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Once again, we're tackling another show in TV Blend's weekly series "___'s Best Episode." Each week a different writer will pick out a different episode of a TV show and argue why it is definitively, absolutely the best thing the show ever did. Arguments will be started, tears may be shed, but we're here to start some conversations and make some arguments for really, really good TV. This week Jessica makes a case for Extras’ “Kate Winslet,” which featured guest star Kate Winslet as a habit-wearing actress with a potty mouth. Read below, argue with us in the comments.
Kate Winslet’s guest spot on Extras may have been the first or the third episode of the program you ever encountered, depending on whether you saw the show’s original release or caught it for the first time on a North American DVD. The relative shamelessness in which distributors have tinkered with the lineup says a lot about the flow of Extras, a show that only loosely relies on overarching plot. Instead, Extras puts careful care into wholly exaggerating famous celebrities alongside Stephan Merchant and Ricky Gervais’ own personalities to set us off on a rollicking ride through many atheist jokes and some really shitty personal choices.
In “Kate Winslet,” Andy and his partner in crime - Ashley Jensen’s Maggie Jacobs - are busy working as bit characters on the set of a Nazi film starring Kate Winslet. In their spare time, the two muck up their lives as unrelentingly unpleasant people—and in this episode they cater to their personalities perfectly. “Kate Winslet” finds the oblivious Maggie cavorting with Winslet to poke a little fun at Maggie’s new boyfriends’ filthy phone habits. As a bonus, Winslet’s potty-mouthed imagery is one of the most uncomfortably smutty TV spots, ever.
At the same time, Andy is trying to hook up with Suzanne, a practicing Catholic woman whom Andy woos by pretending to be Catholic himself. Many of Extras’ episodes are more carefully put together than one would expect, given the lack of emphasis on cinematography. However “Kate Winslet” takes this idea to a new level with a scene that shows how charming Andy can be toward Suzanne, even if he is more than a little insincere. Featuring the cheery warnings of Dandy Livingstone’s “Suzanne Beware of the Devil,” we are privy to an entire courtship in a carefully crafted minute. It really works, but the scene still doesn’t explain exactly why “Kate Winslet” takes the cake as the best episode of Extras.
Winslet puts in one of the strongest performances throughout the entire Extras series. Other guest stars may have been funnier, but none were able to find the perfect balance between poking fun at themselves and advancing the plot. That’s the key here, really. The actress lets herself have it, but her self-inflicted jabs come over the course of playful conversations with Maggie and Andy. There’s a wonderful flow to it, and if there’s any question about how on topic and smart Winslet’s character is written in the episode, we only need to look as far as one line, a line that later resonated when Winslet won an Academy Award for The Reader.
“If you do a film about the Holocaust, you’re guaranteed an Oscar.”
Extras may have really finessed its humor in its second season, but there’s nothing better than finding an episode that knows who its characters are and where they are going, that allows every little joke to hit a seamless note, and doesn’t mind letting its guest star shine. For a show that thrives on being uncomfortable, that achieves in its audience impulses to squirm under blankets or bolt from the room, “Kate Winslet” rivets us to our seats. That’s a guarantee the episode is doing something right.