Monday, February 26, 2007

Extras - Season 2

Extras - Season 2

I mentioned the first season (or series) a few months ago, and I've just finished watching the second, and presumably final, season. Season two isn't quite as good as the first, but still has some very funny moments. SPOILERS for season 1 to follow!

Season one ended with Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) getting a chance to produce and star in his own sitcom, 'When the Whistle Blows', with the BBC. This season revolves around Andy working on the show, with his friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen) being the one working as an extra on various film sets. The storylines deal primarily with Andy's dissatisfaction with his show, which he thought could be something special. Unfortunately, the guys in charge turn it into lowest common denominator tripe that relies on wigs and catchphrases. Andy has to deal with the humiliation that results when his show is a commercial success but is reviled by the critics. He then strives to attain recognition and legitimacy while also dealing with his newfound celebrity status. This season features a lot more of series co-creator Stephen Merchant as Andy's absolutely incompetent agent Darren Lamb, whom Andy turns to (unsuccessfully) for help with his career.

The storylines this season are a bit more varied and aren't confined to just film sets. This time round we also see Andy's show, celebrity hangouts, and even the TV BAFTAS, amongst others. The celebrity guest appearances are as solid as last season, if not better. The best are Orlando Bloom, Daniel Radcliffe, and Ian McKellan - Bloom acts completely self-absorbed, Radcliffe is a horny little devil, and Ian McKellan is just a little daft! And how can I forget to mention Warwick Davis!

Andy's story arc is well done and a natural progression given his character (he just wants respect, dammit!), although I have to admit some of his missteps are a bit too obvious in this season. Last season you kinda felt for him as he fumbled along, but this season he does some things that are just plain dumb or insensitive. Worse still is the impossibly stupid Maggy, who keeps getting Andy into trouble in ways that are just far too obvious at times. Having said that, the situations the characters ultimately wind up in are really, really funny, in large part due to the writing and performances.

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are brilliant. Seriously. Just watch this if you need proof. I don't think the two of them make a single misstep in this show in terms of comedic timing. Funnily enough, Merchant is to my mind a little funnier, though the really uncomfortable and embarrassing, 'squirm in your seats' moments come courtesy of Gervais as he struggles to worm his way out of difficult situations. Gervais also has all of the more serious moments as he deals with his artistic failure. Ashley Jensen as Maggie just can't compete against these two unfortunately, given how poor her character is in general. I reckon she makes the best of it though. Also funny is 'Barry' - soap actor Shaun Williamson playing himself, although he's always referred to as 'Barry' (the name of his character on the soap he used to be in) by Darren Lamb.

Despite a few annoyances, season 2 of Extras is hilarious for the most part (the last episode is admittedly a bit weak, disappointing given that there's only six in total). It's not ever quite as good as The Office, but Gervais and Merchant's brand of humour is still terrific. If there is no third season, hopefully the two of them will start working on something else real soon.

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