I can’t imagine Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had to take notes “Extras” but thankfully some little angel plopped between their shoulders and whispered the right things in their ears for some course correction.
No more is Ashley Jensen marriage and man hungry, now she’s got a regular man, John Kirk. So then Jensen’s subplot instead gets to be she’s not into talking dirty on the phone, which Kirk expects from his ladies, so of course she’s fretting about it because despite being a regular she’s got no character.
Neither does Ricky Gervais, so it’s not like the show’s playing favorites. Merchant’s agent is back. He’s got so little character that lack of character is part of the joke.
Merchant’s pretty funny though.
Gervais and Merchant also seem to have realized by giving most of the extreme stuff to the guest star—in this episode, Kate Winslet—they get to make Gervais more sympathetic and the celebrity seem even less like a rational human being. Albeit a hilarious less than rational human being. Because Winslet’s fantastic. Just superb. She’s a foul-mouthed, foul-minded, racist bigot who doesn’t learn from any of her mistakes, which somehow makes her less than Gervais in the end.
There’s a subplot involving actress Charlotte Palmer, who Gervais is interested in… romantically. Gervais’s character having any romantic interests whatsoever is kind of new so… whatever. It’s funny. Especially since she’s a Catholic and he’s an atheist.
But then it turns out her sister, Francesca Martinez, has cerebral palsy, which means Gervais is of course going to make fun of her. To her sister. And it’s not going to go well.
The show plays a little loose with one of its punchlines, dragging it out for effect when it doesn’t make any sense as far as the character. Gervais has a pretty solid scene in a Catholic prayer group where they slowly realize he’s an unbeliever.
What’s weird about the atheism subplot is Gervais comes off as a prick about it. Gervais is, off-screen, a somewhat prominent atheist. It’s like he wanted to double-down on mansplained atheism or something.
Still. Really funny stuff. Good for easy, privileged belly laughs.