Review of the Extras finale

by Rory Stamp

‘That was a bit harsh’, said my wife after Ricky Gervais laid into reality TV culture during the final episode of Extras. You sense Ricky didn’t really need to act out of his skin to convincingly portray Andy Millman telling his Celebrity Big Brother housemates how fed up he was with the celebrity circus. As his voice cracked and the tears welled up, he looked at the camera and apologised for the media whore he had become.

‘He’s not just having a go at the others – he’s having a go at himself too,’ I said to my wife. ‘He’s admitting he’s a hypocrite. It’s post-modern and that.’ And then I went to bed all smug and thought that I might write a review for a website in the hope of getting my work seen. It all helps the profile. Who knows, one day I could be as well known as Charlie Broo – whoaaah there! Didn’t the Extras Christmas Special teach me anything? As Andy learned the hard way, if you pursue fame and fame alone, you’ll never be happy. Because you’ll never be famous enough.

So, there was a morality tale going on here, bordering on the Dickensian, about not forgetting who your mates are; fame is a fickle thing and so on. But was it funny? Not as chucklesome as your usual half-hour episode, but then anyone who saw The Office specials will have expected that (melodramatic montage? Check. Laugh-free periods designed to pull the heart strings? Check. Happy ending? Check).

Talking of The Office, there was still a few David Brent moments to satisfy anyone who loves the brand of humour that characterised the first Gervais / Merchant sitcom – the kind that makes you cringe and guffaw at the same time. When Andy pretended to receive a call from Ridley Scott during an interview with a Guardian journalist, it was a familiar formula. But it still hit the spot.

Let’s admit it, most of us love Extras for the cameos. The sheer range in the types of celebrities that appeared in the last episode is a huge joke in itself. For one episode to combine the likes of Lionel Blair, Hale and Pace, ‘Barry off EastEnders’ (Shaun Williamson), George Michael, Clive Owen and Gordon Ramsey is just ace. It’s one of the aspects of the show that’ll make it sorely missed.

And, without wanting to sound like a sociology student who hasn’t read his textbook properly, the celebrity appearances also underline the show’s clever post-modernism. All these references to Catherine Tate, agents, Andy rejecting parts in Hotel Babylon, his desire to make it in Hollywood: they shine a bright light on the mysterious world of British TV and, more specifically, Ricky’s own experiences and achievements.

Gervais and Merchant deserve massive credit for once again writing and performing a successful comedy series that has climaxed with quality and dignity. But perhaps the highest praise should be reserved for Ashley Jenson. As with Martin Freeman’s performances as Tim in the The Office, her turn as Maggie adds a tragic human element that will have brought tears of laughter and sadness to the audience – if they didn’t turn off after Gervais’s reality TV diatribe, that is.

Published: 28 Dec 2007

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.