Sunday, January 28, 2007

Extras: The trouble with Harry (and his Johnny)

Spoilers for "Extras" just as soon as I can convince Marian that our flatscreen isn't too big for the room...

And here's where season two launches itself into the laugh stratosphere I was expecting when I heard Gervais and Merchant were doing a new show. Everything worked, from little stuff like Darren trying to unload his TV to more obvious comedy like Horny Harry Potter. (While the celebs don't generally have anything to do with how they're written, Daniel Radcliffe came up with saying "Ring don't mean a thing.") I've seen the scene with Radcliffe, Andy, the unwrapped Johnny and Diana Rigg a half dozen times, and it still makes me double over in laughter.

This was also one of the better fake movies they've done, as I can totally imagine Radcliffe getting typecast in bad fantasy movies for a long time after the Potter series ends. And I like that Dame Diana escapes with her image totally unscathed. For a moment, I thought that when he asked about the "Avengers" catsuit, she was going to invite him to her dressing room, but having her maintain her dignity was much funnier.

But the real genius of the episode was the Down syndrome subplot, which Gervais said they came up with in season one but wanted to save until Andy was famous. I skim the covers of Us Weekly and In Touch at the supermarket, have Defamer and Deadspin bookmarked and have helped Marian recuperate from back surgery by regaling her with very-detailed tales of the Cameron Diaz/Justin Timberlake/Jessica Biel Golden Globes kerfuffle, and the way Andy was treated by the press was only slightly exaggerated, if that, from the way he would be in real life. Loved the reporter literally digging through the trash and then acting like he was just stopping by, telephone game exagerration of the incident, and especially Darren baiting the talk show host into playing Guess The Mongoloid.

What's interesting is that Andy should know better about everything, should know by now not to say anything potentially damaging to Maggie the blabbermouth, should know that Darren will never, ever make any situation better. So while he's not as actively creating his own misery as David Brent, he's not an innocent victim, either.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

"Thank you, Dame Diana."

I was howling at that part :-D The gossip explosion over Andy & the boy was hilarious. And Darren going on TV and making things even worse for Andy, yet managing to show up how moronic some of those celebrity-oriented TV shows are was fabulous as well.

Anonymous said...

The best part is, the episodes only get better.

I was weeping with laughter in the upcoming Chris Martin ep (Feb 4) in which Martin plays the preening rock star to perfection, and in which Andy and Darren go to the Bafta awards.

The entire episode is classic.

Honestly. InSANEly funny.

Pete Prochilo said...

I was slow getting into this series, skipping the previousl season entirely, figuring nothing could beat "The Office" and that the show's premise seemed somewhat derivative (another show about acting). Man, was I wrong. This show is ridiculously funny.

I love the part with Darren trying to put off calling back about the job for Andy. Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite get it. I didn't watch the first season either, and I only started the second season because of some of the things I've read about how it's an improvement over the first. Now the cameos without question have been hilarious (including Chris Martin, whose episode I caught OnDemand tonight). The Daniel Radcliffe and Diana Rigg diner scene should already be noted for your best of the year list.

But, except for his impassioned speech about true comedy in the opener, I don't get what's so funny about Andy. I don't know why he would ever tell Maggie anything (who doesn't seem so much naive as downright dim) and I don't know why he wouldn't fire his agent (even on a "shitcom," can't he manage to find better representation?). I know these are lame questions to ask for a half-hour sitcom, but I also know that on a good show these questions wouldn't bug me so much.

Andy himself doesn't seem so horrible. He's cheap, and he's lonely, but most of his problems concern the people around him. And I know his show is bad, and maybe it's supposed to look bad in a particularly British way, but I live in a world where _Still Standing_ ran for four seasons, where _According to Jim_ is on its sixth, and where _In Case of Emergency_ still hasn't been cancelled. _When the Whistle Blows_ mostly seems dated and bland. To see what bad BBC comedies look like in the modern day, check out the stuff BBC America uses to plug its schedule (but does not promote in any way), like _Feel the Force_.

_Extras_ seems to invert the _Curb Your Enthusiasm_ formula -- where Larry David was horrible but the supporting cast a mixed bag, Andy Millman is a mixed bag in a sea of horrible. But by watching _Curb_ you committed to watching what Larry did, because he was the star of the show. You committed to watching him do horrible (but funny) things until you couldn't take it anymore. Watching _Extras_ I just keep thinking, "Andy's not such a bad guy, so why does he hang around with these idiots?" I just don't find the character compelling enough to pay attention to him.

My only other theory is that the whole series is a goof, a way for Gervais and Merchant to hang out with all sorts of celebrities they'd like to hang out with, and make those celebrities say and do all sorts of naughty things. Gervais still gets a catchphrase out of the whole thing, he gets to break out his singing and songwriting skills, and he gets irony points for suggesting that the audience for (other) BBC comedies is "thick."

But I'm not convinced he's so cynical or calculating. Not the man who brought us Flanimals. On the other hand, he's also the man who brought us Karl Pilkington.