On the one hand, I preferred this episode to the previous two because it was more focused on Warwick Davies and, for the first time, actually felt like a sitcom about his showbiz life. On the other hand, this was easily the least funny episode yet, capped by a woefully unfunny cameo from Helena Bonham Carter—continuing the running "joke" that most people, especially famous people, sneer down their noses at dwarfs. Plus, as engaging as Warwick is, it's painfully obvious that all his lines come from the brain of Ricky Gervais in a quasi-David Brent patois.
Unless there's a remarkable turnaround next week, I think it's safe to say Life's Too Short is one of this year's big TVdisappointment. And I say that as someone who genuinely thinks Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are funny, clever writers. It's just too faithful to a "shock formula" that's now become very, very stale. When Warwick arrived at a school to condemn a 16-year-old schoolboy who'd been writing hurtful things about him online, was there anyone who didn't think the cyber bully would himself be disabled—to take the wind out of Warwick's righteous sails?
It's also very hard to see why Gervais and Merchant appear in this show, which somewhat undermines the whole project. It's like they think Warwick can't be trusted to carry a whole sitcom by himself, or Life's Too Short isn't marketable overseas unless they appear on-screen in some capacity (the same thinking that has cohorts Karl Pilkington and Stephen Merchant removed from the title of HBO's The Ricky Gervais Show). And while they're admittedly the funniest part of most episodes (sorry Warwick), they were surplus to requirement here.
Maybe the issue with this sitcom is that Warwick's character isn't appealing (on any level) and it's impossible for most "normal-sized" viewers to see our own lives reflected in him. How many of us are dwarfs, or actors, or run a showbiz agency, or know Ricky Gervais personally? Not many. So instead, we just see a small, manipulative man going about his day and encountering situations where he's mean to people (even fellows dwarfs), or people are mean to him. Then throw in token celebrity guest-stars (who either embrace their public persona, or flip it on its head), and some "cringe-comedy" that doesn't feel very shocking, insightful or unexpected. There just isn't enough here to keep me engaged for half-an-hour, as I find my mind wandering. It may be best to just scour YouTube for the three-minutes of celeb-based humour most episodes can scrape together to go viral.
written & directed by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant / 24 November 2011 / BBC Two