Television

Gervais Moves On and On and On

Thursday, 9 Aug 2007, 5:00:00 AM

(unassigned)

I have a confession to make. I became obsessed with Ricky Gervais while watching an Extras promo on YouTube. All of America was captivated by the “little fat man with a pug nosed face” when he was evil David Brent on The Office. A few of us stuck with him when he walked away from The Office, unbelievably, after only two seasons, to do Extras for HBO, again, unbelievably, for only two seasons.

Gervais and his writing partner and co-star, Steven Merchant, have decided to air a one-hour closeout to end the show’s second season, much like they did with The Office. The episode is scheduled to shoot next month with no airdate set. This is not much of a consolation, actually. With a decent first season and an exceptional second season, Gervais and Merchant really had something going. Why pull the plug now?

Finding out The Office was coming to such a premature end was bad enough. Who walks away from that kind of success? Fame, awards, money? Ricky Gervais, that’s who. Dig a little deeper into his background and you’ll find a lot about him, thanks to YouTube. Creating the show in the U.S. with Steve Carell was supposed to be some kind of consolation. Now everyone is hooked on it, so Gervais is off the hook. (Wasn’t that his ultimate plan anyway? Kind of like setting the unwanted girlfriend up with his best friend so he won’t have to date her anymore.)

The question as to why Gervais would choose to walk away has gnawed at my psyche enough to prompt me to do some Internet detective work, thanks to Google and YouTube. Everything funny Gervais ever did on camera can be found on YouTube. Okay, so maybe that’s an overestimation of the technology.

Gervais, it turns out, has quite a storied past. He was an ’80s pop star and even has a video of himself singing and looking like a seagull in a flock. Yes, you can see it on YouTube. He has quite a few standup routines. There is even footage of Gervais being coaxed into doing the now infamous dance from The Office when he performed for the Concert for Diana. All of this is highly recommended.

In short, YouTube was able to provide me with everything I could ever want and more to feed my Gervais addiction, and in fact, it’s become the ultimate rebound for me. Why should I wait around for Ricky Gervais to decide on a whim to dabble in this or that when I can just search and, clickety clickety, instant satisfaction? Got to love the modern age.

On the second season of Extras, Gervais’ Andy Millman has taken a job on a lowbrow sitcom where he’s made to wear a black curly wig and repeat the catch phrase, “Are you having a laugh? Is he having a laugh?” By some sick twist of fate, Millman becomes unwittingly famous. Now that he has a paycheck and notoriety, he realizes that respect from his peers is worth more to him. It’s clear Gervais has a lot to say on the subject. One wonders whether he was worried that he would only be David Brent for the rest of his life. His work on Extras has removed that possibility.

Through it all, Gervais has kept us guessing, and that isn’t easy to do in an industry that wants their moneymakers to keep doing what they’ve been doing as long as they possibly can. That has meant the end for many who have never been able to live down the one role. Despite my own embittered sense of loss, I do eagerly await Gervais’ next move, be it on the small screen, the big screen or anything in between.

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