Having watched all of Ricky Gervais live tours (available here in a complete box set: Ricky Gervais – Live – Animals/Politics/Fame [DVD] ) and found them both cleaver and humorous I decided to buy the complete boxset of Extras.
The first series introduces Andy an extra who desperately wants to be an actor and will do anything to “get a line”. The humour in this series is created by the situations Andy gets himself in to as tries to convince others give him a line. One of the funniest scenes is were Andy is working as an extra in a war film directed by Ben Stiller. The film is telling a true-life story of a man who lost his wife during a war in a country torn apart by violence. As the man stirs at a photo of his dead wife and beings to talk about her Andy responds rather awkwardly starting by saying “about that line…” and gives him a £15 Boots gift voucher. We are also introduced to other characters.
Maggie is Andy’s best friend and even funnier than Andy in my opinion. Maggie is also an extra with a rather lovely but wacky view on the world. In the first series it focuses around Maggies love life. Unfortunately she is unsuccessful at finding a man in the first series, but you find yourself wanting her to find someone. You find yourself being to care for her happiness. Also introduced in the first series is Andy’s agent, a geeky, weird character. Enough said.
The second series shows that Andy progressed and has a sitcom commissioned by a BBC. Its a sketch style programme with a catch phrase “Is he having a laugh?” Similar to Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show now I come to think about it. However Andy is still not happy.
Andy wants both creditability (recognition from his peers) and celebrity status (being recognised on the street). The humour is found by the awkward situations Andy gets himself in to, such as agreeing to visit a ill child. Andy begins to become self-important and arrogant. He doesn’t have much time for Maggie and at one point when an extra comes to him asking for “a line” he has the extra sacked. Andy decides in order to get the credibility he strongly desires that he will give up the sitcom. We start to severely dislike Andy as he sells out all who have stood by him, including his manager for a more business-like trendy one. By the end of the second series we have mixed feelings about Andy, we have gone from sympathy and laughing (in the first series) to dislike and wanting to pick him up and shake him for being so self-centred (in the second series).
The final episode which is a Christmas Special, Andy has been out of work for eight months following his decision to end his sitcom. He decides to do a few things to keep his public profile up – including being an alien slug in Dr. Who which is hilarious. He ends up in celebrity big brother and suddenly realises the error of his ways. He walks out of big brother and heads off to the airport with Maggie to give a feel good ending.
Throughout the entire boxset Ricky has enlisted the help of famous celebrities including actors, fellow comedians, TV personalities, etc. Sometimes it was appropriate and added realism to the scenes, whereas other times it felt as if Ricky was trying to capitalise on their status and fan base – particularly in the first series. Some reviewers have dubbed Extras a comedy classic, I don’t know if quite reaches that status as a comedy known by all. Would you make it a comedy classic?