Extras: The Complete First Season (2005)
"Kate Winslet talking dirty to Anne Frank and Joseph Goebbels. Just a normal day."- Andy (Ricky Gervais)
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen
Other Stars: Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, Ross Kemp, Samuel L. Jackson, Les Dennis, Patrick Stewart
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 02h:53m:41s
Release Date: 2007-01-09
DVD ReviewThe old adage is wrong: there are small parts, and there are small actors, and Ricky Gervais knows it. This brutally funny first season of his followup to The Office runs just a scant six episodes, but each one is a firecracker. Those of us on this side of the pond may be a bit hamstrung by not getting all of the British pop culture references and inside jokes, but there's still plenty here to make just about every installment both hilarious and mortifying.
The premise brims with comic potential, and Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant use their instincts and past successes to best advantage. Gervais plays Andy, an aspiring actor who can get work only as an extra—he fancies himself another De Niro, but is consigned forever to playing roles like Waiter #3, and he and his fellow "background artists" are perpetually begging after a single line. His best pal Maggie is in the same line of work, though she seems to take each gig as a chance to meet men rather than further her career, and the conceit of the show is that Maggie and Andy are working on a different project in each episode, featuring a guest star of renown. The episodes begin with a vignette from the project being filmed, so it's a chance to have fun with genre conventions: Kate Winslet as a nun fending off the Third Reich, Samuel L. Jackson as a plays-by-his-own-rules lawman, and so forth. But the real fun is with Andy doing his best to hustle between takes—he's more likable than David Brent, but nearly as deluded.
Gervais is disarming in the lead role; like Jerry Seinfeld, he's not really a great actor, but he's terrific in this, no doubt in large measure because he and Merchant have fashioned the material for him. Ashley Jensen is sweet as Maggie, always on the make, but many of the biggest laughs come from the guest stars having fun at their own expense, and at that of their public personae. Winslet, for instance, is riotous both tutoring Maggie in phone sex skills and when discussing taking on this fictional project only because she's sick of being nominated for and then losing out on Oscars, and all of this while in her habit. Ben Stiller is a controlling auteur preening about his grosses, and Patrick Stewart takes Andy into his confidence with hilariously misogynistic pitches for his own dream projects. Two of the guest stars, Les Dennis and Ross Kemp, aren't as well known in the U.S.; there's still enough funny stuff in them (e.g., Andy cast as an absurdly campy Genie in a cut-rate production of Aladdin), but a lot of the BBC stuff will likely be lost on you.
Merchant is on screen as well, as the worst possible agent imaginable, trying to talk Andy out of the business, and producers out of hiring his client. (If you're a fan of Gervais/Merchant podcast, it's particularly fun to see them together here.) There's not much that's cute and cuddly about Gervais's work, and you've got to be ready for a dollop of mean-spiritedness; but he and Merchant rarely go after someone who doesn't deserve it, and ultimately most of the fun is had at Gervais's own expense. Very funny stuff.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Contrast levels are occasionally garishly high, but overall a decent transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: It's all sufficiently audible, though like Christopher Guest's movies, the series favors overlapping dialogue—it brings with it a good dose of realism, but sometimes strains the limits of the 2.0 track.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Office, HBO series roundup trailer
7 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
- two gag reels
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsNo sophomore slump here for Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant—their second series effort is funny and barbed and knowing, a worthy followup to The Office.
Jon Danziger 2007-01-30