review: extras – series two, episode three
September 29, 2006
At one end of the spectrum we have Ari Gold, Entourage‘s devilishly clever and brazenly outspoken agent whom everyone loves to hate. And at some incalculably immense distance from Mr. Gold sits Extras‘ Darren Lamb, the designated representative for struggling sell-out sitcom “star” (hurrah for alliteration) Andy Millman, whose idea of a party trick is tapping out “59009” on a calculator and thrusting it, inverted, into the face of anyone nearby. (I’ll pause here to allow you to try this for yourself.) Him we just hate: no love involved.
This week, Darren pokes fun–malicious, discriminatory fun, that is–at a midget on the set of Andy’s latest project. Andy is not amused. Neither is said midget’s fiancée (a woman of normal height). Add in the guest appearance of Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe and Ashley Jensen’s outrageously backward conversational skills, mix well and serve cold. Et voila!–you have an acutely uncomfortable thirty minutes of comedy guaranteed to divert, if not to enthrall.
Yes, this third episode of the second series is largely business as usual for Extras, backing off quite a lot from last week’s installment, which teetered uneasily, though captivatingly so, on the edge of darkness. It is less satisfying, though, since the disparate elements never manage to coalesce into a coherent statement about Andy’s life; nor do they advance the running plot in a meaningful way. Instead, we’re treated to the one-joke persona of young Mr. Radcliffe, playing a sex-obsessed, hopelessly juvenile version of himself whose lame come-ons to those of the female persuasion are (as they say) rude, crude, and socially unacceptable: they border on the unbelievable, even. It’s mostly good fun, though, particularly his cringe-inducing lines with Dame Diana Rigg which alone are worth a viewing (“Have you still got that catsuit from The Avengers?” he asks).
There’s also a bit of satire revolving around the celebrity gossip industry as Andy and Darren–yes, Darren Lamb, the agent from hell–try (and fail, spectacularly) to manage the aftermath of a particularly egregious faux pas involving a run-in with a Down Syndrome–or “mentally deranged” in Lambspeak–boy at a “posh” local bistro. As Darren stammers on Richard & Judy, “I defy anyone to be able to identify from behind, you know, one of these Mongoloids.” Cue awkward silence (Andy’s). Now cue fits of laughter (mine).
So you see, Gervais in less than top form is miles still manages to deliver amusement of a much higher order than virtually any other comedy on television, particularly here in the States. The finale, featuring Darren’s effortlessly idiotic chat with Andy about their climactic confrontation with that troublesome midget, is predictably morose and chuckle-inducing, perfectly definitive of the pair’s, uh, interesting relationship. And yet it lacks…well, something that made Extras such a huge hit to begin with; perhaps some aspect of the humanity of these characters dribbled out Gervais’ ear after one too many hours in the editing bay. But at least we get to see the nifty title sequence for Andy’s sitcom, right?
Next Week: Coldplay’s Chris Martin, or “let’s watch Andy insult a world-famous rocker” (unintentionally, of course).
–D. S. W.