Film & TV

Review – Life’s Too Short

Having so far loved everything that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have flashed at me in their freak-show of the damned: the little fat man, the simian bald man, and Barry from Eastenders; I was almost certain that I was going to enjoy Life’s Too Short, an aptly named sitcom/mockumentary that follows Britain’s ‘Go To Dwarf’, Warwick Davis. Just as in other roaringly successful series of the last few years (The Trip, Extras, and Curb Your Enthusiasm to name three), the show’s protagonist plays an exaggerated version of themselves. It starts out reasonably well – we are introduced to Warwick, but then there is a dawning realisation. The feeling is similar to the one when glancing at a photo of a dwarf standing alone without any average height people to use as perspective – something is amiss, but you’re not quite sure what.

The show has a typically great cast with Ricky and Steve dropping in for a cameo, and Davis is undoubtedly a very funny actor. The format, as proven by Larry David et al. is potentially golden. There’s even a blacked up, lesbian dwarf and her friend singing Ebony and Ivory. And yet. Despite what is an undeniably clever script, and a hilariously intense cameo from the forgotten Ronny – Liam Neeson – and one from a predatory Johnny Depp in the next episode, something is flat.

I couldn’t help but feel a little bit cheated by Life’s Too Short because, just like a comedic equivalent of Peter Kay’s new stand-up, I felt like I’d seen it all before. And I have. Davis, just like Pilkington and Barry before him gets the same knowingly patronising-yet-hopefully-comedic treatment. It’s not just the fat child and his tall friend making fun of the misfit in the playground that stinks of regurgitation. What’s missing is any real sense of originality. Davis is fed David Brent’s cut lines, and exposed to Andy Millman’s superiors – it’s not, as Gervais describes it, the ‘third in our sitcom trilogy’, it’s just a cobbling together of what the duo have formerly produced. It’s lazy. From the dwarf-not-reaching-the-buzzer gag, and the incompetent accountant, to the undeserving pseudo-celebrity comparing their plight to a historical great like MLK, it’s all a little too familiar. Familiarity can be a good thing – like that sinking feeling when Larry David shrugs and grimaces for the two hundredth time, but this isn’t that.

It seems that, after abusing Hollywood, and reclaiming the word ‘mong’, Ricky Gervais has reached the boundaries of what can be comedy, and so is reinventing David Brent, but making him sympathetic because he’s a dwarf with a small man complex.

I’m not just another wannabe critic taking the lazy route of faux world weary criticism – I really wanted to like Life’s Too Short, and it will probably be a rousing success, particularly in the US where they still have the Gervais bug (Britain shook it off sometime after his FAME tour). Just as Coldplay’s X&Y did well because of, rather than regardless of, the success of the first two albums, so will Life’s Too Short. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of supply and demand TV production that ruined Little Britain (which, originally, was quite funny) and US TV seems riddled with.

I really hope it gets better, but I don’t think it will.

David Hodari

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Tom is a budding film reviewer, hell bent on providing informed opinions on the latest movie releases to those who need them, whether they like it or not.

5 Comments on this post.
  • billy shears
    17 November 2011 at 16:38
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    Sorry, you lose any “cred” by not only using the expression “rousing success” but also using “roaringly successful”. Geez! And you miss entirely about what really is getting old and what Gervais’ comedy relies on (and copied in Modern Family)…the “look” into the camera.

  • Karl
    17 November 2011 at 18:05
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    well i found it funny regardless if its rehashed or not.

  • a paid writer
    17 November 2011 at 20:05
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    Really enjoyed this review (got here from Google) – your critique is spot on as far as I’m concerned, so ignore billy shears’ lazy snipes. Keep up the good work!

  • Dan
    17 November 2011 at 22:04
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    I agree. The funniest thing I have ever heard is Ricky , Steve and the AMAZING Karl on xfm. I love AIA and the office. i liked Extras . but I will give this a chance. I just wish it was Karl not Warrick.

  • tomgrater
    18 November 2011 at 00:17
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    “Gervais’ comedy relies on ‘the “look” into the camera”? If that were true then David would have even more of a point in his review, you can’t build an entire show on that gimmick.

    I enjoyed the first episode of Life’s Too Short in parts – the Liam Neeson scene was by far the standout – but I completely agree that it was a rehash. Watching Warwick Davis channel David Brent is bizarre.

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