Did we like it?
Actually we were a little disappointed. There’s genius at work here and lots of brilliant moments but it felt like we were watching an over-extended in-joke and writers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were trying far too hard to impress.
What was good about it?
• Ashley Jensen’s Maggie stole the show. While Andy’s now writing a BBC sitcom, she’s still an extra ( “support artist!!!” or maybe even “a fuzzy blob in the background”), working as a juror on a lame legal drama (but unable to show the rapt attention displayed by the other jurors). The best scenes involved an old friend, now a proper actress who had been “plucked from the cesspool”, and we loved it when Maggie shut the horrible bitch up by snogging an insistent Orlando Bloom.
• Orlando’s obsession with where he comes in silly lists in celeb mags and women’s weeklies – and his gloating when he managed to outrank Johnny Depp ( “Willy Wonka. Johnny W**ker”).
• Keith Chegwin’s guest role (called in to appear in Andy’s sitcom when Paul Shane dropped out). Not as memorable as Les Dennis’s self-depreciation but funny nevertheless. Cheggers couldn’t deliver his line – “I buried my sister today” – without his trademark grin and giggle but got all serious when it came to attacking the “Jews and queers” who run the BBC. “If God had wanted a cock up an arse, he wouldn’t have given us minges,” he whispered to an embarrassed Andy.
• “There are loads of funny English black people, too,” insisted Andy to racist Cheggers, but he was unable to summon up a name, even when looking directly at a poster of Lenny Henry in his Katanga guise.
• Agent Darren’s positive spin on the sitcom which Andy now realises is not going to stand the test of time. It’s going to be catchphrase-ridden rubbish (the uninventive BBC execs will ensure that’s the case): “People will watch as it’s after EastEnders and they can’t be bothered to change channels. Those sorts of morons will help us win the ratings war. And ratings in the end are what counts. And merchandise!”
• Sean Williamson as the washed-up Barry from EastEnders, cramming as much of the buffet as he could down his jacket, desperate to take on any role, and performing a scene from his one-man version of Romeo & Juliet in such an overwrought manner that he brought tears to the eyes of agent Darren (played with brilliant idiocy by Merchant).
• Andy’s look of amazed, distraught incomprehension when everyone around him acts like an idiot
• Liza Tarbuck
• The audience members wearing T-shirts sporting the logos Wassup, I’m a Lady and It’s Chico Time.
What was bad about it?
• Andy’s factory-based sitcom Whistle Down The Wind was supposed to parody all those useless Friday night BBC1 sitcoms but it resembled a 1970s ITV sitcom instead and was less effective as a result.
• Andy’s collapse in the face of pressure from the head of comedy (always playing safe) and his camp sidekick (so inane that he finds wigs and big glasses funny).
• Orlando’s spoof legal drama wasn’t funny enough to open the show.
• The spark between Andy and Maggie was missed, now they are working apart.
• The jokes about Maggie being unattractive to men don’t work because she’s a golden-haired beauty not a mousey-haired munter.
• Ricky and Steve are obviously enthralled/appalled by the TV industry. While we could all recognise something in The Office, Extras seems like a private joke and it’s much harder to find it funny – or care.
• “Are you ‘avin’ a laugh?”