I have to admit that after being such a fan of the British Office, and a complete lover of the Ricky Gervais Show (with Karl Pilkington), the first season of Extras was a bit of a disappointment to me. I don't want to spend this whole time unfairly comparing the two TV shows, but I'd say the big difference is that everyone could relate to The Office and while David Brent is a mostly unlikable cringe inducing man, the show was full of pathos and sympathy.
Extras is a harder nut to crack. Taking cues perhaps from Curb Your Enthusiasm (that probably took cues from the British office in the first place) this is one of those obnoxious men getting caught in spiraling misunderstandings things; And, like only the truly British can truly do, it is really, heart breakingly depressing as much or even more so than as it is funny.
Of course, season one though, before I go slagging it off (any one else start to think in British slang terms after watching lots of BBC?) did have the best guest appearance of all time when Patrick Stewart showed of his comedic chops playing himself as an excitable teenage like perv who's dream project is a movie about a guy who can tear of women's clothing with his mind. As he explains animatedly “They try to cover up, but it's too late, I've already seen everything”. The show gradually grew on me and I entered the second series with a much more open mind.
There are lots of laughs this time around, where we find Gervais as actor Andy Millman no longer an extra but a bona fide TV star on a dismally crappy sitcom. The scenes of the show, called “When the Whistle Blows” are pitch perfect examples of mediocre, broad, lowest common denominator humor. The guest appearances, which aren't always the best part are well done with Daniel Radcliff and his unwrapped condom and Sir Ian McKellan and his hilarious theories on acting standing out. De Niro also gets the best line in the whole thing when he off screen asks “The woman from the pen?” (Watch it, you'll understand).
The best part though, aside from a bit of physical comedy involving an exploding bottle of sparkling water that completely caught me off guard and had me laughing until I couldn't breathe (and in fact, just thinking about it now gives me giggles in my tummy) is the almost freakishly tall Stephen Merchant as the ugly raincoat and maroon turtleneck wearing useless manager. The sweet and dim friend, Maggie Jacobs, played by Ashley Jensen is also extremely likable,?a much needed contrast to Millman's sometimes indefensible personality.