The Simpsons' Charlie and the man behind him, Ricky Gervais
The British are coming to Springfield! Or at least one of them is, when Ricky Gervais, the boss man on the original U.K. version of The Office, lends his voice to this Sunday's The Simpsons (8 pm/ET on Fox), in an episode that he also wrote. As Charles, Gervais finds himself filling the role of Marge's new hubby via a Trading Spouses-type reality-show swap.
Surprised that it took this long for a Brit wit like Gervais to get his animated due, TVGuide.com asked the actor-writer how his Simpsons stint finally came to be. "I'd heard that [creator] Matt [Groening] was a fan," he tells us. "I think he saw [The Office] on a plane to or from England, before it was on BBC America, and then
Question: You're probably not asked this question a lot, but got any scoop on The Simpsons?
Answer: As a matter of fact, I do. If you're among the millions who have jumped on the YouTube bandwagon, you've probably seen that incredible U.K. promo video that is essentially the opening sequence of The Simpsons only performed entirely in live actions — with real actors and everything. Well, Matt Groening is apparently a fan, because he's using it as the actual opening of this Sunday's episode (which just happens to be written by Ricky Gervais). You can check it out by clicking here.
The Office's Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer
It's an oldie but goodie on The Office tonight [9:30 pm/ET on NBC]. We are rerunning an episode from Season 1 called "Diversity Day." Michael is subjected to a day of diversity training after complaints are made to corporate about his behavior. He hijacks the meeting and teaches his own brand of sensitivity.
If you are new to The Office, this will be a treat. "Diversity Day" is an often-quoted fan favorite. It is also a favorite of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the creators of the original British version of
Stiff upper lips? Hardly. The best of British TV is anything but stuffy. From the guilty pleasure of the trashy Footballers' Wives (returning for a third season in February) to hauntingly dark mysteries and wacky comedies, BBC America has become one of my top cable destinations for the range of its bold and unpredictable programming. But the fun doesn't stop there. PBS still turns to England for classy drama, HBO has developed a crush on shows with an accent (Rome and Extras) and A&E will air a fourth season of gritty spy drama MI-5 in 2006. Here's a roundup of some recent arrivals.
Bad GirlsTuesdays at 9 pm/ET, BBC AmericaThink: "Oz with Estrogen"The Lowdown:
Question: Maybe I missed it, but I don't see anyone talking about the absolute best comedy on TV at the moment. The show Extras consistently makes me laugh out loud and is thoroughly enjoyable overall. Matt, have you had a chance to take in this hidden gem on HBO, which has received hardly any promotion? If so, what are your thoughts?
Answer: I reviewed it quite positively when it premiered in late September, and now having watched the last few episodes — as with The Office, Ricky Gervais does only six at a time — I am still a fan. I love the fact that it isn't the same exact show every week; the episode when he stepped into an ill-fated holiday, panto stage production of Aladdin as a gay genie, playing opposite a sad-sack comic, was a terrific change of pace. Like the original Office, it is painfully, often brutally funny, but it doesn't surprise me that the show hasn't exactly caught the culture on fire, especially considering how far HBO has slipped under the radar on Sundays lately.
Question: Dude, how freakin' spit-out-your-Snapple hilarious is The Office!?
Answer: Pretty spit-out-your-Snapple hilarious, Eric. Steve Carell is a riot. Sure, he's no Ricky Gervais, but dang-it, he comes pretty close. That said, someone needs to rein in Rainn Wilson a smidge and explain to him the difference between over-the-top funny and over-the-top obnoxious. I'd be happy to give him some pointers.
Best episode so far, I think. The guy trying to be Andy's friend was perfectly cast since you could see why one wouldn't want to be his pal, but couldn't help feeling sorry for him just the same. And even though Maggie's am-I-racist-or-not? crisis was done first on The Office, it was still damned funny, I thought, particularly the truly uncomfortable moment with the dolls. (Besides, Ricky Gervais can be forgiven for stealing from himself.) I'll tell you, between Curb and this, my cringe muscles are getting a serious workout on Sunday nights. And I don't mind a bit.
Question: I've really been enjoying Extras, but it seems like I never hear anything about the show. Why has HBO put so little effort into promoting it? Do you think it's because it's not their own production? Or because there aren't that many episodes? I saw ads for Unscripted and The Comeback all over the place and neither of those shows was nearly as good as this one. Whenever a network attempts to remake a British show, there are always scores of people complaining because they don't just air the
originals. Now that a network finally is, it seems like the show is going completely unnoticed.
Answer: It would make sense to me if HBO, as I expect, spent most of its promotional energy this fall, once Rome was up and running, to trumpet the long-awaited return of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I'm loving Extras and agree HBO had some real opportunities to exploit the hilarious cameos by Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller, but much like Ricky Gervais' original The Office, it's still something of a
If only I could say Extras rose above its tastelessness problems this week. It's not a bad start: Guest-star Ben Stiller mocks himself with a self-congratulatory speech about why he's making the important war film Andy and Maggie are working on. And the show manages to make me chuckle when Maggie raps the fake baby's head against the desk. Even the bowel-cancer gaffe works, but my discomfort meter's pinned for the rest of the episode as Ricky Gervais and Co. mine the genocide in Bosnia for laughs. On top of that, Maggie decides she's not interested in a guy she was just gaga over because one of his legs is shorter than the other, and then there's some racism tossed in for good measure. Capping it off: "Would you stop going off about your f---ing dead wife?" Stiller tells the Bosnian widower. It's not my job to take HBO to the woodshed, so I'll just say this: I'm not ending my night with a smile.
Please, please, please be as good as BBC's The Office. Please? Well, here's our beloved Ricky Gervais, just missing his chance to get into the shot in a very David Brent-like movie. Don't care... I'm headed into this with a strong bias toward wanting to like it, despite HBO's building surplus of showbiz-related fare. And the first-audible-laugh honors go to guest-star Kate Winslet for her absolutely filthy dirty-talk coaching (which I obviously can't repeat here). But good god, are they jumping in with both feet in terms of dancing around delicate topics for humor, or what? A Nazi movie, atheism vs. belief and a character with cerebral palsy? "Heaven? Brilliant up there," Gervais' Andy tells the others. "You're gonna have an amazing time." In his voice, funny. When I type it, not so much.
Then there's Winslet again, gamely saying she only took a Holocaust film because she figured she was guaranteed an Oscar, and Andy making tim