After the success of The Office, it’s no wonder that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant continued their comedic writings with a new show, this time based around the lives of a core group of TV show and film extras. Titled Extras, the show revolves around Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais), his friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen) and his agent Daren (Stephen Merchant) and their various escapades through the various productions taking place in the U.K. Littered throughout the series are guest stars such as Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, Samuel L. Jackson, David Bowie, Ian McKellen and two of my personal favorites in the series, Patrick Stewart and Daniel Radcliffe. With at least one guest star (sometimes more) per episode, there are plenty of familiar faces popping up throughout the series. Don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s merely a series of guest stars—the writing by Gervais and Merchant make the series worth watching alone.
This box set takes us through the entire series, starting from Andy and Maggie’s early work as extras in the first season to Andy enjoying a bit of success as the star of his own television sitcom, which, while it helps him get out in the public eye, also spawns an annoying catch phrase and generally horrible writing, something Andy doesn’t exactly want to be a part of. The tension and discomfort that Andy feels throughout the second season comes to a head in the series finale (dubbed by the fans as “Bloody Merry”), where he finds his career on a sharp upswing and steady decline only weeks later. The show is so varied from season to season to finale that it shows more progression through a series than most TV shows you see today—which is often how Gervais and Merchant like to end their shows: on a high note.
Anyone who saw the series finale last month will know that it did indeed end on a high note. While the finale was rather depressing overall and a bit short on the laughs, it took the dramatic elements that had been building between the seasons to really pull off a remarkable finale. It didn’t make one feel quite as warm and fuzzy as the UK The Office series finale, but there was certainly a lot of memorable humor it in as well, such as the early sequences with Andy and Maggie, with Maggie going off on her random thoughts that end up bewildering Andy. Clive Owen’s brief appearance in the finale is enough to send me into fits of laughter just thinking about it (“Oh **** off, I’m Clive Owen! That’s mental!”) and the friendship between Andy and Maggie that perseveres through to the end is capable of bringing tears to one’s eyes.
Like The Office, there are moments of uncomfortable dialogue or particularly harsh humor in the show that make the show cringe worthy at times, but that’s part of its charm. You have to be able to accept the harshness of the show at times to truly appreciate it and anyone who has seen the American or British The Office will know what to expect. While the American The Office is a lot less abrasive than its British counterpart, it still should give one a good idea of what to expect from Gervais and Merchant’s other works.
There are few things not to like about Extras. While a few episodes can drag here and there and the finale for the series is in no way perfect (though it certainly won’t throw as much of a collective fit as The Sopranos series finale), it is without a doubt one of my favorite television shows. I applaud Gervais and Merchant to sticking to their plan of two seasons and a finale, as it worked so well for The Office and the same formula worked expertly for Extras. I can’t say I won’t miss the show, but the twelve episodes and the special they made have so much replay value that it won’t matter. Highly Recommended.
Arriving a cardboard slipcase in the style of a film marker and holding two amaray cases (one for each season) and a thin pak for the finale, Extras – The Complete Series is a bit more bloated than it’s The Office cousin, but it’s still a nice set. The amaray cases are nearly identical to the individual releases, although the insert art for them is representative of the slipcover artwork, rather than the artwork originally included underneath the original releases. Not a big deal by any means, just an oddity worth noting. They also seem to have reversed the season order on the back of the box, with the second season image appearing before the first—but that’s just me being a little too observant. And nerdy.
Moving onto the sets themselves, the only new addition to this box set release is the aforementioned series finale “Bloody Merry” special. The first and second season sets are identical to the original releases and the Christmas special is all alone on its disc. Yes, despite the first and second seasons being packed with extras, the special contains no extras. Accompanied by a ghosty transfer (likely a symptom of the video being converted from PAL to NTSC rather than any true transfer issues) and a Dolby 2.0 track, the special looks and sounds as great as one could expect, but there are absolutely no extras to be found on the disc.
It’s a shame there aren’t extras of some kind—The Office special came packed to the brim and I was really looking forward to checking out what kind of documentaries, deleted scenes or extras that may have accompanied the finale, but instead I’m met with absolutely nothing. Even the alternate version of the finale (two versions were shot—the version aired on HBO is the one included here, while the UK version, with the American references [such as the Kramer doll] replaced by British references [Jane Goody instead of a Kramer doll]) would have been a welcome extra and there was certainly plenty of space on the disc to put something (as is the disc isn’t even being half used).
While it’s a shame that the finale has no extras, the box set is still worth owning if you don’t own the previous two seasons. In the event you do, however, it might be best to wait on the February 26th release of the Extras finale on a solo release. One assumes it’s the same barebones release as the box set, which is unfortunate. There’s really nothing exclusive to this “Complete Series” set other than a slim cardboard box to house the DVD cases.
For those that own the previous seasons: Skip and wait for the individual release of the finale.
Those that don’t own the previous two seasons: Highly Recommended.
Extras – The Complete Series Box Set is now available on DVD.