Gervais rivalry gives comedy awards extra edge

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The Independent Online

Ricky Gervais, who was defeated at last year's British Comedy Awards by the Little Britain team, returns to the fight this year with a record five nominations for his new show, Extras.

The battle between the funny men follows a number of well-publicised gibes by Gervais apparently aimed at the Little Britain creators, David Walliams and Matt Lucas. When the duo recently launched merchandising including Little Britain dolls and embarked on a giant tour, Gervais revealed he had refused to allow toys of his David Brent character from The Office.

"If you look at it as a career, it's foolish," he said. "You've got to hold out. It might be funny to have a tacky Brent doll and it'd probably sell well - but it's a con. It's a piece of tat that you don't need."

Extras did not prove as big a hit as The Office, but with a storyline in which assorted major stars, including Samuel L Jackson, Ben Stiller and Kate Winslet appear as foils for Gervais's hapless extra on a movie set, it attracted much attention.

Little Britain and Extras are rivals for the best television comedy of 2005 against The Catherine Tate Show, while Lucas and Walliams are also up against Gervais for best television comedy actor.

The third contender for the best actor's award goes to Chris Langham, the actor who plays the hangdog minister Hugh Abbott in Armando Iannucci's political satire, The Thick of It, and also appears as a psychotherapist in Help, which he co-wrote.

The Thick of It has a total of three nominations including best new television comedy where it faces competition from Help - in what might be considered a potential win-win situation for Langham - and Extras. Ashley Jensen secures a couple of nominations for her performance as Gervais's somewhat gormless friend, Maggie, in Extras.

She is shortlisted for best television comedy actress against Tamsin Greig, for both Green Wing and Love Soup, and Catherine Tate, whose cast of comedy characters includes the stroppy teenager with the mantra "Am I bovvered?"

Jensen is also up for best newcomer against David Mitchell for his frequent appearances on Peep Show, Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week and FAQ U, and Chris Addison, known to Edinburgh festival fans as a Perrier Prize contender but making a television splash as a junior policy advisor in The Thick of It.

The BBC, and BBC2 in particular, dominates the straight comedy categories while ITV is in contention for comedy entertainment. Channel 4 is strong in comedy drama, where it has two out of the three nominations, for Not Only But Always and Shameless.

Ant and Dec get a couple of nominations as does Jonathan Ross. The cheeky young duo go head to head with the comparative veteran Ross for best comedy entertainment personality and best comedy entertainment programme. Their competition for the former is Paul O'Grady and in the latter category, The X Factor.

Festival, the FilmFour/ Film Council/ Scottish Screen-backed take on life on the Edinburgh fringe, is nominated for best comedy film against the acclaimed mid-life crisis and wine story, Sideways, and the children's animation, The Incredibles.

The Simpsons, Kath & Kim and Curb Your Enthusiasm battle it out for the best international show.