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Ricky Gervais And His "Extras" Special TV Show
December 14, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
It's miraculous enough for someone to have the talent to create a brilliant TV comedy series. It's even more rare to know when to end it - and rarer still to provide a satisfying, memorable ending.

Ricky Gervais and his writing and directing partner, Stephen Merchant, have pulled off that impressive perfecta not once, but twice.

Office.jpg

First they did it with the original British version of The Office, in which Gervais starred as middle-manager David Brent. Only two seasons of that show were made, with only six shows per season - the same stop-while-we're-still-fresh pace as John Cleese's superb Fawlty Towers a generation before.

Gervais and Merchant, though, capped off The Office by returning with a one-shot telemovie finale, in which we learned what happened to all those officious characters. The payoff for the unrequited romance between Tim and Dawn (the same essential characters renamed Jim and Pam in the Americanized NBC version), in that finale, was unexpected unforgettable and perfect.

If you don't believe me, you can see for yourself, by buying the complete British Office, including the finale, on DVD. (CLICK HERE) You should believe me, by the way - but see it anyway.

Gervais and Merchant followed The Office with Extras, shown in the U.S. on HBO. Gervais plays Andy Millman, an extra on film and TV productions who longs to land a speaking part and become a star. (Be careful what you wish for.) Merchant, on camera this time around, plays Darren, Andy's astoundingly incompetent agent - and Ashley Jensen, seen on ABC's Ugly Betty as Betty's seamstress best friend, plays Maggie, Andy's fellow extra and closest friend.

extras-finale.jpg

Extras uses the backdrop of show business as does another HBO comedy, Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, to invite stars to come on and poke fun at their own images. Extras, like The Office, ran for 12 episodes, and you can see all of them tonight, in order, in a marathon on HBO sister channel HBO2, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Do that, and you'll see laugh-out-loud star turns by David Bowie (singing insults to Andy), Kate Winslet (giving phone-sex advice to Maggie), Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Dame Diana Rigg and many others. You'll also be prepared, at that point, for what HBO is delivering Sunday night at 9 ET: The Extra Special Series Finale.

Once again, Gervais and Merchant give us a wonderful ending (not as poignant as the finale of The Office, but few comedies are). There are guest stars, including cameos by George Michael, Gordon Ramsay and Clive Owen. And there are plot twists, cringingly embarrassing moments, and a satisfyingly finite conclusion.

The Gervais-Merchant team has done it again, perfectly. And amazingly.

 

1 Comment

 

Avi said:

I for one am looking forward to this tonight. Extras has been quite a memorable series for me. The cameos were fantastic moments with every one being laugh out loud. I love these half paranoid characters that Gervais takes on. Thanks for the heads up david.

Comment posted on December 16, 2007 10:50 AM

 
 
 
 
 
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