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There are definitely laughs going on here but I can't help thinking
most of them are in-house with Messrs G and M sharing them behind the
scenes at the viewers' expense.
If the deliberate intention was to present this series as a skewed rehash / reworking of situations, lines and characters from what's gone before it (The Office and Extras) then I think it succeeded on that particular level.
With this and a second series in the pipeline some might say that perhaps it's a clever way to wrap up a trilogy?
Overall though a disappointment for me.
The series lacked that writing masterclass spark that I have come to expect from two of Britain's greatest ever comic writers.
All is not lost: I didn't like the first series of Extras too much but now consider it a classic.
Here's hoping the second series of "Life's Too Short" moves up a gear and that I'm not left with the feeling that Messrs G & M wrote this in a hurry because they had other things to do with their valuable time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have created some of the most influential and fantastic comedy in the 2000's, including The Office, Extras and The Ricky Gervais Show, and I was really intrigued to see that they would be doing another Mockumentary style show, and I was definitely up for it. Basically this fake observational documentary sitcom series delves into the life of famous dwarf actor Warwick Davis, star of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, Willow and Leprechaun, and his attempts at reviving his career, carrying on with his business ventures, and some of his personal life. This includes trying to end his marriage with wife Sue (Jo Enright) with as little hassle as possible, trying to run his dwarf actors' company, trying to help out at the dwarf support group he is a patron of, and trying to keep stable financially, and throughout the series we see that with his attitude, his lack of enthusiasm for everything, and sometimes his size don't always work to his advantage. Throughout the series he often visits his showbiz friends, that he met in Extras, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant for help and advice on stuff, he gets help in the office and sometimes personally from his not always intelligent assistant Cheryl Wilkins (This Is England's Rosamund Hanson), and with his divorce in proceedings he also tries his hand at a new relationship, unknowingly at first with another dwarf, Amy (Kiruna Stamell). Celebrities appearing in the series as themselves included Liam Neeson, Shaun Williamson, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Carell, Right Said Fred's Richard and Fred Fairbrass, Les Dennis, Keith Chegwin, Cat Deeley, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Sting. Davis gives a really good performance playing the complete opposite to what he is like in real life, the script written by Gervais and Merchant are punchy in many moments, especially in the way they make Davis out to be a bit of a bastard, the celebrity appearances are all fun to watch, and the dialogue and slapstick style visual jokes work well too, I will admit it is not as funny and original as previous works the makers have done, but it is a comedy series worth seeing. Very good!
I love THE OFFICE and am ambivalent towards EXTRAS, so how would I feel
about LIFE'S TOO SHORT, Ricky Gervais's latest mockumentary charting
the trials and tribulations of dwarf actor Warwick Davis? Having just
watched all seven episodes, I'm sorry to say that this is more like
EXTRAS than THE OFFICE. It's a predictable series in which the voice,
mannerisms and style of David Brent have been ported over entirely to
Davis, so that he's in essence a mini-Brent. I love Davis and can't
fault his acting, but there's a seen-it-all-before feel to much of the
The highlight of each episode is the celebrity cameo, with appearances from both Liam Neeson and Johnny Depp early on really setting the standard. Otherwise, the comedy is fairly nasty and unpleasant, with unlikeable characters interacting with other unlikeable characters and nobody to root for. It's all a bit cynical, and it says something when the best bits are the tiny cameos given to the likes of Shaun Williamson, Keith Chegwin and Les Dennis.
Follow-up: LIFE'S TOO SHORT has concluded with a one-off, hour-long 2013 special which finalises the story. Bizarrely, Davis has an entirely different character now; bored with his previous unpleasant character, he's a reformed guy. Once you get over that, the special is much better than the TV show, wisely focusing on supporting characters (Val Kilmer, Keith Chegwin, Les Dennis & Shaun Williamson) who really zing and supply plenty of genuinely funny comic material. It's a shame that the rest of the show wasn't of the same calibre...
You hear that? It's the sound of a barrel's bottom being scraped. Ricky
and Steve are not just out of ideas, they're plagiarizing efforts by
better writers as well as their own past successes.
Warwick Davis stars as himself in a mockumentary of his daily life, which includes ritual humiliations and an endless downward spiral. It's grim, ugly, unpleasant, depressing, morbid, and thoroughly repugnant stuff. The writing and production of this show is a career low and a massive misjudgement.
The main 'inspiration' is, no doubt, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Ricky Gervais adores Larry David to the point of obsession. But what he and Steve utterly fail to realize is that Curb is populated with complex, layered characters. Larry is a jerk, but he's kind and fair. Jeff is a cheating slob, but he'll do anything for Larry. Susie is witch, but she's loyal and forgiving.
