Extras: The Complete First Season

Extras: The Complete First Season (2005)
HBO Home Video
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Featurettes

Since the original BBC version of "The Office", Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are familiar faces to many fans of imported comedy. With "Extras, " HBO Home Video is now presenting the most recent show that the multi-talented guys not only star in, but also co-wrote and co-directed.

Andy (Ricky Gervais) is an actor. Or at least he likes to think so. To everyone else, he's just an extra. A faceless person on a movie set used to provide backdrop, activity and visual depth so that the real actors and stars of a film can excel in the picture and capture the spotlight. Well, Andy is tired of being a Nobody and is trying hard to land a line, which would mark the first step towards a real acting career. His agent (Stephen Merchant) is a complete retard unable to even handling the task of picking up the phone properly, let away getting his clients acting gigs. Why Andy keeps him around is anyone's guess and the only balancing factor in his life is his colleague and friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen) – but then again, her life is pretty broken as well. Ah well, getting a line in front of the camera is all that matters.

While "Extras" is not laugh-out-loud funny it does have a dry wit about itself that makes the show very enjoyable. Every episode features a guest star, such as Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, Patrick Stewart, among others, who give credibility to the premise of the show itself, and provide quite a bit of comic relief in the course of it.

Interestingly, HBO serves up the six episodes from the show's first season out of order. Since each episode is self-contained that is not a major problem, but one wonders why the studio decided not to go with the proper episode scheduling and presents them out of order.

HBO presents the show in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and the transfer is without flaws. Giving the transfer a lot of headroom and a good bitrate, the image is restoring the production nicely and with all details and colors intact. Black levels are solid and give the image visual depth with deep shadows that never break up. Edges are sharp but never enhanced and the contrast makes sure the picture runs the entire gamut from black to the brightest highlights.

The audio included is the original Dolby Stereo track that serves the show well. It is free of hiss or distortion and has a natural sounding frequency response. Dialogues are balanced and well integrated to make sure they always remain understandable.

The release also contains a number of extras to complement the show itself, such as a selection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes as well as a the clip/featurette "Finding Leo" in which Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant desperately tries to find out the whereabouts of Leonardo DiCaprio to bring him as a guest onto the show.

"The Difficult Second Album" is a featurette in which Ricky and Stephen discuss the challenges they had creating a follow-up to "The Office." Using the analogy from the music industry, with everyone being so taken in by their previous TV show, how could they possible create something that eclipses that success. It is in interesting featurette that is not all too serious either but still offers a lot of valuable insight into the making of the show, so check it out!

With "Extras," Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have a solid follow up to the Office on their hands that is full of dark humor and oftentimes reminds me of the Monty Python stuff of old – though not so extremely over-the-top. Still, it has the same sensibility in many moments, just being wacky and clever with hair-raising characters and situations. HBO has put together a great DVD, so make sure to put this one on your shopping list.