BBC1, Fri 28 Dec, 9.30pm
For all his faults (and his stand-up and radio work make them plentiful), Ricky Gervais at least knows when a TV comedy should bow out. Having clocked off at The Office with 12 episodes and a Christmas special, he has opted for the same strategy with Extras. And if anything, the latter sitcom with its profligate reliance on stars and their reputations, needed a hole in its head before it became repetitive and stale. And, like the conclusion to The Office with Tim, Dawn and Brent all finding a certain kind of happiness, Gervais and Stephen Merchant have given the Extras finale an added emotional drive with permanent losers Andy Millman and Maggie achieving a sense of closure.
Beginning with an almost too-perfect set-up which represents the nadir of the existence a semi-famous man such as Millman would lead, the story shoots back in time to focus on how he got himself into such a spiritual hole. And that story is a familiar one of thwarted ambition, wholesome dreams turning into stark nightmares and reality biting hard. Despite acting as the reason why Extras had an inherently short lifespan, the celebrities on show either play up beautifully to elements of their public persona (George Michael’s sex life, Gordon Ramsay’s bad temper) or show a menacing side only vaguely hinted at (Clive Owen being savage and hurtful, Lionel Blair depressed at having to seem permanently cheerful). Whether Gervais and Merchant will bring us anything as good on British TV again is almost doubtful, but this swansong dies with dignity.