Cringe ComedyBrit Com by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, starring Gervais as an out-of-work actor scraping by as an extra in the British film industry, with Ashley Jensen as his socially inept friend and fellow extra, and Merchant as his spectacularly incompetent agent. In the second season the story evolved as Gervais' character became the star of a popular but critically-reviled sitcom.Packed a massive array of celebrity guests into its twelve episodes, and in fact the (officially untitled) episodes have often been referred to by names such as "Kate Winslet" or "Ben Stiller". Perhaps more impressively, the show has been extremely successful in getting actors to play versions of themselves who are incredibly conceited, or vicious, or vain, or stupid, or otherwise horrible human beings.Concluded with a Christmas Episode, which gave it an identical run to The Office.
This show provides examples of:
Adam Westing: Pretty much the sole purpose for any high profile guest star.
Artifact Title: The show was originally about two extras, hence the name. As of Season Two, Andy is no longer an extra. Although Maggie continues to work as an extra, it is no longer the main plotline of the show, and even so, there is only one of her.
Author Tract: In the Christmas Episode. Andy Millman's breakdown on Big Brother and subsequent tirade against the empty pursuit of fame is expressing - nearly word for word - Gervais's own views on the subject as evidenced by many interviews.
When a child extra in a war film trips up and ruins the shot by laughing, Ben Stiller snaps him out of it by asking how he would feel if he shot his mother in the face right in front of him. He even demonstrates with a prop gun.
Maggie in the Christmas Episode, who quits being an extra, moves into a horrible one-room flat, hovers near poverty and ends up bursting into tears in a Carphone Warehouse.
Also, his agent Trey telling him in no uncertain terms that he can either have fame and money, or integrity and respect - because only a handful of people in the world get to have both. What does Andy want? He's forced to admit "fame and money" from between his clenched teeth.
British Brevity: Just twelve episodes plus a Christmas special. Some Hollywood actors were hopeful that it would continue to a third season just so they could appear on the show. Robert De Niro, in particular, hoped to appear a second time because he felt his appearance didn't turn out as well as he'd hoped.
Camp Gay: Damon, the staff writer/producer for When the Whistle Blows. His campness irritates Andy so much that he mocks him behind his back, leading to an embarrassing confrontation. Also "Bunny" Bunton, the closeted theater director.
Catchphrase: "Are you having a laugh?" "Is he/she having a laugh?" It was originally meant as a one-time line put in by Andy for the show but the producer loved it so much that he decided to make it a catchphrase. It sold well on the sitcom, but when Andy tried to use it in a theatre production he just ruined (since he refused to engage in an on-stage kiss with the other male lead), the audience was silent, leaving Andy redfaced.
Caught with Your Pants Down: One episode has Andy walk in on his agent masturbating to a pen with a naked woman's picture on it. His agent's secretary then comes in and takes the pen from him... and is also masturbating to it when Andy leaves.
Mark Kermode and Germaine Greer (playing themselves) are shown lambasting "When the Whistle Blows" on TV. And then there was this promotional clip for Extras itself.
Celebrity Star: The show runs on this. Spoofed when Coldplay's Chris Martin gets an illogical guest spot on Andy's show. "What are you doing here, in a factory in Wigan? It's mental."
Classically Trained Extra: Greg Lindley-Jones, Andy's Jerkass colleague. In the Christmas Episode, he rubs salt in Andy's wounds by achieving both of the things Andy wants and is bluntly informed he can never hope to have simultaneously: popular fame and a reputation as a serious and talented artist.
Maggie, who is constantly slow on the uptake and extremely socially inept.
Also Darren Lamb, who is utterly incompetent as an agent, but just smart enough for Carphone Warehouse.
Keith Chegwin definitely qualifies in his portrayal of himself on When the Whistle Blows. When he has trouble responding to cues for his character, Alfie, Andy decides that it would be best to change the characters name to Keith. Hilarity continues.
Dumbass Has a Point: As clueless as Maggie is, she's the one who allows Bunny's daughter to see how unhappy she is as well as the person to finally point out to Andy that he'll never be able to achieve enough to satisfy himself.
Darren actually manages to convince Andy to stick with a play where he plays a gay man, pointing out how much acclaim Tom Hanks, Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger received after doing Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain respectively.
