Last night, HBO aired the final episode of Extras—or what we can presume to be the final episode, unless, in that peculiar British tradition, there's another "Christmas special," for which I won't be getting up my hopes, as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant seem blissfully disinclined from messing with perfection. And, like The Office, Extras ended precisely when it should and as it should, a perfect little package of brilliance tied up with a bow of satisfying exhalation.
Unlike The Office, Extras was never a romantic comedy, though there were classic glimpses of timeless romance, as when Darren had Maggie over for a lovely dinner, only to abandon her to have at a floater with a whisk and a plastic bag. Having already realized the ideal romance with Tim and Dawn, the team of Gervais and Merchant set out instead to tackle the perfect opposite sex best-friendship.
Devoid utterly of sexual tension and promise, Andy and Maggie's friendship looked and sounded and felt like a real-world platonic best-friendship between a woman and a man. They mercilessly teased each other; they knew each other at best and at worst; they could talk about their respective relationships (okay, Maggie's relationships) sans jealousy, just like they would talk about anything else. They never had sex (a la Jerry and Elaine), they never are going to have sex (a la Ross and Rachel), and the sex part isn't always getting in the way (a la Harry and Sally). Andy and Maggie were boringly, wonderfully familiar—though I can't recall ever having seen anything quite like them on my TV screen.
"Do you think we've landed in the future?"
"Shut your face!"
Andy, impatient and rude, oft selfish and needy, afraid to do anything on his own, and Maggie, habitually adrift on her own planet, gormless and in desperate need of self-censor: The dénouement of Extras confirmed, lest anyone thought otherwise, how important their friendship was to both of them, despite the overwhelming evidence of imperfections and idiosyncrasies that would drive most people to maniacal distraction. And isn't that, really, the very definition of what makes a steadfast friendship?—the limitless capacity to put up with someone's bullshit so spectacularly peculiar it would get on the last good nerve of anyone else with a lick of sense, for the totally selfish reason that said someone somehow puts up with yours in return.
Andy and Maggie are, we see so clearly in the end, both anchor and buoy for each other—and as irritating as life can be with a friend who doesn't appreciate you as much he should, or a friend who inevitably makes life more difficult when she tries to help, life is eminently better with a flawed friend who allows for your foibles right back. "You're my best friend," Andy tells Maggie, his eyes welling, as he gazes into the camera hovering above him and she gazes back at her telly. It is exactly what she wants to hear.
And, of course, it is exactly what we want him to say, reminding us why Gervais and Merchant have rightfully been called geniuses by anyone who's watched anything worth watching on television for the past six years. They make us laugh, and then they remind us so movingly that even the most obnoxious of us are deserving of love; even the silliest, stingiest, daft, and frequently undeserving of us can have a great friend, if only we're prepared to be one in return.