The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 6, 2005 - 11A
Courtesy of HBO
Yeah, they look like they have some chemistry. Sure.
New show offers up
" a lot of 'Extra stars
DAILY ARTS EDITORS
By Kelly Shefferly
For the Daily
"Extras," HBO's new Hollywood
satire is the new
project from Ricky
Gervais and Ste-
the co-creators of
the smash BBC
hit "The Office."
on the BBC in July and August, the
show details the vain attempts at fame
by the anonymous extras who fill up
the background of movies.
It specifically follows the on and
off-set misadventures of Andy (Ger-
vais, "The Office") and his close
friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen, "East-
Enders") and features turns from
guest stars Ben Stiller, Ross Kemp
* ("EastEnders"), Kate Winslet, Les
Dennis ("Family Fortune"), Samuel
L. Jackson and Patrick Stewart, who
all play themselves. The awkward
pauses and social misunderstandings
that were so integral to the humor of
"The Office" can also be found in
"Extras," but the show is not neces-
sarily an exercise in repetition for
Gervais and Merchant.
The guest star in the first epi-
sode shown on HBO is the normally
reserved Kate Winslet. She plays a
nun in a Holocaust movie because she
is certain that making a Holocaust
film practically guarantees an Oscar.
In the second episode, Ben Stiller
("Meet the Fockers") turns in a hilari-
ous performance as the director of a
tragic film who throws out-box office
statistics to prove his worth.
However, the real star of the show
is Gervais. His character is not nearly
as animated and ridiculous in "The
Office," but he still manages to make
offensive remarks to the wrong people
and sabotage his own attempts at suc-
cess. Maggie, a shallow and some-
what daft woman, is the perfect foil
for Gervais's smugness and ambi-
tion. Jensen makes Maggie's constant
social faux pas and idiotic comments
seem endearing because of the inno-
cence that she gives to the character.
The two of them maintain excellent
chemistry that brings compassion and
sympathy to the characters even when
they are doing things that most people
find completely offensive and inap-
With its unflinching look at the less
visible people in the film industry and
its numerous guest stars, "Extras"
conjures up memories of the mid-
'90s HBO classic "The Larry Sand-
ers Show." The two are very similar
in their sarcastic and cynical view of
fame, but "Extras" makes this point
from the perspective of those who will
never attain it.
THE MERITS OF THE NEN
T he world of pop culture is littered with
trash. Daily Arts Editor Adam Rottenberg
and Daily Magazine Editor Doug Wer-
nert wade through the wreckage, debating topics
ranging from the fall TV season and US Weekly
cover-couple Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.
Are Nick and Jessica really broken up? 1
Adam Rottenberg: I can't believe we're actu-
ally debating this in print. If I have to answer;
I'd say yes. But I think what we should really be
discussing is why is Jessica's dad is so creepy.
Does he always have to talk about how large her l
Doug Wernert: If you can't believe it, then why 1
did you call me the second you found out? Of
course it's not true. If it was, Nick would have
already written a song about it called "Give
Me Just One Night (Una Noche) Part 2." Plus,
what girl wouldn't want to be with a guy with 1
no career, no personality and is best known as
that guy who moves around furniture on "New-
Does anyone still care about "Survivor?"i
DW: Call me crazy, but despite not even being
the best reality show on its own network (that I
honor still goes to "The Amazing Race"), "Sur-
vivor" still has that surreal element that draws l
people to it. Everyone loves to see a good back- i
stabbing once in a while, and when you thrown
in the bizarre circumstances and the hunky Jeff
Probst, you still got a winner, even if we've seen ;
it all 10 times before.i
AR: "Survivor" is done. They already jumped
the proverbial shark by airing an "All-Star"
edition, which was two seasons ago. The last I
meaningful contribution the series made to pop
culture was when Colby guest starred on "Curb
Your Enthusiasm" last year - and only because 1
the result was so cringe-inducingly funny. How
many Holocaust jokes can you make anyway?
What TV show do you miss the most?
AR: I miss "Seinfeld." Thursday nights just
aren't the same. I remember coming to school
the next morning and hearing everyone quote
the new episodes. As much as I love shows like
"Buffy" or "Freaks and Geeks," none of those
series had the same impact on the world around
me. There isn't another show like "Seinfeld," and
NBC is stuck watching its ratings plummet.
DW: How can you miss "Seinfeld?" It's on like
five times a day. I miss "The Sopranos." It's
been more than a year since a new episode and I
want to see someone get whacked, dammit! Tony
Soprano continues to be one of television's most
feared, yet most adored characters, and the show
found its groove last year. When that theme song
hits again, I'll be ready. "Woke up this morning /
Got yourself a gun ..."
Is it better to burn out or slowly fade
away (a tribute to "The Simpsons")?
DW: First off, does anyone even watch "The
Simpsons" anymore? What was once a can't-
miss hit has turned into a shell of its former
self. Back to the question, it's better to burn out.
