Image A- Sound A Extras B
"Kate Winslet," "Ben Stiller," "Ross Kemp," "Samuel L. Jackson," "Les Dennis," "Patrick Stewart"
by Ian Pugh The oft-invoked reason as to why we indulge in "entertainment journalism" is because it demystifies the culture of celebrity. Proof of star public outbursts and make-up-free faces, in other words, forces them to "our" level of humanity. At first glance, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's BBC sitcom "Extras" feeds into that fascination through parody: Proposed as unreachable titans via eponymous episode titles, the guest stars who tower over "background artists" Andy Millman (Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen) are invariably revealed to be windbags and/or perverts. It's possible to see this as an attempt to deter us from rumour-mongering: Kate Winslet becomes a bitter Oscar bridesmaid ("You are guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental," she says upon seeing a woman with cerebral palsy), for instance, and Ben Stiller--improbably directing a film about the Yugoslav Wars--presents himself as precisely the kind of loser he plays in the movies but with twice the ego.