In one of the promotions for Life’s Too Short, Ricky Gervais laconically states: “Watch it. It’s like a cross between The Office and Extras.” From watching episode 1 this seems like a pretty accurate description, though that’s not to say that it’s as good as either previous sitcom. Life’s Too Short is not much more than a disjointed retread of old ideas and themes from Gervais and Stephen Merchant — but with the added novelty of a dwarf.
It was perhaps inevitable that following the fiasco over Gervais’ insensitive use of the word ‘mong’ on Twitter that his programme’s portrayals of minorities would come under closer scrutiny. Thankfully there’s nothing that’s truly offensive here; though there are the inevitable and tiresome jokes based around how short Warwick Davis is. He manages to hold his own as a character, though it’s one that’s clearly derivative of the roles previously played by Gervais. This time around, Gervais plays himself cast as a successful showbiz mogul from whom actors seek advice and work, which comes across as somewhat self-aggrandising.
One of the reasons why The Office worked so well was because its ‘mockumentary’ format was believable. Used here, it seems contrived and redundant. Gervais considers his work above the inclusion of a laugh track, but for what reason are the constant glances to the camera and unnatural awkward pauses there for if not to signify ‘this is where you are supposed to laugh’? There is also confusion as to what sort of documentary the show is parodying. Are there any currently running on TV which follow struggling actors with shoehorned in cameos from big-name celebrities? That said, Liam Neeson’s appearance was the highlight, being the sole source of laughs throughout the episode. It remained totally incongruous, to the point where the presence of the supposed star in the scene, Warwick Davis, was unnecessary.
It is unfair to judge an entire series on the basis of its first episode. Indeed there is some promise to be had here. Ultimately though, if this is the standard to expect, then life is indeed too short to bother tuning in for the rest.