Many shows try to squeeze out one more season
(or in the case of "The Simpsons," five more sea-
sons) for the sake of ratings and it's just painful
to watch. How else do you explain Steve Urkel
getting lost in space on the series finale of "Fam-
AR: Nothing is more depressing as a televi-
sion viewer than watching a show outlive its
usefulness. We have a fondness for a series like
"Seinfeld" because it knew when to walk away.
What has happened to "The Simpsons" is dis-
What do you think about "Commander in
Chief" so far?
AR: I stopped watching "The West Wing" years
ago and didn't realize that Geena Davis was now on
the show. Oh, wait, it's not "The West Wing?" You
could have fooled me with the constant walking and
leftist political ranting. And as far as Davis is con-
cerned, Stewie Griffin put it best, "not a good gum
to tooth ratio."
DW: Oh, come on, "Commander in Chief" is harm-
less. When the biggest topic of conversation is "Why
is Geena Davis wearing red lipstick?" it can't be all
bad. My favorite part of the show, though, is Donald
Sutherland saying those overly emotional phrases
about running the country, like "Leadership comes
from leaders" or whatever he says. We're about two
episodes away from "You're risking a country's life!"
What's the most surprising cult hit?
DW: The cop-out answer is "The O.C.," but who
didn't see that one coming? This just in, Ryan
Atwood is now 38 years old. I'm going with "Gilm-
ore Girls." Not only do guys actually watch it, but
from what I gather, it's just one of those overly emo-
tional shows about teen love and failed marriages.
Isn't every show on the WB about that? Plus, there's
actually a character named Sookie. Is there some-
thing I'm missing here?
AR: Whatever. "Gilmore Girls" isn't surprising in
the slightest. It clearly has a target demographic and
caters heavily to it. "Veronica Mars," one of TV's
best-kept secrets, is easily the most surprising cult
hit. It managed to survive until this season and has
won over such heavy-hitters in cult TV as "Buffy"
creater Joss Whedon. "Mars" managed to cultivate a
relatively rabid fanbase in only one short season.
- Did Wernert live up to the legacy of Daily TV/
New Media Editor Punit Mattoo? Let them know at
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
WE'RE IN LATEX.
'Court' recounts student legal case
By Amos Barshad
Daily Arts Writer
In 1898, during the Spanish American
War, the United
Guantanamo Bay Storming
and, as part of the Court
the military with- By Brandt
drawal, procured a Goldstein
perpetual lease for Scribner
the bay from Cuba.
To this day, Fidel
Castro receives a yearly check for $4,000
from the U.S. government, which he
refuses to cash.
The bay has served as a U.S. Naval base
ever since, recently gaining attention for
the controversial treatment of Afghani and
Iraqi detainees. In the early '90s, however,
Gitmo was home to Haitian refugees. Soon
after Jean-Bertrand Aristide won the Hai-
tian presidency in a free election, General
Cervas led a military coup and a carried
out a crackdown on all democratic activ-
ists. In "Storming the Court," Brandt Gold-
stein tells the story of a legal battle, fought
primarily by Yale law students, to protect
the rights of these Haitian refugees.
Since Gitmo isn't officially U.S. ter-
ritory, the area has always been home to
dubious activity. Haitian refugees were
transferred to the base after being found
at sea and were subsequently treated as
prisoners, receiving inadequate medical
attention and enclosed in shanties with
barbed-wire fences. Spurred to action by
reports of human rights violations, the stu-
dents took action, hoping to acquire asy-
lum for the refugees in the United States.
Yale professor Harold Kohl, a rising
young star with a lucrative future in gov-
ernment, jeopardized by his involvement in
such a divisive political case, puts together
an army of students to fight. Kohl is the
rock, rallying the kids through all-nighters
of legal research and acting as lead coun-
sel. Lisa Daugaard, a fiercely idealistic stu-
dent, represents the legions of bright-eyed
idealists willing to spend night after night
researching obscure legal details. Refugee
Yvonne Pascal's story exposes the brutal
details of life in the Guantanamo camps.
Weaving together these three strands,
Goldstein relays the story smoothly with-
out bogging it down in details.
The inherent risk in dramatizing real
life is overdoing it, and Goldstein does fall
prey to this occasionally. After a particu-
larly harrowing week forces Kohl to take a
break, he makes a striking reappearance at
the office, waving the kids away from their
work and declaring that "Michael Jordan
wants the ball."
The strength of "Storming the Court"
is in the portrayal of the trial proceedings,
which is the real meat of the book. Gold-
stein infuses the court scenes with a crack-
ling energy, and his law background allows
him to hold the reader's hand through the
more complicated details, never losing
sight of the big picture - law students
good, government bad.
While the Yalies do manage to save
hundreds of abused and diseased Haitians,
ultimately their legal victory is overturned.
Still, it's a thrilling ride, from the begin-
nings of an impossible case up to the ini-
tial decision handed down in favor of the
young'uns. The idea that a small group
of passionate people can carry out real
change is an invigorating one that, though
susceptible to melodramatic overtures, still
manages to create a compelling foundation
for the book.
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