I promised to deliver some notes on an imagined romantic comedy about my late 1970s days in the Village when I was young and in love with a girl named Joey, featuring cameos by Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese, no less. But along with the deluge of already written movies I have to read for a livelihood, the romantic comedy I'm living has overtaken my writing life: I've got a visiting ex-wife in town, and a new out-of-town girlfriend coming for a visit.
For notes on that screenplay I reckon you'll have to wait until at least the new year.
In the meantime, a quick commercial/valentine: let me direct you to the funniest 30 minutes I've seen yet this season. Was anybody else out there blown away by the premiere of HBO's Extras? I thought the first episode had it all: a rom-com storyline that paid off the old "lying to get laid" gambit with more panache than many a recent feature, and a basic premise that's why-didn't-we-think-of-that? brilliant.
Anybody who's ever spent time on a movie set knows that it can be the most boring place in the world: all that time spent waiting around for what's often literally a few seconds of real action. Well, writer-directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have mined all this downtime by pitching a perfect existential anti-hero into the midst of it: an extra who fills up his space between takes by getting into outrageously humiliating trouble -- often, of course, of his own inadvertent devising.
Since it follows Larry David, Extras might seem at first glance to be merely the Brit version of Curb Your Enthusiasm's excruciation humor. But in its quiet, dry, beautifully nuanced way, the show's actually the Anti-Enthusiasm. The humor's closer to the kind of black comedy Beckett would have liked -- call it Waiting For Gervais.
Don't get me wrong, though, there are plentiful laugh-out-louds to be had here. I was particularly taken with Kate Winslet talking dirty in a nun's habit, and her reaction to Gervais's brown-nosing praise for the nobility of her having taken on a movie about the Holocaust. Oh, no, she protests, there's been too many of them already, it was grim, let's move on; her real reason? She's doing it for the Academy. "Schindler? The Pianist? Oscars coming out of their asses," Kate confides.
The premiere (hopefully airing in re-runs if you missed it) also got giggles out of cerebral palsy, as well as some unexpectedly poignant moments. There will be many favorite lines to pick from, I'll wager, in the first season, but for now -- given my current peculiar circumstances -- I'm going with those spoken by the palsy victim, who seemed marvelously at ease with her affliction. "You have to be able to laugh, don't you?" she opines. "It keeps you sane."
Tivo alert, folks: HBO Sunday nights at 10:30.