In writing this review, I think it is only fair to remove any influence that successes such as The Office, Extras, The Ricky Gervais Show and An Idiot Abroad may contribute towards it. I find that in doing so, I may avoid the typically predictable droning about it 'being better or worse that his last show'. I find that argument boring and it's narrowing both the potential comparative and the viewers focus when watching.
So, with my 'Gervais' hat now removed, here is my review for 'Life's Too Short', the new mock-umentary from Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais.
Gervais cited a number of ideas that had influenced the making of this show. With an influx of those awful, 'look at me' celebrity documentary things in which a television crew follows one, or a number of deranged, fame hungry socialites doing nothing other than sleeping with each other and shopping for new Ugg Boots and push-up bras.
In Warwick Davies, we have the protagonist, albeit an unlikeable one. Desperate to cling on to fame's back side, he invites a 'film crew' to follow him around, heightening his celebrity status at every opportunity. Much like those awful celebrity docu-soaps, Warwick yearns for all and any publicity, hoping blindly that living his life like an open wound would somehow benefit his career. Only...Warwick is a dwarf actor looking to pay a huge tax bill.
He continually annoys Gervais and Merchant, who both play themselves as conduits to Warwick's celebrity life. Warwick seeks their help in finding his way to higher pastures but is continually berated and mocked, mostly for his size. All in all there is an abundance of misfortune in this man's life, and we're party to all of it.
As you'd expect, there is an abundance of 'short jokes' in this. The casual observer would possibly assume a level of discrimination in doing this, feeling Warwick is somewhat exploited. But that could not be further from the truth. Although we see Warwick's immense difficulty with his stature, it is his small mindedness that we are most amused by. Where some might think forcing a dwarf down the toilet is immoral and wrong, others look at his reasons for agreeing this - trying in vain to impress Johnny Depp. Where some might see his hilarious scaling of a bookshelf and think it is somewhat derogatory, others might point out his ridiculous pride in saving face so not to give his ex-wife's new partner the upper hand. These moments are aptly portrayed in such a way as to mock only Warwick's personality and not his disability. This is a 'small man' in mind alone. He is petty, vain, desperate, small minded and arrogant. He is a small 'Alan Partridge' with the same delusions of grandeur that made Alan such fun to watch.
Most of Life's Too Short is familiar to fans of Gervais. His touch is evidently there, and the overall show is stylistically more similar to The Office as oppose to anything else. The physical comedy is done brilliantly and Warwick has such a commanding grasp on this realm. Yet there is too much missing from the show. The writing is just not funny enough. The incredibly funny parts, such as Liam Neeson's scene are too few and far between. I dare say it, but there is too little of Gervais and Merchant. And once more, Barry, Cheggers and Les Dennis are back to provide the odd laugh inbetween, proving the show needed additional comedy from somewhere. Other than Warwick, nothing stood out. Gone are the level of characters such as Tim, Gareth, Darren Lamb, Barry (who we see too little of), Dawn and the lovable Maggie. Finding incredible characters and creating interesting and brilliant people to play them is what Gervais and Merchant have done brilliantly. Yet there's nothing too special here. It's as though they narrowed their view solely to Warwick and forgot about the outer world he'll exist in.
But still, with my Gervais hat still gone, I will review this show on its merits. Ultimately it is very funny in parts. Watching Warwick scale that bookcase had me in tears. Liam Neeson's bit was one of the greatest scenes the guys have written and the whole idea behind the show is still strong. I enjoyed watching Life's Too Short and it was in no way a bad show. The current viewer rating on IMDb is 7.8/10, a little generous for my liking. If I could be more specific, I'd give the show a 7.4/10...or 74/100...or 74%...whatever works.
All in all - not too bad, not too great. Just good.
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