July 22nd, 2005

Puzzling

You punch above your weight in international affairs- as Britain is proud of doing- and you get punched back. There may not be a direct causal link between Mr Blair's Iraq adventure and the London bombs, but there's clearly a connection. Britain has been dropping bombs all over the Islamic world recently and sooner or later someone was bound to want to retaliate.

This latest failed attack is puzzling. I can think of scenarios that might explain it- the bomb-maker was incompetent- he deliberately sabotaged the mission- but they're all a bit wild. Four dud bombs in a batch of four is verging on the surreal.

The good thing is the police now have four half-exploded bombs to submit to forensic examination. They also- pretty soon- are likely to have four live bombers to interrogate.

Extras

Ricky Gervais's new show debuted last night. Gervais and his female sidekick, played by Ashley Jensen, are film extras who get to meet bona fide stars on set. Last night's guest star was Ben Stiller- playing a monstrous version of himself that would have been actionable if anyone else had done it.

Like The Office it's a comedy of social embarrassment. Otherwise Gervais is doing his best not to repeat himself. Where Brent was a bumbling puppy; this new character is bitter and morose- and a creature of self-destructive impulses, some of them alarmingly decent. There are some very funny scenes; Stiller was well worth whatever it was they paid him and I loved the bit where Jensen tries to chat up the casting director with a prosthetic bullet hole in the middle of her forehead. Gervais is an unselfish performer and is happy to share out the good stuff with his colleagues.

The Office had a slow-building story arc, and I guess we can expect something similar here. We're promised some intriguing guest appearances (Kate Winslett, Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Stewart) and Gervais and co-writer Stephen Merchant are working on Season 2. I'm hooked.