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Courtesy of HBO

Extras

Comedy series teaches us about friendship, the film industry and the antics of actors

By Paul F. McKenna

Extras
Created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, starring Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Ashley Jensen


Extras is a series that provides audiences with further evidence of the comedic talents of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Following the success of their earlier series, The Office, Gervais and Merchant expand a particular talent for humour that is charmingly human and humane.

Here we’re introduced to Andy Millman (Gervais), who works as an extra on various productions while awaiting his break as a legitimate actor. Millman is a benign presence seeking to rise above his circumstances. He receives the world’s clumsiest assistance from his agent, Darren Lamb (Merchant). More positive support comes from Andy’s friendship with Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen).

Over the course of 13 episodes, we learn much about friendship, the film industry and the antics of actors.

What distinguishes Gervais and Merchant is their capacity to conjure up real pathos for their comedic characters. There is a deep poignancy in their portrayals of people struggling against their own limitations and the worlds they inhabit. The writers draw more inspiration from the British tradition of The Two Ronnies than from Monty Python. With guest appearances from a diverse range of stars including David Bowie, Diana Rigg, Ben Stiller, George Michael, Orlando Bloom and Kate Winslet, the show deftly satirizes the entertainment industry.

Millman is eventually rewarded with his own sitcom, When the Whistle Blows, and must come to grips with the shallowness of his longing for celebrity.

Brilliant writing, combined with flawless comic performances by Merchant and Gervais, makes the series graceful, insightful and enriching to watch.


Paul F. McKenna is a Toronto writer.
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