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4.5 out of 5 stars39
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 4 February 2011
First off let me say that Extras is brilliant, hilarious and intelligent. The problem here is the set. It contains series one and two and some nice extra features but omits the last episode! Yes, the Extras Special is not on this set. God knows why. Perhaps it hadn't been aired at the time of this set's release. The special isn't just some tacked-on one-off either, it concludes the story we've been following since the first episode.

So if you want all 13 episodes and not just 12, buy the other BBC collection with the white cover.
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A few years back, Ricky Gervais created "The Office," a Dilberty satire on office work. Now, he's created "Extras," a wickedly funny satire on showbiz and acting, both seasons of which are contained here. And the fact that prominent actors appear in it -- as warped versions of themselves -- is just the icing on the comedy cake.

Andy Millman (Gervais) and Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jenson) are film extras -- Andy is embittered by his lack of success and his inept agent (Stephen Merchant, Gervais' work partner), while well-meaning Maggie merely pursues a series of crew members on the films they work in.

The first episode features the two working in a biopic directed by a brusque Ben Stiller ("Would you stop going on about your f**king dead wife?"), and Andy gets himself kicked off the set. Their blunders continue with other stars: Kate Winslet in a nun costume, who teaches Maggie how to talk dirty to her new boyfriend ("I'd love it if you stuck your Willy Wonka in between my Oompa-Loompas!"); Samuel L. Jackson, and Patrick Stewart, who is writing a movie about psychkinesis and naked women.

And in the second season, Andy gets his Big Break -- BBC2 is producing his sitcom "When the Whistle Blows," but they dumb it down until it's popular but critically lambasted. Meanwhile, he and Maggie tangle with a bunch of new celebs -- the arrogant woman-chasing Daniel Radcliffe and Orlando Bloom, self-promoting Chris Martin, a hostile David Bowie, and Andy even stars in a play of Ian McKellen's about gay love (much to his discomfort).

Part of the genius of "Extras" is that it isn't much like any other showbiz parodies -- the lead characters are on the lowest rung of acting, and the big egos are real stars making fun of themselves. Sometimes they play really nasty versions of themselves, such as Winslet saying that she's only making a Holocaust film so she can FINALLY nab an Oscar.

The other half of the comic genius is Gervais' direction, with most of the jokes based on socially awkward situations. It's all about cringing and giggling at once, such as when Andy's pals see him pantsless in Ian McKellen's dressing room. Those hideously embarrassing situations -- usually with some hilarious dialogue involving the star guests (Bowie's "little fat man/nobody's laughing" song is a gutsplitter) are what it's all about.

Gervais underplays a sort of befuddled, cynical extra, but you can really connect with his struggles, even when he gets his own sitcom. No matter what, Andy can always be depended on to jam foot in mouth, and occasionally to attack Warwick Davis. Jensen is clumsily charming as Maggie, who tries to be nice to everyone but says all the wrong things at the wrong time, when she's not being pursued by Orlando Bloom or offending Samuel Jackson.

The two seasons are "Extras" are uproariously funny, barbed looks at the strange world of showbiz, with the self-parodying actors as the final perfect touch.
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VINE VOICEon 11 October 2007
This is the second series from the writing duo of Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, after their super-successful debut of The Office, and comparisons are immediately going to be made.

The Office relied on awkward, embarrassing humour, and Extras is no different. It's where the writers talents obviously lie, and Gervais is terrific at playing the lead role.

However, before I get into describing the shows many positives, a few negative comments to balance things out.

The show isn't quite as good as it could have been. It is a very funny show, but laughs are sometimes hard to come by. A major reason for this is the portrayal of Gervais' lead character, Andy Millman. In The Office, Gervais' David Brent character was socially awkward, embarrassing, and unjustifiably egotistical but he was blissfully unaware of this, so it was easy and enjoyable to laugh at him. Andy Millman is in awkward and embarrassing situations too. But he's a more humane character, and crucially, he knows how embarrassing he's being, or how embarrassing he's being made to look. It's difficult to laugh at him - it feels a little cruel. It'd be easier to laugh at him if he was unaware of how he was. You end up feeling a little sorry for him, and that's how the biggest recipe for laughs.

Having said all that, there are still plenty of funny moments, and it only manages to drop the show 1 star in my review. Gervais plays the character well, and despite the celebrity stars (who are huge names, the likes of Samuel L Jackson, Kate Winslet, Orlando Bloom, Robert de Niro and Ben Stiller make appearances), the majority of the episodes focus on the developing relationships between Millman and his agent, or Millman and his best friend Maggie.

