After finding success with The Office in the UK, not to mention the US adaptation on NBC, writer, director and star Ricky Gervais returns to the mockumentary subgenre with his longtime friend and writing partner Stephen Merchant. However, this time the two British funnymen bring a new face into the comedic world as Life’s Too Short follows an exaggerated version of dwarf actor Warwick Davis, still clinging to his fame from starring in films like Return of the Jedi, Willow and the Harry Potter franchise and struggling to keep his life together as an agent for other dwarf actors and a smug star who might be too big for his britches. For my take on HBO’s new series hit the jump.
What ensues is a hilarious new series that doesn’t simply make fun of Davis and his problems as a small person, but rather his issues with a big personality, not unlike Gervais arrogant characters that lead Extras. Much like Gervais’ character in Extras, Davis seems entitled to fame and respect to the point that his personality ruins any of the charm he might otherwise have. As a documentary crew follow Davis, he tries to paint a positive picture of his life despite all his shortcomings (seriously, no pun intended). From his cocky attitude that led to him separating from his wife to only regret his decision shortly thereafter to his desperate attempts to stay working by taking the acting jobs away from the dwarves he represents in the industry.
Also like Extras, the series, set in the world of show business, allows both Gervais and Merchant to also play exaggerated versions of themselves with plenty of laughs, many even at the expense of their own well-known careers. Along with our familiar stars, each episode also features a big name guest star which pushes the funny into the red. In the first three episodes, Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter have a ridiculous amount of fun on the show, all acting in a way we wish came through in real life (well, maybe). From Neeson’s attempts at comedy (including one hell of an AIDS joke) to Depp’s revenge on Gervais for his Golden Globe remarks and an issue Ms. Bonham Carter has with looking at Davis’ face, each guest star is a laugh riot.
But aside from the big name’s that stop by Gervais and Merchant’s office, there’s a phenomenal lesser known supporting cast Rosamund Hanson playing Davis’ new blunt and ditzy secretary (though in Hollywood they call them assistants) and Steve Brody playing Davis’ inept and inexperienced accountant who just might be as bad as Andy Millman’s agent that Stephen Merchant played in Extras.
Thankfully, just like Gervais previous television efforts, it’s not just the laughs that make this a quality show. Davis is still a human being who has serious problems that sometimes come crashing down on him with no comedy to follow. There’s heart and honesty in the series, much of it resulting from the mockumentary style that makes the series feel all too real, especially in the world of show business. Honestly, with a track record that remains flawless after this series, there’s a good chance that Gervais can do no wrong. And thankfully, working in British television, a series like this won’t be run into the ground by countless episodes and too many seasons. Hopefully the series moves beyond the first seven episodes coming on HBO as I’m greatly looking forward to seeing where Davis and Gervais take these heightened versions of themselves.
Life’s Too Short premieres Sunday, February 19th at 10:30.