Brief spoilers for the "Extras" finale coming up just as soon as I give a male friend a hug near an open window...
My love of "Extras" -- well, at least, of the second season and now of this movie -- hasn't been shared by the world at large, or even by the much smaller world of Ricky Gervais fans. Previous columns and blog posts on the subject haven't generated much feedback, and most of the original recipe "Office" fans I know seem either unaware of or uninterested in Gervais and Stephen Merchant's follow-up.
That's a shame, because while "Extras" will never have the bracing, fresh quality of "The Office," it's an even deeper, nastier examination of the cult of celebrity that's pacifying Western Civilization. And of the two works, it's the one I find myself going back and revisiting more. (I will never say a bad word about the character of David Brent, but it often pains me to revisit him in a way that Andy Millman doesn't.)
I mostly said my piece on the movie-length finale in my column on Thursday -- much of it is a thematic rehash of the season two finale, but parts of it had me laughing so hard I gasped for air, and Ashley Jensen is superb, both in the more serious moments and the funny stuff -- so for the three of you who care about this special, I'm just gonna rattle off a list of the moments that had me especially pained with laughter or wondering why the living room was so dusty:
-The department store sequence, complete with racist Michael Richards doll;
-Maggie assuming Andy would be Jewish in a world without Christmas;
-Maggie watching the heavyset "While the Whistle Blows" actor pick over the last of the craft services food, only to be saved from deciding whether to eat it when Andy calls her to his dressing room;
-Andy's girdle exploding in mid-audition (and "exploding" is a pretty good description for my laughter level at that moment);
-Darren and Barry coming up with a system to deal with his busted zipper;
-The mortified look on Maggie's face throughout the Clive Owen/whore scene, followed by Clive's reaction to Maggie's elderly replacement;
-Andy acting above the whole "England's number one catchphrase" thing, followed by that all-catchphrase episode of "When the Whistle Blows";
-Maggie being shown her spider-infested new apartment (one of those scenes that was hilarious and tragic at the same time);
-The neighborhood kids calling Darren and Barry gay (a cheap joke that was expensively set-up, if you know what I mean);
-Darren trying to jump over the plexiglass barrier, followed by Darren's usual goofy smile seeming like the saddest thing in the world when he realizes Andy won't give him a pass;
-"Fame is a mask that eats... into the face!"
-Darren, Barry and the other Carphone Warehouse guy doing their ridiculous dance every single time that one ringtone goes off;
-Andy as a farting slug alien on "Doctor Who";
-The "celebrity" "Big Brother" contestants insisting they haven't given up their dignity, followed immediately by them doing the Chicken Dance on cue;
-The entirety of Andy's anti-fame rant (maybe more on the nose than Gervais and Merchant's usual stuff, but they've said this is the last work they're going to do on celebrity, and they clearly had a lot to get off their chests);
-The lad mag girl being moved by Andy's speech, but still insisting on putting on a bikini before walking out;
-Andy and Maggie riding off to the sunset as "Tea for the Tillerman" plays one last time. (Can't wait to hear the exit music for their next series.)
What did everybody (or all three of you) think?