There is not a SINGLE likable character in Life's Too Short. Each and every one of them is featured for the sole purpose of creating awkward situations regardless of logic, reason, or common sense. Why doesn't Warwick fire these people? Why doesn't he distance himself from those that make his life even worse? The lazy accountant is a poor facsimile of Merchant's Darren Lamb character from Extras (itself a rip-off or Curb). The Cheryl character (a name stolen from Curb) is a carbon copy of Maggie. There's nothing original here at all.
Ricky needs to worm his way out of Larry David's rear-end and come up with something new, dynamic and innovative if he and Merchant don't want to be regarded as one-trick ponies. Life's Too Short is derivative and joyless. No amount of tacked-on celebrity cameos can make something like this worthwhile.
Life's too short is basically an amalgamation of both "The Office" and
"Extras" but sadly not as good as either. That's not to say it isn't
There are some underlying problems, one being the character Warwick Davis. This isn't going to be a scathing attack on his capabilities as an actor because I believe his performance is really quite good. However, the character seems to similar to David Brent and Ricky Gervais' portrayal of that character is incomparable. The fault is not with Davis but with the writing. The only thing missing is the ability for the viewer to sympathise with Davis, there is enough to sympathise with his situation (divorce, career down hill) but not with the character, because all you really see are his superficial or self empathising tendencies.
Some of the press reviews have been extremely unfair and seem to have drastically missed the point in terms of where the humour lies. In my view the humour lies in the absurd nature of the people Warwick meets; examples being Depp placing him in a toilet and H B Carter putting him in a bin as if they believe this is acceptable behaviour.
All in all it appears to be getting stronger episode by episode and there are usually a few hilarious scenes in each that make it worth watching.
As the only person in the Universe who thinks both:
a) The Office was not funny and b) Extras was better
I came to this after several negative reviews not expecting much but I had heard Ricky Gervais on Danny Baker and he was:
a) a really nice guy and b) very proud of the series
So eventually I got round to watching it on the iPlayer.
Basically, as everyone seems to be saying, it's similar to, OK the same as, his other work. This is not always a bad thing. When it hits it's spot on, and very very funny, but, because it's the comedy of embarrassment, when it misses it is just embarrassing.
Still, it's well worth the occasional discomfort for the laugh out loud moments.
I would tend to agree with criticism that Gervais and Merchant seemed
to have written and directed this "on automatic pilot". There is little
evidence of any real effort.
First of all, there is the issue of originality; I am mainly referring to cloned characters, an unfortunate decision on the part of Gervais/Merchant. While LTS may seem original at first glance, what with a dwarf actor playing himself as the main character, it isn't. The show is basically an amalgamation of "The Office" and "Extras", totally derivative hence quite predictable.
Warwick, playing an egocentric attention-seeking head of a small company, is give-or-take a few things essentially a dwarf version of David Brent; he is always focused on what the camera is doing i.e. on how he will look to the viewers later, he gives the camera those awkward looks of embarrassment, he gets into the same kind of cringe-worthy situations as Brent, etc. His ditsy secretary, whose stupidity constantly puts him on the spot in front of other people, is basically the Scottish gal from "Extras". The running joke in "Extras" was Ashley revealing secret/embarrassing information about Gervais at the worst possible moments: the secretary does the exact same thing to Warwick, and stupidly enough he never even admonishes her for it, let alone fires her. Warwick's accountant is almost a replica of Merchant's incompetent agent from "Extras"; totally useless, lazy, and unmotivated, but quick to put the blame on Warwick. It's all quite familiar, in fact far too familiar.
As a result, LTS keeps bringing up the same sort of situations we've already seen dozens of times in the two previous Gervais/Merchant sitcoms. Unlike these two, however, you will very rarely find a laugh-out-loud moment in LTS. In the defense of the show, though, the episodes are usually interesting throughout, if nothing else, and Gervais's appearances save the series from sinking into total mediocrity.
Which brings me to another problem. Warwick is vaguely likable, but he isn't a good enough comedian by a long shot to carry a whole series, which is why every appearance by Gervais comes as much-needed comic relief. During those scenes, LTS's quality level rises but the moment Gervais exists, it drops again.
There are other reasons LTS doesn't work that well. For one thing, the whole mockumentary genre has been almost bled dry by now. Christopher Guest ("Spinal Tap", "Waiting For Guffman", "For Your Consideration" etc.) and Gervais/Merchant had already done this, not to mention a plethora of "The Office" spin-offs around the world, and many other lesser comedies that were made in this fashion, diluting the mockumentary format in the process and making it decreasingly appealing. When "This Is Spinal Tap" came out, back in 1982, it was a totally new type of comedy, very fresh and hilarious. 30 years later, and I don't get particularly excited about anything new mockumentary-wise.
