In the UK: Thursdays, BBC2, 9pm
In the US: Season 1 being repeated on HBO. No word on Season 2.
The ultimate test of any comedy is whether it makes you laugh. On those grounds, series two of Extras is an occasional success: when it makes you laugh, it makes you laugh hard. The rest of the time, it's either not very good or slightly distasteful.
As with the first series, most of the laughs come from celebrities sending themselves up. So far, we've been treated to some excellent turns by Orlando Bloom, Keith Chegwin, Richard Madeley, Daniel Radcliffe and Dame Diana Rigg. David Bowie brought the house down in episode two with his spectacular “Little fat loser” song. Being the slightly nerdy person I am, though, I was actually more excited to see Warwick Davis than to see Daniel Radcliffe: he was Willow, for goodness sake!
WARNING: Rob entering landmine zone. Possible missteps ahead.
In between those moments of bliss, we've had dozens of scenes that are the trademark of Gervais's humour: people failing to be political correct. It's always hard to have a go at these, because ultimately, the failing person is inevitably shown to be an idiot who doesn't appreciate the real person they're stereotyping; the show also goes some way towards consciousness-raising and, in some cases, actually getting people onto mainstream television who are never usually given much of a chance.
It's just getting a little predictable now. Every show, we have someone black, gay, vertically challenged, mentally or physically handicapped, etc being insulted and getting their own back. Could we have something else? Or just have them on, but without being insulted? Some variety, please!
We're also being given some 'interesting' perspectives on life as a celebrity and Gervais' attitudes to comedy, etc. Other people have already had a say about these, so I won't repeat what they've said too much.
I agree with certain points, but disagree with others. I think Gervais is actually being cleverer than it might have appeared from the first episode. Certainly, the initial snobbery towards catchphrase-comedy lovers takes a battering during the second episode: by the end, Gervais's character realises the people he's been looking down on are actually nice, fun people - maybe not too sophisticated, but still salt-of-the-earth types who actually like what he's done, unlike the snooty critics and celebrities. It wouldn't surprise me if a somewhat more rounded picture emerges by the end of the series, particularly given Gervais promises this to be the final one.
The other trouble is that when Gervais attempts to do anything other than cringe comedy, it all becomes a bit predictable and silly. Ashley Jensen's character never learns from experience and never gets any character development. Women only appear in the show so they can turn down the advances of repellent men. It's all a bit disappointing really.
Still, it does make you laugh while occasionally making you annoyed, so I'm going to give it a slight recommendation: watch it, just as everyone else does, just to see what the celebs do.