Stockholm). Something to be said for the one note range, I think...
 
yeah I think you might be looking a little too closely at Extras. I for one laughed uproariously several times in the last epiosde, which admittedly wasn't perfect. That ending was terrible: maybe his old school mates might've thought the gay kiss would've been nice; I couldn't believe that Millman wanted to impress them etc.

And yes, the situations are unbelievable but so are those in Duck Soup or any Abbott and Costello comedy - it's all fantasy to a greater or lesser degree.

Extras makes a lot more sense to me as a show about hierarchies and mediocrity and how they reinforce each other. Gervais/Millman is acutely aware of his own mediocrity - it's a really common comic theme.

Yeah there are cheap laughs: big deal. It's only a problem when I stop laughing.

I can't see the meta-racism: I think Gervais just hates Lenny Henry.

As for meta-homophobia - I don't see that either. Like his idol Larry David (who's big in the lesbian scene!:) I get the feeling Gervais is struggling to come to terms with his gay side. Also a common theme these days..
(cf. Peep Show!)

henrik, I think Gervais' stand-up is brilliant. That and this season of Extras have finally won me over.
 
I think you could have picked some better examples there - Duck Soup or Abbott & Costello Meet The Wolfman aren't exactly set in a 'real' situ, they dont depend on a set-up that derives friction from some version of what behind-the-camera 'reality' might involve... the minute you se Groucho's moustache, we know that.

Do Abbott & Costello ever get screened on British TV? It's probzbly a bit "where's me washboard" by now, isn't it? (Which EXTRAS, in its turn, will be, in not too many years: how many footnotes will it take to 'explain' the basis of an episode which depends on knowing all about "Grant Mitchell" having a fight with Vinny Jones? Christ, you practically need them now!
I already had to look up Vinny Jones' name ... (as FSR I kept thinking Vini Reilly. Which, now THAT is an obscure meta meta reference!)

I have no idea if GERVAIS is 'homophobic' or racist; my squabble is with the way in which *Milman* maybe displays these things being INCONSISTENT. He seems to jump in and out of character.

I don't think it's 'offensive' in any (genuine) way - I just think it's lazy, self indulgent of Gervais new fame, and way way WAY too obviosuly cribbed off CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.
 
I do agree with you that there is some laziness at work here but imho Gervais and Merchant does manage to squeeze some brilliant work out.

I also think that having the celebrities is their concession to the BBC and HBO: hence, perhaps, the comedy within a comedy, which of course also serves other purposes as well.

This probably explains why Larry David has so many star cameos in his show too...

And yeah, you're totally right about cribbing off CYE. I've noticed that too.

Yeah maybe not the best examples, Duck Soup and Abbott & Costello but they were the first things to come to mind. Some of these old comedies do have their moments though.

As for all the modern local references, well, you can say the same for any number of comedies - a lot of Time Trumpet went over my head (am I supposed to know who Anne Robinson is?).

That's all part of comedy's expression of the here and now. The closer you are to the source the more jokes you'll find.

As for consistency, again that's not so great an issue with me. I'm guessing that these guys came up with thousands of scenes for each episode and have culled them down to the funniest stitching them together as best they can.

I'm not expecting my comedians to be geniuses - just that they make me laugh, which Extras does, and that they try to make some interesting points about our society, which Extras also does. Obviously, they can't deliver all the time.
 
I think this META comedy thing is a relatively recent, or relatively localised phenomenon - a kind of post Vic n Bob or post DAY TODAY thing (Time Trumpet was an Ianucci thing wasn't it? I missed it completely, FSR). It can be OK, but it can get to be a lazy tic. I caught some late night re-runs over the weekend of THE GRIMLEYS - which i think was a great and under appreciataed piece of work. And you'd think that of all things that might be hermetic and reference-soaked it would be s/t set in early 1970s Midlands. But it isn't, and didnt depend on you knowing the names of obscure 'b' sides or newscasters or sweet brands. (If you knew who Noddy Holder is/was, his character got a bit funnier, but it didnt rely on your knowing.)
I just think maybe theres a certain type of career comic/writer who relies too much on Meta stuff. The new Jack Dee thing is another one; and again, its had rave reviews, it's unargauably capably made, and ... doesnt make me laugh one bloody bit. (Paul Whitehouse did this middle aged media comic thing FAR FAR better.)

(Also impressively made, media-trumpeted and leaves me COMPLETELY cold: Catherine Tate.)

Maybe I'm just allergic in some way to Gervais. I remember with The Office, thinking similar things - i.e., that it was incredibly impressive, but just NOT FOR ME. I found that 'long embarrassing agonising social gaffe pause' thing, actually DID make me wince, rather than laugh. Something about it, just not on my wavelength.
 
That Jack Dee thing should've been called Curb Your Plagiarism (rimshot).

Did anybody else like that Star Spoofs thing (or whatever it was called)? It actually made me LARF.
 
I only saw the Catherine Zeta Jones one - very very silly, but yes, I must say, brass tacks, it did actually make me splutter and guffaw a good few times ...
 
Mitchell & Webb. Patchy in the extreme, yes - but my God, their portrayal of the gay couple (the paediatrician (?) and the ice cream factory worker) - now, that touched on a truth which I haven't seen anyone attempt to portray before. Horribly, agonisingly, hysterically accurate portrayal of a power dynamic which is, shall we say, very close to home. How did they KNOW?
 
in limited defence of dom joly: ONE funny moment i think, when he crawls across a zebra crossing dressed as a giant snail
 
Re the dubious predominance of black comic figures in Bo in the USA, what about Michael Jackson's monkey staff in this week's broadcast?!
 
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