Life’s Too Short: Warwick Davis is the Next Big Thing
“My wife used to work here, but she’s currently going through a divorce situation… With me… so I’ll be needing a new secretary.”
It’s probably fair to say that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have produced groundbreaking comedy; whether or not you like their particular brand of funny, you can’t deny they’ve changed things. The Office resonated, and the effects are still being felt with numerous copycats popping up like mushrooms, the horrible Horn and Cordon show is just one example, and the American adaptation has been running for eight seasons, as US sitcoms rarely settle for just two.
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant on the other hand, know when to move on, Extras was a hugely refreshing sitcom that looked at the lives of TV and film extras, with Ricky Gervais in the lead role of Andy Millman, a decidedly different character to The Office’s David Brent.
Andy Millman felt like a real person, and while he had all the usual self-absorbed insecurities and egotism (a common theme in Gervais’ work) he was also the hero you could identify with. Extras is perhaps best known for its cameos, a long list of famous celebrities playing grotesque caricatures of themselves. Indeed, the cameos provided most of the comedy in the series, particularly when such prodigious actors like Ian McKellen and Patrick Stuart delivered their dialogue with such stoic and earnest diligence.
Gorilla Film Magazine’s particular favourite Gervais/Merchant comedy is An Idiot Abroad, which isn’t actually a sitcom, but a travel documentary featuring the phenomenon Karl Pilkington, star of the wonderful Ricky Gervais podcasts. In this series, Pilkington must visit the seven wonders of the world, while Gervais and Merchant think up new ways to make the trip as painful and humiliating as possible, everything that Pilkington says and does is genuine, and mind-blowingly hilarious.
The latest sitcom from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant is Life’s Too Short, and in many ways it’s a combination of everything they’ve done before; it’s a faux documentary like The Office, the plot is centered around the world of celebrities, like Extras, and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant take back seat roles, sitting at a desk like mocking lords, just like An Idiot Abroad.
The star of Life’s Too Short is Warwick Davis, who plays a twisted, egotistical version of himself, he allows a documentary crew to film him 24/7 in the hopes that it will give him the exposure he needs to boost his profile. The premise is that Warwick Davis is actually a lot less successful than he would have us believe, in fact his career is going downhill, his wife is divorcing him and he has a massive tax bill to pay. Think I’m Alan Partridge, but with a dwarf, and you’re on the right lines.
Life’s too Short is certainly not as warm as Gervais and Merchant’s other comedies, Warwick Davis’ character isn’t exactly likable, although he is charming and incredibly funny. Of course, it’s difficult to judge after just one episode, and The Office and Extras both needed a little time to grow on you, so perhaps Life’s Too Short will soften up in later episodes. One thing is for certain; the show is incredibly funny, predominately because of Warwick Davis’ performance, although as usual the celebrity cameo will get the most laughs. But in Davis, Gervais and Merchant have struck comedy gold, his charisma and charm only make the comedy that much more painful when he inevitably fails.
He is quite a villainous character as well, spouting out ignorant nonsense, making general misogynistic and homophobic remarks and comparing himself to Martin Luther King. Warwick Davis is an egotistical, backstabbing little schemer, he even runs a talent agency, supposedly hiring out other dwarfs, but keeping the best roles for himself. There’s been some so called ‘controversy’ over the assumption that Life’s Too Short mocks dwarfism, but that’s such a non-issue it’s barely worth talking about. Warwick Davis pokes fun at himself, and other people’s perception of him, and a big part of that is the fact that he’s three foot six.
Life’s Too Short could easily be just a continuation of Extras, but Warwick Davis, who actually contributed a lot of the content for the show, brings something new to the table. He’s a fantastic screen presence, bringing a real depth to his comic performance that seemed to come out of nowhere. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s writing is as brilliant as ever, but it’s Warwick Davis’ performance that elevates the show from being more of the same, into something outstanding.
You can watch Life’s too Short now on BBC iplayer by clicking on this link.