Monday, July 30, 2012

Wrapping Up Extras With The Same As Before: The Extra Special Series Finale Falls Flat.

The Good: Moments of humor
The Bad: Nothing different on the character or acting fronts, No DVD bonus features, Predictable plot.
The Basics: In a disappointing cap to an already repetitive series, the adventures of Andy Millman close with him rejecting the fame and popularity he once sought.

Extras is a television series that premiered on HBO in the United States and was a joint production between the BBC and the cable film/original series channel. I watched and reviewed both seasons of the show and found it to be generally enjoyable, if a bit repetitive. Often, the protagonist - Andy Millman - is acting on a set, lies and/or becomes involved in a lie with his friend Maggie, whose own dimness seems to put her into awkward places, which keeps him from achieving his goals of becoming a world famous actor with lines. When last seen, Millman was working on his fabulously successful but critically panned sitcom "When The Whistle Blows."

So, when I had the opportunity to pick up Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale, a movie designed to cap off the series, I thought I'd check it out. After all, it couldn't be all that bad - especially as it was nominated for several Emmy Awards a few weeks back - and it would finish the show off for me. The problem with The Extra Special Series Finale is that it is nothing new. But that problem is pretty much the death knell of any potential the little film had.

Six months before he ends up on "Celebrity Survivor" in the UK, Andy Millman is stumbling his way through his catch phrase-packed series "When The Whistle Blows." When the producers insist on doing a Christmas episode, shortly after Andy is approached by an ambitious agent who sees his potential, he abruptly ends the series. Free after three seasons of the show, Andy is ecstatic and eager to compete with his old rival, Greg, who is now getting legitimate films opposite Clive Owens.

Soon, though, Andy discovers that the steady gig paid the bills and that the work that seemed beneath him before - like appearing on Doctor Who - might not be so bad. Frustrated, Andy lashes out at everyone left in his life. This includes Maggie, who has begun emulating his sense of having standards to the point of walking off a set when Owens wanted to throw dung at her as part of her role as a medieval prostitute. As a result, Maggie ends up scrubbing toilets and living in a tiny apartment, estranged from even her critical best friend.

Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale is packed with all of the standard Extras jokes. There is a guest star on the set of a production - in this case Clive Owens - who acts like a pompous asst. Andy gets frustrated with Darren, his agent, who does nothing for him or his career. Andy tries to have Maggie lie for him - in this case to an interviewer, who he wants to impress with a bogus call from Ridley Scott and asks Maggie to pretend to be his personal assistant - and this ends up terribly backfiring on him. In other words, this is all of the same humor the viewer has already seen in virtually every episode of Extras. We get it, what else have you got?!

At least as troubling, there is a disconnect between the last episodes of Extras and The Extra Special Series Finale. Andy challenged Darren to get Robert di Nero for a sit down or else he would fire his useless agent. What happened, then, between the last scenes of the series and the opening of this little film is up in the air in a way that is simply sloppy storytelling. I'm not saying that the viewer needed to see the exact results of that meeting, but how Andy continued to do his crappy television series that he hated after having made such a challenge, makes the fans who are most likely to enjoy this film wonder.

This is essentially "A Christmas Carol" recast for Extras, but it makes a bit less sense than that. For example, Andy's character has never been particularly impulsive. So why he fires Darren before confirming that the new agent can get him work of the caliber he is looking for is somewhat mystifying. But the net result of the set-up of the plot is that the viewer has a strong idea of where the movie is going from the first few minutes and as a result, we wait for it to end more than enjoy the attempt at resolution. No, not even that; we're bored by the direction the resolution is likely to take long before it gets there.

Ricky Gervais, who plays Millman returns to the role with a sense of bored readiness. There is no additional spark to the piece and his performance is one that is hard to judge in as much as his character is so miserable he becomes boring and irksome to watch. This, then, is either an incredibly performed bit by Gervais or it indicates a pretty miserable condition for the actor. The reason this is hard to judge is because the acting is consistent with all of the other episodes of the series and as a result, consistency is all he brings to this performance. It is clearly Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman.

Similarly, Ashley Jensen, who appears now on Ugly Betty plays Maggie with a consistent idiocy that viewers expect from the character. There is nothing added to her performance in this that makes the viewer sit up and say "Wow, Jensen is an amazing actress!" Similarly, Stephen Merchant is performing - at best - what we have already seen from him.

On DVD, The Extra Special Series Finale has no bonus features. One wonders why they bother with a menu when all that is offered on the menu is the choice of playing the movie or the subtitles. Outside that, the eighty-four minute movie is devoid of extras and on one hand this is a good thing; I didn't need to rewatch the movie to evaluate the quality of the bonus features!

So, what is the point of The Extra Special Series Finale? I suppose it is to offer a more concrete ending to Extras than was left at the end of the second season of the show. Is it worth it to fans? I don't think so. It's not as funny or edgy and if you've read the plot synopsis, you learn the essential thing that a fan would want to know: Millman escapes his "When The Whistle Blows" hell. Beyond that, it's all redundant and blah.

For other movies that cleared up loose ends from television shows, please check out my reviews of:
Homicide: The Movie
Star Trek: Generations


For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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