But this aspect isn't as detrimental to the series as this flawed conception: both Warwick's character and the situations in LTS are too exaggerated. Less is more when it comes to mockumentaries, I would have thought Gervais would at least know this. You can't have broad-comedy situations within a "reserved" mockumentary setting. For example, Warwick's speech at the wedding; it is so over-the-top absurd that it belongs more in some idiotic, buffoonerish Stiller/Owen/Ferrell comedy than in a mockumentary which is supposed to be more low-key, subtle rather than ape-ish, clever rather than in-your-face. Warwick delivers a speech so extreme that it loses all credibility in the way it relates to the real world and a mockumentary simply doesn't work unless its events and characters remain plausible, firmly grounded in reality. It is the mockumentary's strong connection to reality that makes the goings-on in it funny. Once that element of credibility is lost, the gags too are as good as lost.
The series hits its absolute low point in episode 6. Almost nothing works. That whole party segment contains all of the problems I'd mentioned above: the situations are predictable, the characters unrealistic, Gervais isn't present, the gags are too exaggerated, Warwick makes decisions that are out-and-out retarded hence unfunny. Even worse is the fight between Warwick and his accountant, earlier on in the same episode, when the two face Warwick's ex-wife and her solicitor. This scene was embarrassing to watch; moronic and unfunny to the core. The accountant's infantile behaviour made absolutely zero sense. If Warwick had sneaked him out of a psyche ward a day earlier, then perhaps it would have worked.
Nearly all the highlights are with Gervais and Merchant. The scene with Steve Carrell is a rare stand-out. One of the few highlights with Warwick is his visit to the Scientologists. I commend the writers for having the balls to make fun of this "church", because most (comedy) writers wouldn't have had the guts to even entertain such a thought. The only other funny scenes with Warwick are when he trips over a banana peel and when he falls out of the car. (Telling.) I would also commend the team for the casting of Warwick's moronic secretary; this girl can't act to save her life (the daughter of a successful fashion designer, i.e. yet another nepotist) but her appearance and dumb lobotomized facial expression are unique.
The celebrity appearances are problematic. This shtick usually didn't work in "Extras", and works even less frequently in LTS. Helena Bonham Carter, the nepotistic funny-looking little gnome, is a vastly overrated actress, let alone a comedienne; no wonder that episode didn't work. She was just as bad as Daniel Radcliffe (yet another nepotist; yes, it's an epidemic) was in "Extras". Stick an unfunny person in a poorly written part, and the results are nothing less than atrocious.
"The Making Of" is funnier and more entertaining. That's a warning right there.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, if you lose one more kilo, your face will start looking perfectly square-shaped. Another warning.
First of all I never watched Extras and I always have a hard time watching comedy based on deliberatively awful characters. (Though I loved It's Always Sunny in Philedelphia) So this show wasn't really my thing and couldn't even fully watched the last 2 episodes and skipped a couple of scenes. But on the other hand it was an original show and really funny in some of its moments. I guess I didn't like the somewhat downfall of Warwick Davis throughout the show and at the end of it the show started to get a little depressing for me. Still I recommend it, because you can't really anticipate what will happen next and most of the acts will just hit you in the face.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm not informed enough to know about the rights and wrongs of this
latest Gervais/Merchant offering, for example whether it's politically
correct, what I can say though is this, Warwick Davies has proved
himself to be a very accomplished comedy actor.
He's playing a warped version of himself (similar to the Extras format) or one hopes he is, but he just has that David Brent style ability to get situations badly wrong or say completely the wrong thing. He also has a superb comic face that reacts brilliantly to whatever humiliation or put down comes his way.
The main thread is that Warwick is suffering a divorce, a decline in his fame and roles and sadly thanks mainly to his hapless P.A. and cretinous accountant (acting as his lawyer) things are never going to improve.
Like Extras there are a number of high profile appearances throughout, though again like extras the best laughs comes from the acting/characters provided by the non-famous roles.
Best scene in my opinion is the expertly executed 'washing machine mix-up' which is a simple mix-up that leads to his old washing machine being re-installed, and his shiny new one getting dumped, due in no small part to P.A. Cheryl being helpful but ultimately totally unhelpful, it's straight out of Laurel and Hardy and that's no bad thing.
2 series seems to be the Gervais/Merchant standard (go out on a high) and my verdict is for 'Life's too Short' one series really would be too short.
Well firstly let me say that perhaps my appreciation of The Office (UK)
and Extras has led me to expect something great from Gervais and
Merchant, so I may be slightly biased.
Life's Too Short is plain and simple a working comedy formula applied to a slightly different cast. And it does not work.
Actually I can't be bothered continuing. Gervais and Merchant are just milking their successful previous efforts and by adding a 'dwarf' they thought it would somehow be different. It's not. It's a very poor effort.
Not worth watching if you're a fan of Ricky Gervais's work. It detracts from his previous success.
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