Monday, February 19, 2007

"What are you? A critic?": Extras

Give Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant one thing, at least: The two know how to write a great finale. This was a sweetly unassuming episode, and while it had a little more "sitcommy" elements than prior episodes of the season (in particular, Maggie's encounter with the sex-talkin' old folks and Andy sacrificing a chance to meet with DeNiro to go see the kid in the hospital), it was still a fine example of what the show and Gervais and Merchant do best.

One of the unspoken subtexts of the show is the weird friendship/attraction thing between Maggie and Andy. I'm glad that it was never belabored (simply because that would have been too easy of a thing to do), and I'm not sure they would make any sort of good couple (Maggie's a little too naive for Andy, whose now a bit more world-weary), but the subtext was always there, and I'm glad the show dealt with it in what might have been its last scene (with Maggie offering that if the two hadn't found anyone in five years, they might move in together -- I had a similar deal with a girl in high school!). In addition, though, I'm glad that it never became a continuing motif, like Tim and Dawn on The Office. It was what it was, and Gervais and Merchant didn't feel the need to rub it in.

Robert DeNiro was pretty good in what was probably the shortest guest star cameo yet on the show. Still, he made the most of his material, and he did seem really interested in that pen. He functions, in a way, as someone that Andy can aspire to be, and his presence suggests that perhaps Andy can put off "When the Whistle Blows" and make something worthwhile.

Still, it was nice to see Gervais and Merchant acknowledge that awful shows like Whistle can be very important and precious to certain people -- when I was the age of the kid in the hospital, Full House and Family Matters were my favorite shows (and it's not like either is a paragon of great comedy writing), simply because they were comfortable, full of things I knew were coming and could anticipate safely. Sometimes, I think, critics get too interested in seeing something completely new, and we forget that for a lot of people, TV is just comfort food. I don't know if this is the right attitude (if we don't demand anything from our arts, then they feel free to give us the lowest-common denominator), but the next time I feel like making fun of someone for rushing home for, say, According to Jim, maybe I'll keep that in mind.

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