Life’s Too Short is Ricky Gervais’ third sitcom. Following the incredible success of The Office and Extras, Gervais has expanded his horizons, writing, directing and starring in movies, as well as working on An Idiot Abroad, with his friend Karl Pilkington as the titular traveller.
But the difference between Life’s Too Short and the shows that came before it is that this time Gervais is taking a backseat. As David Brent and Andy Millman, Gervais was the lead character in his first two sitcoms, but this time the star is Warwick Davis. Davis suffers from a form of dwarfism, meaning he is just 3ft 6in. Davis is a successful actor, having worked on various Star Wars movies, and most recently having a recurring role in the Harry Potter series. In Life’s Too Short, he plays an unsuccessful version of himself, a documentary team in tow as he struggles to run a dwarf talent agency, while his wife divorces him and movie work has dried up. He annoys Gervais and Stephen Merchant, playing themselves, by constantly turning up at their offices looking for work, having previously worked with them on Extras.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are several recognisable aspects to Life’s Too Short. Like The Office, Life’s Too Short is presented to the viewer as a documentary, and Warwick’s accountant (played by Steve Brody, who has appeared in I’m Alan Partridge and The Armando Iannucci Shows) is as hapless as Darren Lamb, Andy’s agent in Extras. Another Extras similarity is celebrity cameos. The likes of Cat Deeley, Johnny Depp and Steve Carell will appear in future episodes, but Liam Neeson turns up for episode one.
Watching the show, it’s also easy to see similarities between Davis’ character and David Brent. There are the looks to camera, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and presenting themselves as more successful than they really are.
The best scenes from episode one include Davis asking a passer-by to ring the buzzer to Gervais’ office for him (Gervais and Merchant thought they’d made it too high for him), a bad version of Ebony & Ivory, and Warwick’s attempt to get into his house after his wife has changed the locks. But the highlight is undoubtedly Neeson’s cameo. Explaining to Gervais and Merchant that he wants to move into stand-up comedy, he tries improv with Gervais. His determination to work ‘full-blown AIDS’ into the sketch is hilarious and when Merchant suggests that he doesn’t talk about AIDS, he wonders why Gervais gets away with it, with Merchant admitting that ‘no-one knows’.
Overall I enjoyed the first episode, but there is a sense of been there, done that about it. The celebrity cameos in Extras felt natural because of the setting, but in Life’s Too Short there’s a danger of them just being shoe-horned into the show to give it a few extra laughs. The success of the new show will be based on how funny Warwick’s character can be, and if Gervais and Merchant, alongside whichever celebrity, are stealing laughs, then it is unlikely to be as well received as the two shows that came before it.