Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Extras++

This entry is part 80 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

When I sat down and first had a crack at this blog several weeks ago, I began with the following paragraph:

[Sandwiched between a clutch of Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and the Demonata series by Darren Shan (coming next) I read what might be described as three other books.]

This would have been a good beginning, if it was true, which it isn’t.

I’m flicking between this blog and my Man vs Bookshelf spreadsheet, and it turns out these three books were sandwiched between a clutch of Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and the Diamond Brothers books by Anthony Horowitz. After that, there were three more books and then the Demonata books.

Since then I’ve read yet another three books and have now embarked upon the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones.)

All of which means I have 27 books waiting for review (I know, incredible).

Reading Game of Thrones et al. should buy me some time, but I need to get back into the habit of writing these blogs if I don’t want to fall even further off the pace.

It’s this sheer number of books ready for review that convinced me to be more ruthless with my groupings, though when I first wrote this blog (or half of it, anyway) I came up with some flimsy excuse writing:

[They were unrelated so they should have a blog each but, to be honest, that isn’t going to work for two of these books (more below), so I’m going to combine the three into one, talking mostly about Extras with a little bit at the beginning about the other two.]

The truth is I can’t be bothered. Bad, right?

Let’s get into it.

Fifty Sheds Damper

Is a little piss-take book mixing the Fifty Shades books with a love of sheds and gardening.

It’s not a story. More a series of one-liners all of which are incredibly funny. Here are a couple of examples:

[Oh, I’ve already got rid of the book, so I can’t give you any examples. Please, pretend you’ve read some, chuckle a bit, and we’ll move on.]

That should be all you need to persuade you that you need this book, so why not buy it now?

No wait, finish the blog first!

The Salmon of Doubt

A book released after the untimely death of Douglas Adams, it collects many of the writings of Douglas, as well as the first part of what would have been his third Dirk Gently novel to complete it.

The reason I’m not dedicating a full review to this isn’t laziness – much. Truth is I wrote a lot about Douglas Adams in my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy review, and a lot about Dirk Gently in my Dirk Gently review.

So, for an insight into my thoughts on this book, I’d jump straight into those reviews, then pop back here and we’ll talk about…


Finally, something I can say something about: this was the entire scripts for seasons one and two (no Christmas Special, sadly) and, as with previous scripts, I will be reviewing what was seen on screen as a whole, rather than the writing alone.

Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Me

First off, let’s discuss the creative team behind Extras in general terms.

In my time I have consumed a lot of the works of Ricky and Stephen. The Office, Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show, (some of) Derek, (some of) Life’s Too Short, all of Ricky’s stand up shows, Hello Ladies (Stephen’s stand up show), Hello Ladies (the TV show based on the aforementioned stand up show), plus many of the films the two have been in but not necessarily written or directed (i.e. The Invention of Lying and I Give it a Year).

As you might be able to tell, I’m a big fan. Ricky and Stephen’s comedy is my kind of comedy. I could listen to their stand up shows again and again, and The Ricky Gervais Show (their podcast with Karl Pilkington) is one of the greatest things ever to come into existence. I’ve probably heard it a thousand times.

Of their TV shows, The Office is probably the most popular, and I do like it, but my overwhelming favourite is Extras.


I can’t remember when I first watched Extras’, but I know I’ve seen it all through several times.

I love it for many reasons, chief of which being that it is not just a stupid, storyless comedy.

I’ve spoken a fair bit recently about how many humorous works get away with having less developed stories because of how funny they are (e.g. anything by Douglas Adams).

TV comedy tends to be more guilty of this than most, trading good sense and good story for a good laugh. Community played off this brilliantly by being self-referential, but many shows do it without irony.

What I love about Extras is that the characters are fully formed, and developed. They have hopes and dreams and something to aim for.

Andy Millman – the lead – is an ordinary man in a mental world, and we get to see his arc plays out as he struggles to get from extra to respected actor, with many bumps on the road.

He is always relatable, and the fact we can do so allows the characters around him to be wackier. Maggie is the classic stupid funny character, and The Agent (played by Merchant) is so crap there is no way he would be kept on by Andy if this were real life.

The comedy itself is understated — a quiet type comedy that trades stupid laughs for a more subtle approach. It works brilliants, and the comedy always serves the story, rather than the other way around.

I genuinely love this show, and would advise anyone give it a go but, if you’re not yet convinced, there is one more gimmick to mention.

Each episode is based around an actor (or musician or Les Dennis) playing an exaggerated, often awful version of themselves.

Stars include Orlando Bloom, who describes Johnny Depp as “Johnny Wanker”, Patrick Stewart who has written a film entirely involving around him being a man with the power to make women’s clothes fall off, and Kate Winslet, who helps Maggie learn how to dirty talk with her boyfriend.

All of these stars are brilliant and happy to take themselves not too seriously. The show would continue to be great without them, but they do add a little bit of flavour which helps to take Extras to the next level.

Next Time

Next up, it’s the Diamond Brothers series, rather than the Demonata as some people (i.e. me) first thought.

Look forward to that, gang.

Series Navigation<< Man vs Bookshelf: Discworld (1-5)Man vs Bookshelf: Diamond Brothers >>
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International worst-selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). An author of mystery and suspense novels including the James Perry Series of mysteries.

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