Sunday, 1 October 2006

Review: Extras Series Two, Episode Three

by Charles Pooter

Merchant and Gervais on the set of Extras Series Two

To my mind, a lot of the best humour in the previous episodes has centered around Andy Millman's fictional sitcom, When the Whistle Blows. That being the case, the beginning of Extras episode three is a treat: we get to hear Whistle's lame theme tune again ('...and fifty times a day I hear "you 'avin a laff?"...'), which this time is played over an even cheesier animated title sequence, then we get a couple of minutes of the Whistle episode. However Millman's sitcom is incidental to this episode, which we soon find out is about Millman's first new job offer after getting on TV. He's been invited to star in a film with the boy wizard Harry Potter or rather the actor Daniel Radcliffe (not "Billy Piper" as Millman's feckless agent initially reports).

Daniel Radcliffe's self-send-up is a rather predictable affair. He's a teenage lothario who carries around an unwrapped condom and a packet of Marlboros to "impress" the ladies. His scenes with Maggie, Andy, Diana Rigg and others are quite funny, but I didn't find them laugh-out-loud hilarious as I did with the David Bowie and Keith Chegwin scenes in the previous episodes. On the set of the movie, Millman is introduced to "short person" actor Warwick Davies (star of Willow and Return of the Jedi). Millman does a double-take when he's then introduced to Warwick's statuesque wife. At this point we realise we are in familiar Gervais territory: disability-based comedy. I'm not saying that Gervais likes to mock the disabled, but he has shown that he can write funny dialogue based around characters' reactions to people who are different. This can either be the verbal knots into which people like David Brent or Maggie tie themselves, attempting to be politically correct, or the outrageous comments of characters who lack any sensitivity. When Millman's agent Darren Lamb, played by the ridiculously lanky Stephen Merchant, is introduced to the diminutive Mr. Davies, (Millman: "This is Warwick". Lamb: "Where?" Millman: "There!" Lamb: "Ooo midget!") we know we're going to get plenty of the latter and we do ... in spades.

Millman is dining with Maggie (a sign of things to come?) and is annoyed by a noisy child at a nearby table. Unbeknownst to Millman the boy has Down's Syndrome and Millman puts his foot in it during a confrontation with the boy's mother, who ends up leaving taking the child with her. Millman is mortified, but presumably thinks that this is the end of the matter. He couldn't be more wrong when, the next day, a tabloid reporter shows up trying to solicit a quote about the incident, putting words in Andy's mouth as he does so. Apart from some more Daniel Radcliffe scenes, the rest of the episode essentially revolves around Millman's vilification in the media. His offence gets more and more exaggerated in the media and his case isn't helped when his agent appears on Richard and Judy in an attempt to tell Andy's side of the story ("I defy anyone to identify from behind, you know, one of these mongoloids").

In conclusion: episode three of the second series of Extras was not up to the standard of the first two episodes, but was still very, very good. The last episode hinted at a darker seam of comedy and this didn't really follow up on that. Although Andy's celebrity continues to ruin his life, the tone of this episode was much lighter and Andy seems no further along, what appeared to be, an inevitable road to depression after his humiliations earlier in the series. There was too much reliance on celebrity cameos and the familiar Gervais-Merchant comedy of disability. This almost seemed like an episode from the first series, which is no bad thing, but the last two episodes were better than the first series and better than this episode.

1 comment:

Teek said...

My friends and I thing that episdoe 3 was by far the best episode of the season. This was the episode that the agen Lamb shined. Remember when he was on the phone? "you got more money then sense man"