Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life's Too Short another hit for Gervais and Merchant

This week, Life's Too Short premiered on HBO. The series is a fictional mockumentary, following the life of Britain's "go-to dwarf," Warwick Davis (played by the real Warwick Davis). While fans of Davis may know him from his turn in the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, and less so for a starring role in Willow, this Warwick is short on cash and going through a messy divorce. So he bugs his old friends Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to find him work, which is not something that they are eager to do. 

Life's Too Short blurs the line between reality and fiction. What is happening on screen is scripted, not real. It would be quite surprising if Davis is really hard up for dough, given the long list of screen credits he carries, including many recent projects. Instead, in the style of Gervais and Merchant's previous series, The Office and Extras, a doddering idiot runs around with a lot of moxie, but little skill to get what he wants. Because the guy at the center of this show is playing a character who shares his name and much of his back story, one can be forgiven for thinking, at first, that this is non-fiction. However, Warwick Davis is just another character in the vein of David Brent.

Which is not a complaint at all! Davis really sells the part, making Life's Too Short very enjoyable. Also, Merchant and Gervais have perfected this shtick over time, and what is presented in this latest incarnation is actually very smooth and funny. From climbing through the doggy door of his house, to bending reality when speaking of his divorce, the character of Davis is someone who is very entertaining, even if he is not well liked.

Those who complain that Life's Too Short is offensive haven't been watching very well. The involvement of Davis in the project, as well as a number of other very short actors, gets around the picking on dwarves criticism, since they are complicit in the project. People are surely allowed to make fun of themselves, no? Plus, there is never an issue of size in anything that matters. His wife isn't leaving him because of his stature. His height has nothing to do with why Merchant and Geravis are annoyed with him. Instead, it's Warwick's blustery attitude that the show rides on.

Like Extras, Life's Too Short looks to recruit many A-list guest stars. In the first episode, Davis sits in on a meeting between Liam Neeson and Gervais and Merchant. Neeson insists he would like to get into comedy, and aided by Gervais, Neeson practices some improv. Nesson keeps throwing AIDS and other dark material into the sketch, which is actually quite hilarious, mostly because of the awkward air in the room. While the character of Neeson may not be able to garner any laughs, the actor certainly knows just the right delivery to hit on.

Life's Too Short is a fantastic show that should not be missed. Tune in to HBO Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET.

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