Maggie, played by the fantastic Ashley Jensen, finds it easier to generate laughs. She is blissfully unaware of how funny she is. The agent Darren Lamb, played by a surprisingly excellent on-camera Stephen Merchant (off-camera, his writing is typically terrific) is also hapless and socially inept and is living in his own little world, and those two characters steal the show from Gervais. They generate all the laughs, and tellingly, one of the funniest brief scenes is the "date" scene, featuring just Maggie and Darren.

In summary, Extras is a worthwhile and worthy follow up to the incomparable Office, in which the celebrities do add a little something to each episode without detracting from it, the juxtaposition of seeing someone like "Harry Potter" Daniel Radcliffe flicking a condom onto Dame Diana Rigg's head is entertaining and unique, and the standout performances from Ashley Jensen and Stephen Merchant make this an excellent series to own on DVD.
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on 12 June 2007
Some find Ricky Gervais's take on being a struggling actor-writer self-indulgent but writers are always at their best when they write about what they know and this is a world Gervais clearly knows intimately.

With themes of ambition, artistic compromise, the erosion of friendship when career gets in the way and selling out, this could be very heavy stuff. Instead it's hilarious. Yes, the comedy is almost always born of gut-wrenching embarrassment, but then so much of the best comedy draws from this source, particularly today.

And the celebrity cameos (is celebrity the right word? Many are big stars) are endlessly rewarding: the randy Daniel Radcliffe (on that adolescent cusp from Harry Potter to Equus on stage?); Moira Stuart selling speed to the likes of Ronnie Corbett at the BAFTAs; Ross Kemp revealed to be a big wuss. You know they are sending themselves up rotten because the script is so good and no one will confuse their performance with how they really are. I can even now forgive Orlando Bloom for being so tedious in all those Pirate films!

Stephen Merchant is right on the button as the hopeless agent, too. His role is expanded in the second series and some of the best scenes are his.

Although the fake sitcom 'When the Whistle Blows' feels a bit seventies, they're still making them like that even now (I checked and I'm still reeling).

This is a wonderful series. Most of us have worked in an office in real life and very few of us have been actors. After seeing this, though, how many of us would want to be? Maybe selling paper in Slough's not so bad after all?
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on 14 August 2009
Yet again Gervais has come up trumps, with another bewilderingly funny comedy that showcases the talents of his and Merchant's great writing skills and direction.

As in The Office, the comedy is embarrasing, uncomfortable and in places laugh out loud. The character that Gervais plays is a world away from his previous incarnation as the sexist David Brent; here he is actually quite a likeable guy.

However it is his failings and situations that the programme so funny, from his excrutiating meetings with Ross Kemp, Les Dennis and Patrick Stewart to his 'hit' comedy show and cliche catchprase 'Are you having a laugh'.

Extras is 'A' standard and worth revisiting time and again.
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on 23 July 2008
I fully enjoyed this series.It was very well written,and I really liked the story of Andy Millman,a man who dreams of hitting the big time,as a full time actor.However,he has a useless agent that can only get him extra work.What's so good about it,is the effort he puts in to try and get noticed.As always though,just when he thinks he's done it,a major disaster blows up in his face,instantly shattering his dreams.So,its back to square one as a lowly extra.Its good to see some major stars in the show,constantly being asked by Andy,desperate to get the big break.Its hilarious,and I fully recommend it!
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on 28 February 2009
I missed the majority of the episodes when it was aired on TV, which is why I bought the DVD. I was not disappointed. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments which are equally as funny when watched again and again. The real stars are the celebrities who have chosen to participate and are prepared to have the mickey taken out of them - Les Dennis is a particularly good example. If you don't enjoy the "cringe" humour that Gervais is well known for then stay clear, but fans of The Office will love it.
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on 20 November 2008
This is Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant at their absolute best. And I don't just mean in terms of acting, but its the direction of this series that I find brilliant. These guys get stars like Robert De Niro, Chris Martin, Patrick Stewart and Kate Winslet and add a totally new dimension to their persona. They add a kind of 'Gervais' attribute to each of the stars in the episodes and it just makes for a brilliant comedy series.

Highly recommended.
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the episode with Sir Ian McKellen includes some one of the greatest comedy moments of recent years. Sir Ian's explanation of his acting method is wonderful. The whole series is great, and if you've missed it, well worth getting on DVD.
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on 20 October 2010
I will never get bored of Extras.
Gervais and Merchant have once again (as they always seem to do without fail) pulled it out the bag.
On paper the idea of a comedy with regular celebrity appearances and based upon the struggle of getting into showbiz sounds incredibly self indulgent but it is nothing like that.
The beauty of Extras is that the guests in each episode are playing versions of themselves, more often than not taking the p**s out of themselves. And all along you have the everyman character that is Andy Millman who is surrounded by odd yet strangely believable characters.
Extras is a suberbly written, perfectly acted and beautifully crafted comedy.
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