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Life's Too Short - First episode reviewed

Life's Too Short

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

LIFE’S Too Short marks the first new TV work from the pens of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant since their award-winning and highly celebrated Extras.

It’s another mockumentary about a dwarf actor (Warwick Davis, playing a version of himself) whose career and marriage has hit the skids. And so, a camera trails him around as he tries to get things back on track.

In that sense, it offers a flip-side to the world exposed by Extras. Whereas that followed the fortunes of a group of wannabe actors trying desperately to find success and celebrity, Life’s Too Short looks at the Z-listers who court ‘reality style’ programmes to try and get their careers back on track.

Both wreak of the desperation that entails… of living your life out in the open no matter how painfully embarrassing some of this entails.

Gervais, ever since The Office, has been a specialist in exposing the foibles of celebrity and showcasing characters at the most cringe-worthy end of the spectrum. Usually that involves also putting himself front and centre.

In Life’s Too Short, he and co-conspirator Merchant take a back seat, content to play themselves (albeit in a more cynical manner), while Davis goes through the painful motions.

On the evidence of Thursday’s first episode, the mix is entertaining even if it offers nothing really new.

Genuine laughs are few and far between given the awkward nature of its comedy. But astute observations and amusing ‘in-jokes’ are all over the place.

Davis is an engaging, if difficult to like, central character, much in the same manner as David Brent and Andy Millman, whose pratfalls almost make you feel guilty for laughing.

But it’s the high-profile cameos that still steal the show… in last night’s case, Liam Neeson and his painful attempts to practice some improvised comedy involving AIDs (next week we’re promised Johnny Depp).

And while the show should be at its most interesting when seeing things from Davis’ perspective, there’s the sneaking suspicion that Gervais and Merchant have reserved the best bits for themselves… and that they are rather content to play to formula.

So, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Life’s Too Short thus far is the way in which it refuses to offer anything really new, other than the sight of a dwarf as leading man.

In most other respects, it’s business as usual – whether it’s Gervais and Merchant humiliating their ‘friends’ (as in An Idiot Abroad), looking embarrassed in the face of something awkward being caught on camera, or throwing in cameos from the likes of EastEnders‘ Barry.

Hence, while Life’s Too Short would seem to be about giving their fans exactly what they want, while keeping things as watchable as ever, it also falls short of their own highest standards.

Life’s Too Short airs on Thursday nights on BBC2 from 9.30pm.