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It's no joke to end this great show after just two series, says Lynn Barber

Anyone for Extras?

Sunday October 22, 2006
The Observer

How can Extras be allowed to finish? Aren't there laws to stop this sort of thing? How dare Ricky Gervais whet our appetite to such an extent and then snatch the feast away? In last Thursday's final episode, with the dying cancer patient and his pushy mum, he opened a whole new seam of comedy - edgy, uncomfortable, daring to go (a dying boy, for heaven's sake!) where no comedy had been before. It felt as though Gervais had finally done what he promised at the outset, and given us a real insight into the weird world of celebrity. Moreover, it was funny, which is what edgy comedy usually fails to be. But he has hinted that this series will have been the last.

There have been only a few times in my life when I felt I was watching a real breakthrough in comedy - Monty Python in the Seventies, Fawlty Towers, a series called A Very Peculiar Practice in the Eighties that, oddly, seems to have been forgotten - maybe it was not as good as I remembered - and then a long gap till The Day Today and Alan Partridge and another long gap until The Office, though there were consolations from the States, like The Larry Sanders Show and Seinfeld. Recent British successes such as The League of Gentleman and Little Britain left me cold - they relied on that dread concept 'surreal', and I began to think, 'Maybe I'm too old for this TV comedy lark.'

And at the beginning I was doubtful about Extras. There was an early episode that seemed to think it was miraculous that Kate Winslet could say rude words while dressed as a nun. I thought, 'Oh dear - Ricky Gervais is so excited to have celebs on his show, he's forgotten to be funny.'

But then he started really working his celebs and making them take extraordinary risks. I still goggle at the memory of Chris Martin plugging his own record in the middle of a charity appeal - did he know what a risk he was taking?

How does Gervais do it? How does he persuade celebs to perform such acts of self-demolition? But it was only in this last series that he really hit his stride. Please don't let it finish, please, please.

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