I’ve always had a bit of an on-again, off-again relationship with Extras – Ricky Gervais’ post-The Office endeavour. I’ve always felt it a bit hit-and-miss in both character development and comedy. However, I’m now a converted man after watching two episodes last night: Sir Ian McKellan in S02E05 and the Christmas ‘special’ (due for release in the UK on Boxing Day but shown in the US 5 days ago – good idea!).
The Sir Ian episode is a magnificent return to form for Gervais and it repeatedly hits my satire G-spot dead centre with it’s mix of sheer comedy genius and social commentary – but it’s the Christmas episode which really had me appreciate the series.
In it, Gervais’ character (Andy Millman) makes a final speech admonishing reality TV; the producers and networks that produce the shows; and more poignantly the viewers and the ‘celebrities’ involved in them who “hand in their dignity at the door” when they partake in this so-called entertainment.
It’s a great commentary on the current television landscape we often find ourselves watching and the public’s obsession with fame and celebrity. Searching for the quote to share with you, I came across the following which describes the moment perfectly – The New York Times: Going Out, Gervais Picks Bang Over Whimper:
“The Victorian freak show never went away,” Millman rails in a soliloquy that serves as a climax of the “Extras” final episode and a moment of redemption for the character, whose life and friendships have been corrupted by fame. “Now it’s called ‘Big Brother’ or ‘American Idol,’ where in the preliminary rounds we wheel out the bewildered to be sniggered at by multimillionaires.”
To the networks, he says: “You can’t wash your hands of this. You can’t keep going, ‘Oh, it’s exploitation, but it’s what the public wants.’ No.”
To the audience watching at home, he says: “Shame on you. And shame on me. I’m the worst of all. Cause I’m one of these people that goes, ‘I’m an entertainer, it’s in my blood.’ Yeah, it’s in my blood because a real job’s too hard.”