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Christmas TV Special – Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale

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Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais may not be particularly well known names across the Atlantic but one of their creations, The Office, has been shown around the world and adapted into various local versions. Their follow up was absolutely delicious, full of high profile star cameos, and also managed to be exceptionally bittersweet; you don’t expect to be shedding a tear at the climax of the Christmas special. There were similarities and there were differences.  The follow up series was called Extras and it was set behind the scenes of the entertainment industry.

Whereas The Office was shot in the mockumentary style, Extras was more of a traditional sitcom. While The Office mainly featured just Ricky Gervais, Extras was a vehicle for Stephen Merchant as well. The cast of The Office was, at that time, largely made up of newer faces; unknowns may be a bit cruel but this was before Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, and Lucy Davis started appearing in huge franchises including MCU, DCEU, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and Lord Of The Rings.  Extras, being set in the entertainment world, had opportunities for loads of celebrity appearances.

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Which Would You Rather Be?

The basic premise of Extras is that Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen) are friends who work as extras on whichever film and TV set they can get a job on. This allows the likes of Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, Samuel L Jackson, and Patrick Stewart to appear in the first series, Robert De Niro, Daniel Radcliffe, Ian McKellen, and Diana Rigg in the second. The first series shows Andy and Maggie struggling to get any parts they can and are seeking fame and fortune. The second series sees Maggie still struggling  but Andy gets some success with a TV sitcom that he wrote.

The finale sees Andy struggling with his new found fame. How it affects his life, his relationships, his worldview, his ambitions, his hopes, and his expectations. Perhaps the biggest tragedy, to his mind, is that he ends up in the Celebrity Big Brother house when what he really wants is to be in a big budget Hollywood film. He realises that he is stuck in a house full of has-beens and nobodies. He also realises that he has lost touch with his oldest friend, Maggie. He is sitting on one of those settees that populate the Big Brother houses while a woman who is a celebrity merely because she flashed her breasts rambles aimlessly on.

I Saw You In Doctor Who As A Slug

The flasher lady is going on about how, when she gets married, she will have it paid for by a magazine because “they give you an extra £1,000 for every celebrity that attends”. Andy then starts to realise where he has ended up, how much he hates it, and what and who he really misses. He looks into one of those cameras that are dotted everywhere and talks to Maggie. He doesn’t know for sure that she is watching. He can’t expect her to care after the way he has treated her but he stares into the camera and spills his heart out. Of course, Maggie is watching and she, he and me all shed a tear!

As well as Andy and Maggie there are three regular supporting characters. Darren Lamb (Stephen Merchant) is Andy’s totally useless agent. Shaun Williamson (Shaun Williamson) is, seemingly, Andy’s only other client and is playing a fictionalised version of himself; he used to be a regular on the long running soap Eastenders. And then there is Greg Lindley Jones (Shaun Pye) who started off as an extra alongside Andy and Maggie but managed to get to where Andy is so desperate to be. Amongst the star cameos in the Christmas special are Clive Owen, David Tennant, Gordon Ramsey, and George Michael. All in all, Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale is touching, funny, and heart warming.

Grade: A+

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