Extras: The Complete Series (2004-07)
"The Victorian freak show never went away. Now it's called American Idol or Big Brother."- Andy (Ricky Gervais)
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Ashley Jensen
Other Stars: Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller, Ross Kemp, Samuel L. Jackson, Les Dennis, Patrick Stewart, Orlando Bloom, David Bowie, Chris Martin, Ian McKellen, Daniel Radcliffe, Diana Rigg, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, George Michael
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
MPAA Rating: Not RatedRun Time: 08h:09m:56s
Release Date: 2008-01-15
DVD ReviewOscar Wilde may well have been right: when the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers. That's one of the principal takeaways from the conclusion of the saga of Andy Millman, the hero of this series, and a character that's deliberately created as a funhouse-mirror version of the success of Ricky Gervais, who plays the role and, with Stephen Merchant, wrote and directed the whole shebang. This box set brings together the first and second six-episode seasons, along with the ninety minute finale—the DVD releases of the seasons are identical, so under discussion here is only the sendoff.
Andy started as one in the army of the series title, but his ferocious drive for fame and a knack for taking advantage when opportunity knocks led him to score his own sitcom, and when we pick up here after the end of the second season, the malaise of C-level success is everywhere. Andy wanted to be De Niro, or Seinfeld, but instead ends up in a stupid wig screeching moronic catch phrases on his lowest-common-denominator sitcom, When the Whistle Blows. He wants desperately to step up in class, but is of course deeply fearful that he has in fact reached his peak, and the cushion of a fat weekly paycheck from a successful series can only soften the blow so much, because artistic respect at any level simply isn't for sale. So he sort of goes bonkers, ditching his agent, played by Merchant—he's been a dunderhead, but loyalty should count for something, shouldn't it? Well, not to Andy, and not in the entertainment business. And his best friend Maggie learns about the depths of Andy's solipsism—she's cleaning toilets, but when they're together all he can do is bitch about not getting a better table at the Ivy.
Once again Gervais gets some famous folk to appear and have fun at their own expense—especially delightful here are Clive Owen, in full on-set diva mode, and George Michael, merrily cruising men in the park on his lunch break from community service. Also there's a fair amount of stuff that doesn't translate as well to this side of the pond—one of the principal motifs is Andy's fear of descending into has-been, third-rater territory and meeting many denizens of that particular circle of entertainment hell, but when those folks pop up, they're strangers to most of us here in the States.
Still, there's a kind of sick fascination in watching them all spiral down into a kind of emotional meltdown, and we know that Andy has become completely unmoored when he lights in to one of the extras on his own show for having the temerity to speak with him. He's desperate for any kind of heat in the business at all, and decides to suffer the indignity of appearing on Celebrity Big Brother—because you're on television, dummy. And that's enough to get him to snap—Andy turns into a kind of reality show Howard Beale, denouncing not only his medium of choice but our entire culture of celebrity. Things have been so bleak for so long for Andy that it doesn't quite feel like he's completely redeemed himself, but you sense that Gervais and Merchant want to go out on at least a modestly hopeful note. It's not entirely convincing, but it's better than the misanthropic takes it's easy to imagine, and will likely leave you eager to see where the restless comic intelligence of this pair take them next.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Solid if unremarkable transfers through all five discs.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The pseudo-vérité style makes for some funny stuff, but means that occasionally exposition or punchlines can get garbled.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Office, HBO series roundup trailer
7 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: No extra Extras extras—the two season sets are identical to previous releases, and no new goodies on the fifth disc with the finale.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsIf you already own the first two seasons, you may be reluctant to double dip, but the ninety-minute series finale makes for quite a cherry on the sundae of one of the funniest and most wounding TV series produced in a good long while.
Jon Danziger 2008-01-31