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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Extras: "The Extra Special Series Finale"

Illustration for article titled Extras: "The Extra Special Series Finale"
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Illustration for article titled Extras: "The Extra Special Series Finale"

Those looking for a conclusive epilogue to Extras won't find it with the Christmas special, but then again, unlike with The Office, one wasn't really necessary. The Office ended its series on a depressing downbeat, and then returned with its Christmas special to deliver a few happy endings and answer some questions. Extras however left off with Andy Millman finding some redemption in both his personal and professional life. But instead of taking its viewers to see what wonderful things had happened to him since his meeting with Robert DeNiro, we're back to the Andy we knew before: caught between wanting the perks of fame and actual critical achievement, dwelling in a world where people aren't compelled in the least to restrain their cruelest and most childlike impulses.

But the episode rings pretty hollow, and would even if it wasn't a season finale/Christmas special. It's a downer, actually. The promos for the special looked promising, with cameos from Clive Owen and George Michael and requisite foolishness from goggly-eyed agent Darren Lamb, but those clips really were the best parts. Certainly Extras and The Office extracted humor from banality and life's unkinder cuts, but not many laughs came from Andy's further descent into assholishness and Maggie's dissatisfaction with her own life. With only glancing references to Christmastime, I kept expecting Andy to wake up from a Scrooge-like dream and go back to his real life, lessons about fame learned and then ignored. But it was no dream, which is too bad because some parts of the episode seemed downright heavyhanded, with repetitions of Andy's new agent's mantra "Life's cruel," the parallelism between Maggie's cleaning toilets and Andy's turn on Big Brother, and finally Andy's onscreen ruminations on fame and his final rejection of it.

A happy ending was suitable for The Office because we rooted for the characters, but other than perhaps Maggie, the best parts of Extras were the situations, not the betterment of the people on it. We didn't need to be told that fame is whorish and demeaning, because that's what the series has been about all along.

For fans of the show, the special is suitable in bringing some more of what it previously delivered, but instead of a shiny, noisy, sugary treat of a holiday special, it was a little like the equivalent of being given a donation in your name to somebody else's favorite charity. The thought is nice, but… we didn't really want a thought.

Grade: C-

Stray observations:

— While Andy's apology to Maggie was a little rom-com, at least the episode managed to avoid getting the two together romantically. It's always been refreshing that the show featured a co-ed friendship that somehow managed to avoid that great romantic epiphany.

—Even though the gag of Maggie being rejected for her looks on-set has been done many times before, it's still a reminder of Ashley Jensen's awesomeness. The fact that Ricky Gervais lets her make him her straight man says it all. There aren't many comedic actresses who can get past the "I'm funny–but I'm cute first" pigeonhole. Although she of course is still cute as a button.