Only a few years late

Extras, The Christmas Special and Series 2 (in that order).

When I went to Suzhou last weekend, I took the opportunity to go to a DVD shop because there, such places are not the pale shadows they’ve become here. Among other things, I got Extras, the first series of which I probably watched years ago, but I hadn’t seen any sign of the programme on the Mainland.

In series two, Andy Millman has his sitcom, When the Whistle Blows, which is the lowest of low-brow catch-phrase comedies. Like Kenneth Williams, he wants to do something serious and arty, but he finds that beside A-list celebs such as David Bowie, who sings a scathing song about Millman, his star is very dull, and although he despises his audience of cretins, he at least has their adulation.

I think the star turn in the second series was Daniel Radcliffe playing himself as a sex-crazed adolescent trying to score with anything female, including Maggie, who had already not fancied Orlando Bloom. The best scene was at lunch when Radcliffe is waving around a condom which he pings away only to find that it’s landed in the hair of Dame Diana Rigg.

A special mention has to go to the BAFTA ceremony, including the coke-snorting Ronnie Corbett and Millman’s never-ending humiliation in front of everyone else during the awards.

At the end of the series, Millman has the chance to meet with Robert de Niro, but does the right thing by visiting a sick child in hospital. de Niro doesn’t say much in the scene with Stephen Merchant, but he is fascinated by one of those pens where the lady is dressed one way up and naked the other way up. And thus his big chance has passed.

I watched the Christmas special first because I assume the second series was on the second disc. In the special, Millman is in the Big Brother house. Months before, he burnt his bridges by announcing the end of When the Whistle Blows in an endeavour to do something more serious, but he has to become a profile-promoting celeb to do it, and that means a part as a slug in Dr Who and roles various things which he doesn’t want to do. But it’s his candid speech before he leaves the Big Brother house which raises his profile, and it seems that real fame and stardom is waiting.

Instead, Millman legs it with his friend, Maggie, in her 2CV.

I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Possibly, I’m suffering from middle-age hysteria, but there were some brilliant moments. There were also some poignant ones as Maggie’s life got progressively worse. Stephen Merchant continued to do his brilliant turn as Millman’s completely hope­less agent who, along with Barry from Eastenders (Shaun Williamson), ends up working at Carphone Warehouse after he’s been sacked.

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