The story of a young group of siblings pretty much abandoned by their parents, surviving by their wits - and humor - on a rough Manchester council estate. Whilst they won't admit it, they ... See full summary »
The story of a group of British teens who are trying to grow up and find love and happiness despite questionable parenting and teachers who more want to be friends (and lovers) rather than authority figures.
A testament to one of the world's most brilliant comic minds
What is it about irony that tickles us so? In some ways it reminds me of films that I find delightful in their atrocity: "Doom", "DOA", "Snakes on a Plane" are some recent prime examples of Goodness By Antithesis; films that are so brazenly and proudly bad that you have to like them. Irony, as we like to see it, is similar in that it is Humor By Antithesis: situations and events that are so mundanely tragic, so cringe-making and excruciating that we just have to laugh. It is a bizarre logic, it's a twisted logic, but it's also worth noting that it's a line so fine that only the cleverest and subtlest of writers can really make it work. America's Larry David is one. England's Ricky Gervais is the other.
In creating a follow-up series to "The Office", Gervais risked destroying a damn-near flawless career. It's hard to imagine there wasn't a niggling in his ear telling him to quit while he was ahead. What would really be the harm in letting the world remember him as David Brent? Apart from the nature of the character, the real harm in this would have been that to deny us Andy Millman would be to deny himself status as one of the world's most brilliant comic minds. "Extras" doesn't just further establish Gervais' incredible comedy prowess, it deepens it.
On the surface, the series patiently shows us the mundane and rather fruitless life of a working film Extra, Millman (Gervais), who fancies himself a "real actor" but has never gotten any real acting work. He bitches about this to his friend, confidant and fellow Extra Maggie (Ashley Jensen), who also shares her problems with him. Deep down, however, "Extras" is a deliciously satirical look at the ambitions of the human heart, the ironic overthrow of those ambitions and the emotional chaos of breaking the unspoken rules of society (such as 'Don't Lie To A Catholic Priest About Your Nonexistent Catholicism', and 'Don't Tell Your Best Friend's Colleague That Your Best Friend Said He Was "Too Gay"').
Other reviews have called "Extras" a watered down "Office", and I think this is a fair observation, but not at all a bad thing. After all, despite sequential order "Seinfeld" is much more diluted than "Curb Your Enthusiasm", but the former is still a far superior show. Not that any inferiority between Gervais' shows is being inferred, of course. Where "Extras" is softer than "The Office" is not in humor, or intelligence, merely in character. Andy is really quite a nice guy; insensitive at times, but only in a mild, charming kind of way. Your pity for him is genuine, and not the result of a deeper emotion such as bewilderment or frustration.
The David Brents of "Extras" are not Gervais at all but the transient side characters, and often (brilliantly, fantastically) the celebrity cameos. In short, and this is said with no inflation whatsoever, Celebrity Cameos as a film/television device has its worth made and sold in "Extras". We thought we'd seen self-parody work before. We were wrong. The sheer reckless abandon with which Gervais and the gallant celebrity meat send themselves up (and up and up) practically creates fireworks. Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart are not only the draw cards but the dazzling high lights. They are forever heroes in my eyes.
Maybe it's this ultimate irony that galvanizes "Extras"' brilliance: the celebrity personalities who live the life Andy dreams of reveal themselves exclusively to him as being petty, irresponsible, greedy, insensitive, sexually perverted megalomaniacs, while he, the nobody Extra, cops all sorts of cosmic flack for, mostly, trying to do the right thing. Naturally, this kind of thing borders on cruel, but just before we begin to feel bad for laughing at his hopeless misfortune he lets us know it's alright by cracking a smile himself, telling a joke to Maggie and shaking it off. Then Cat Stevens washes us clean with "Tea for the Tillerman". Yes sir, Ricky Gervais knows how to make it work.
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