Monday, January 22, 2007

"Chubby Little Loser": Extras

Away with ye unspoiled!

Sorry this is late. I was otherwise occupied last night (Go Colts!) and didn't get to this until this afternoon.

Anyway, what I liked least about season one of Extras was the sense that it was just a barely plotted series of sketches. These were very funny people, so it was fun to watch them try to crack each other up, and it was nice to have Ricky Gervais play a straight man instead of the buffoon. But the stories were often flimsy excuses to have stars goof on themselves, and there wasn't the overall sense of desperation that made The Office such a triumph.

Extras, season two, isn't quite The Office, but by giving Gervais' character, Andy, a taste of undeserving fame, it's exploring dramatic territory The Office never touched -- on The Office, when you got something you wanted, it was fabulous. Extras says there's no way to get what you want and stay pure unless you're a David Bowie-level genius (and the song he made up about Andy was hilarious, as was the group singalong). Andy has sold his creative integrity out to get on TV, and now no one will ever think of him as anything but a hack. He has everything he wanted, but absolutely nothing he wanted at the same time.

Getting what you want and finding out that it's nothing like what you thought it would be isn't exactly a new theme in fiction, but Extras has wed that to a truly hilarious sitcom (and a truly hilarious so-bad-its-good sitcom within a sitcom). By tying the show's funny strengths to an ongoing plot, Extras has made itself one of the better shows on TV. More's the pity it's all over in four episodes!

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