Really, Ricky Gervais? The Smiths?

Photo: Courtesy of HBO

Speaking of shows you'll never see new episodes of ever again, Extras bowed out last night with a dour Christmas special on HBO. Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais) further tumbled down the staircase of celebrity degradation, before dusting himself off at the bottom and loosing a scorching rant against the corrosive nature of fame. He then SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! fled celebrity forever, as the series ended in much the same manner as did every play you ever wrote in high school — i.e., the male and female leads pile into a car and take off for parts unknown, just wanting to drive, man! Just drive! Who cares where we go?!

The most surprising moment in the finale, though, may have been the choice by Gervais and Stephen Merchant to score a montage of Maggie's spiraling loneliness with that eighties-era anthem of disconsolate youth, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" by the Smiths. Given that the show's entire second season was predicated on ridiculing hacks, this seemed a somewhat, er, predictable — dare we say hacky? — choice. Not to suggest that the gorgeous Smiths ballad is hackwork; to the contrary, has there ever been a better use of mandolins in music, before or since? (Yes, we're including lutes here too.)[Ed: "Losing My Religion," maybe? We smell a list!] But haven't we heard this somewhere before?

To a certain generation, the song will forever be tied to the masterworks of John Hughes: First, the song essentially served as Ducky's personal theme music in Pretty in Pink; then, later the same year (1986), Hughes used an instrumental cover version by the Dream Academy during the gallery scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. To many a morose North American teen, this was an introduction to the fact that some ambisexual British guy named Morrissey hadn't had a dream in a long time.

Subsequently, the song became a bit of a movie cliché, turning up in teen flicks from Never Been Kissed to Not Another Teen Movie (as covered by Muse). At least Merchant and Gervais had the good sense to use the original, perfect Smiths version; the song's since been covered (and occasionally defiled) by the Deftones, Third Eye Blind, and Hootie and the Blowfish. However, hearing it in the Extras finale represents a dubious misstep; using this song in the background of a montage about loneliness is roughly the creative equivalent of using Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" in the background of a montage about falling in love. —Adam Sternbergh

Related: Having a Laff Yet? [NYM]