Unlike their previous The Office, Gervais and Merchant have delivered a less accessible but no less rewarding programme with Extras. It starts with Andy Millman, a background artist, sitting in the shadows of a variety of different shows, before, in the second series, he gets his own spot in the limelight.
Whats helped characterise the series, of course, has been the continued presence of star names in cameo roles. These range from Hollywood bigshots--Samuel L Jackson, Kate Winslet and Harry Pott.., sorry, Daniel Radcliffe--and continue through to familiar faces from British TV--step forward Les Dennis, Ross Kemp and Barry from EastEnders. Most of the plaudits, though, rightly go in the direction of the splendid Ashley Jensen, who emerges as the most likeable and rounded of all the shows characters.
Theres little danger, it seems, that Extras will dethrone The Office from the top of its creators CVs, but thanks to its strong writing, its measured mix between melancholy and amusement, and some superb performances, it more than carves a very strong niche for itself. --Jon Foster
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