Executive Meddling: In-series; Andy's smart satirical show gets mutated by producers for mass appeal into a brainless catchphrase-driven piece of dreck. Andy's original concept is suspiciously similar to The Office, so When the Whistle Blows is a parody of what could have happened if it had been taken in the opposite direction.
It's All About Me: Most of the featured guest stars display some degree of this. Andy himself sometimes qualifies, especially in the Christmas special.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Andy is definitely an asshole, but he is significantly less of an ass than those around him think he is. And he has occasionally shown himself to be caring, creative, and even tender (at least to Maggie).
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Daniel Radcliffe clearly runs on this trope in his episode, given his desperation to get laid. He does claim to have had sex, although it's somewhat doubtful. Averted with Andy, who lost his virginity at 28 to a woman who looked like Ronnie Corbett.
Money, Dear Boy: Parodied by Chris Martin of Coldplay: he's spends every scene he is in plugging their (then) new greatest hits album on everything from a sitcom to a public service announcement about starving children to his shirt.
In one episode, Andy is able to use his newfound fame to get into the VIP area of a club, only to be thrown out when David Bowie and his entourage arrive. When he tries to get back in, the bouncer refuses because he's still never heard of him.
In the Christmas special, Andy's ability to get a reservation at the Ivy is used to indicate how his career is going at any given point.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Happens in-show to Andy playing Ray when the futility of what he's doing saps his focus. Especially noticeable when Chris Martin cameos.
Overly Long Gag: Patrick Stewart's scene, in which he explains the plot of his new screenplay, about a man with telekinetic powers. He describes four or five different scenes, and the punchline (he uses his powers to remove a woman's clothes) is the same every time.
Pervert Dad: Bunny is repeatedly seen performing with his daughter in ways that make other characters cringe and look away. The fact that he's gay kinda averts this, though.
Pet the Dog: Greg is a grade-A asshole, but he didn't have to tell Maggie that she could apply for a supplementary performance fee (and in the same scene he makes Andy genuinely laugh).
Show Within a Show: Virtually every episode is based around the making of one, although Andy's sitcom When the Whistle Blows is the only one we actually get to see.
Smug Snake: Greg, who, though the show doesn't have any out-and-out villains, absolutely loves patronising Andy and making him jealous, and goes out of his way to embarrass him.
Spoiled Brat: Andy. He's always complaining about how much people have ruined his sitcom and how terrible his acting career is going, even though the BBC took the risk of letting a complete newcomer co-write and star in his own sitcom, when a massive percentage of aspiring actors don't even come close to that stage in their careers in their lives.
And even though he hates the sitcom and everything it stands for, he obviously has no objections when it comes to spending all of the money that it made him.
Straight Gay: The BBC producer of When the Whistle Blows, revealing himself as such after Andy insults the Camp Gay staff writer Damon.
Take That: "When The Whistle Blows" is this to shows who rely on wigs and catchphrases, and old-fashioned Work Coms with broad humor and obnoxious laugh tracks. It takes a special crack at Dinner Ladies, with one character obviously doing a Victoria Wood impression.
An affectionate and tongue-in-cheek one occurs when Patrick Stewart is utterly bewildered to learn that Andy isn't married, doesn't have a girlfriend, lives on his own... and doesn't watch Star Trek?
Villainous Breakdown: Ben Stiller somehow manages to let himself get nudged into one of these when he's firing Andy; he just can't let Andy go without showing off, which backfires on him when it's pointed out that his constant boasting about his conquests leaves out one very important detail:
Andy: Bye, nerd. Ben Stiller: Oh, I'm a nerd?! Andy: Yes, you are. Ben Stiller: I'm a nerd! I've kissed Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore! I, uh, I slapped Jennifer Aniston's butt! Maggie: In films. Ben Stiller: It still counts! [Stomps away, turns, realizes the entire cast and crew is staring at him; defensively] It still counts! ... It still counts. I did it. [Stomps off]
Waiting for a Break: Darren Lamb works at Carphone Warehouse on Saturdays as Maternity Leave cover, with the implication this is how he actually makes any money as he is a rather incompetent agent. Ironically usually it's agents who get people out of that situation, not in it themselves.