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August 1, 2014

Extras: Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3

by Martin Conaghan, posted Sep 29th 2006 8:04PM
Extras(S02E01 / S02E02 / SE02E03) A few weeks ago, while I was on holiday in Florida, the second series of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Extras aired here in the UK, and I only managed to catch up last week with the first two episodes.

Rather than give our readers a full review of each episode to date, I thought I'd jump in at episode three, and round up the other two along the way.

When Ricky Gervais helped created the global phenomenon of The Office, then decided to end production after just two series, few people believed he could follow up on the success with a whole new series that could be as fresh and original in its approach to postmodern comedy.

However, the first series of Extras completely turned the notion of 'sequel syndrome failure' on its head with a simple format which follows the life Andy Millman and his friend Maggie Jacobs as they seek work around the U.K as extras on film sets. All the while, Andy's hapless agent Darren Lamb repeatedly fails in his attempts to secure worthwhile roles for Andy, with every episode invariably featuring a well-known actor, actress or television personality who plays an exaggerated parody of their real-life self.

Samuel Jackson, Ben Stiller, Vinnie Jones, Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart all graced the first series in thoroughly entertaining over-the-top versions of their own persona, but the real gems of Extras tended to rest with the lesser-known celebrities (well, outside of the U.K. at least), like Les Dennis and Gerard Kelly.

But for me, the real stroke of genius in Extras is Gervais' decision not to play Andy as an embarrassing, pompous and bumbling wreck like David Brent, but instead as an unlucky - but smart - character who simply finds difficulty in extracting himself from unsalvagable situations.

The new series takes the concept of real-life people a step further by giving Andy his own BBC sitcom, When the Whistle Blows (which features regularly throughout the show), in which he plays a caricature factory manager with an annoying catch-phrase.

Of course, editorial interference in the production of his new show has forced Andy to compromise on the finished product, with the result ending up a low-brow, sexual innuendo-ridden sitcom in the vein of Are You Being Served?

Subsequently, the plotline of each new episode of Extras revolves around Andy's inability to cope with the growing infamy associated with his popular, but dumbed-down TV show.

Meanwhile, Maggie continues to seek out roles as a film extra, encountering the likes of a narcissistic Orlando Bloom and an over-sexed Daniel Radcliffe.

The second episode featured the hilarious David Bowie segment that we blogged here on TV Squad last week, in what I feel will eventually be come to be recognized as one of the genuine classic moments in British comedy.

The most recent episode to air here in the UK centered around Andy being offered a part in a new Harry Potter-style movie, with Maggie picking up some extra work alongside him, in the company of Dame Diana Rigg, Warwick Davis -- and the aforementioned Daniel Radcliffe. While Maggie fends off unwelcome sexual advances from Radcliffe, Andy spends his time trying to repair his public image after he accidentally offends the mother of a Down Syndrome teenager in an up-market restaurant.

The only other show I can compare Extras to is Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm - or perhaps Frasier -- where the viewer spends most of the show with their teeth gripped tightly around a clenched bunch of knuckles, as the lead character digs himself further into farcical trouble with every passing moment.

The third episode featured the added bonus of some expertly-crafted inserts from popular daytime television and radio shows here in the UK, in which Andy's public outburst is over-played and discussed. It even includes a segment where his agent Darren attempts to make amends on live TV for Andy's gaffe, succeeding only in making matters worse.

All I can say about Extras is that it is truly a work of genius; not only in its deliberate self-parody of popular film stars and personalities, but with its shamefaced mocking of overrated comedy shows such as Little Britain, and now with a truly unique twist on the show-within-a-show format.

Only Frasier could really make me cringe and laugh out loud this much.

Six shows will never be enough.

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Ali Baba Ghanoush

Oh wait! How about in the first episode when Maggie is taunted by her friend, then gets beamed in the head?! Yeah, that right there should get her another BAFTA. She's brilliant!

October 02 2006 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ali Baba Ghanoush

I've had the pleasure of being one of the few Americans to catch the second series so far. I've been making sure that the Bowie clip is making the rounds at work and we're all dying. I wish HBO would get on the ball sooner, but I'm not holding my breath. I had to order my first series DVD from Britain because we Yanks aren't worthy yet. Apparently. I'm really digging the guy on When The Wind/Whistle Blows that never gets it. Especially his "China man" bit.

October 02 2006 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bennoda

an oversexed daniel radcliffe.... hmmmmm.

September 30 2006 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

The third episode has been the best so far, I could not stop laughing during all the episode, all the scenes and actors were great. I think it will be very difficult the next episodes get better that this one. The scenes with Daniel Radcliffe, Diana Rigg and Ashley Jensen were absolutely hilarious, the press' reaction with Andy, his agent and Warwick Davis... were great too. It's great to see famous actors who are great sports and don't take themselves too seriously, and like always Gervais and Merchant's humor and irony, in this case with different British tv shows, is genius.

September 30 2006 at 11:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary

Love all the episode, Ricky is a genius!
What I love the most was the 3rd episode with Daniel Radcliffe, it was really hilarious, I love Ricky's sense of humor and I am glad the mega stars he has as guest are great sports to make fun of themselves!

September 30 2006 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KMF

I was on a trip with a friend of mine in the UK when I caught the Bowie episode of Extras. Bowie's hilariously cruel impromtu songwriting session at Andy's expense made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt. I love Bowie so that was why I tuned in, although I liked the (uk version) Office. I was not disappointed by this episode, in fact I was upset I was going to miss the next episode with Daniel Radcliffe because I was flying back home!

September 30 2006 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robin Diane Goldstein

martin is spot on in his observations... i've managed to catch the first three episode here in the US through the help of some friends in the UK... at first i was concerned that the second series of the show had lost its edge, with the pathos outweighing the funny... but then i watched episode 1 of season 2 again, and the pain gave way to some relief and a few laughs... and when i watched it a third time, my hands unclenched a bit more, the absurd genius of the premise... the characters... and everything left me with tears of laughter in my eyes... and the same scenario has held true for episodes two and three... it requires (for me, anyway) repeated viewings to get past the immense pain i feel for the characters of Andy and Maggie and let the humor blossom... like a fine wine, this show does better when you let it breath... Ricky and Steven are truly mad geniuses and the "guest stars" who submit their public personeas to the hyperextended portrayals on Extras are more than good sports... they're smart folks who 'get it'...

so here's hoping that HBO picks up the second series (and quickly) so that American audiences can 'have a laugh'!

September 30 2006 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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