If I’d encountered BBC Two’s new comedy Life’s Too Short, without knowing anything about it, without knowing who Ricky Gervais or Stephen Merchant are or being familiar with their style of comedy – would I have enjoyed this sitcom?
That’s the question I’m asking myself following the first episode broadcast yesterday night.
Unsurprisingly, this new comedy is mash-up of Gervais and Merchant’s other work, from The Office’s fake documentary style, complete with sideways glances to camera, to the celebrity cameos and showbiz agent premise which have both come directly from the pages of Extras.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – after all, Extras and the Office are both classic and well-loved comedies, however you can’t help but feel that writing and shooting Life’s Too Short can’t have been much of a stretch for either Gervais or Merchant.
Warwick Davis himself is better than I expected, although the character he plays is almost a (smaller) facsimile of David Brent. Luckily, David Brent is one of funniest – and cringiest – characters to ever have appeared on television.
I have heard a lot lately about this comedy having the potential to cause offence but the fact Davis is a dwarf is almost irrelevant. Yes there are a few jokes about him not reaching the doorbell and having his kitchen lowered, but so far this isn’t the most important part of Davis‘ character’s personality – far more interesting is his self-delusion and desperation. As we watch him try to pretend his marriage is still rock-solid or his career is still hopeful, it really doesn’t matter how tall he isn’t.
In summary, although this show didn’t feel new or original, it was enjoyable overall. There were two or three genuinely funny moments – including an excellent cameo from Liam Neeson who visits Gervais and Merchant to do some comedy improvisation, although again this felt like it was a forgotten scene from Extras.
(As a sidepoint – it’s interesting that a scene which is designed to make us laugh at Neeson for being terrible at comedy, shows him to actually have excellent comedic skills – sample quote: “Maybe Steven Spielberg chose me because I love lists… he said I’d be perfect for Schindler’s List“)
I’m not sure where this show will go – after all, there are only so many times you can laugh at a dwarf falling out of a 4×4 but I’ll be interested to find out.
I give this TV show 3 out of 5 – let me know what you thought…