The Bottom Line
- Stars Warwick Davis, Rosamund Hanson, Jo Enright, Steve Brody, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
- Created by Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Warwick Davis
- Airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. EST starting February 19, 2012, on HBO
Gervais and Merchant’s new series Life’s Too Short suffers from its creators’ success and celebrity status, since they seem to no longer be able to satirize anything except the entertainment industry. It’s also a pale retread of a lot of the same themes and jokes from The Office and the duo’s last series, Extras, which similarly relied on celebrity cameos and was centered around a clueless buffoon who fancied himself a showbiz genius. Here Warwick Davis, the veteran little-person actor whose credits include Return of the Jedi (as Wicket the Ewok), Willow, the Harry Potter films and the Leprechaun horror series, stars as a fictionalized version of himself, while Gervais and Merchant take supporting roles (also as themselves) that are essentially glorified cameos.
The show’s version of Davis is a self-important moron who refuses to acknowledge his C-list status. His acting work has dried up, and his agency for other little-person actors, Dwarves for Hire, is a complete failure. On top of that, he’s getting divorced and has just been hit with a massive bill for back taxes. The idiot who thinks he’s better than everyone else is a stock Gervais/Merchant protagonist, but Davis, although charming and occasionally amusing, isn’t able to pull off the role nearly as well as Gervais himself has done in the duo’s other series. Gervais and Merchant talked up Davis as a comedic revelation in their advance press for the show, but he’s really just a likeable actor without much of a distinctive presence (aside from his height). Consequently, whenever he’s onscreen with Gervais and Merchant or the various celebrities who make guest appearances in each episode, Davis is hopelessly overshadowed.
In two of the first three episodes, the celebrity guests (Liam Neeson and Johnny Depp, respectively) interact mostly with Gervais and Merchant, while Davis literally sits by and barely says anything. It’s never a good sign when the supposed star of the show turns out to be superfluous, and the scenes in which Davis is unnecessary generally end up being the highlights of each episode. Davis’ other misadventures are sometimes amusing, but there are only so many variations on little-people jokes, and Davis’ affable personality softens the impact of his failures and humiliations. Fans of Gervais and Merchant’s previous shows may find enough familiar material here to be entertained, but Life’s Too Short generally comes off as a case of creators who don’t know when to move on to something new.