Ever since I watched the British tv comedy series “The Office” I prefer it to the American version; partly because I find it hard to forgive Steve Carell’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”. He’s definitely funny in the American “Office”, and the two shows are in fact so different that they shouldn’t be compared anyway, but the bottom line is simply that Ricky Gervais is a brilliant genius.
He plays David Brent, the general office manager of a paper mill in Slough/England. Watching Ricky, you feel the pain of humiliation, embarrassment, and shame that David doesn’t seem to experience because he’s self-centered, shallow, clueless, and blatantly conceited, and yet, you’re constantly laughing as David blunders from one ridiculous situation to the next. For example, he’s forever attempting to appear politically correct, but doing so reveals his subconscious prejudices and unexamined beliefs. He’s sexist, racist, homophobic etc. while professing to be liberal and enlightened.
Ricky Gervais’s second television sitcom, “Extras”, also stars Steven Merchant who co-wrote and co-directed both shows. He plays the totally incompetent agent Darren Lamb, hired but unable to find leading (any, really) roles for the aspiring actor Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais). Andy would give anything to be able to speak a line or even a word, but in the first season he’s only an “extra”, a body in the background. “Extras” is more subtle, nuanced, and human than “The Office”. The second season is going to be released on DVD this month; I already ordered a copy.
Here is one of the two video clips commissioned by Microsoft UK in which Jeff (Stephen Merchant) interviews David Brent about “Office Values”…