Wednesday, 21 December 2011

LIFE'S TOO SHORT, 1.7 – episode seven

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

There's a certain irony that Life's Too Short is co-produced by Backlash Productions, because it's provoked a lot of negative chatter about Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's careers. I'm sure they'll bounce back from this debacle, somehow, but they'll hopefully refuse to find another lazy way to poke fun at celebrity chums in the context of a faux-documentary. They may even quietly admit Life's Too Short didn't work one day, unless he they get the formula right next series.

The finale of this disappointing show offered us more of the same: a suicide gags (if you didn't get your fill last week), more jokes about the fact nobody recognises Warwick Davis (ho-ho), another celebrity cameo (Sting, playing himself in a sorely humourless part), the obligatory Ricky Gervais appearance, and more scenes of Warwick falling over when a better punchline doesn't present itself. The ongoing divorce storyline came to its obvious conclusion, with Warwick losing everything to his wife and having to move in with assistant Cheryl's family (sleeping in a drawer), and I don't know anyone who really cared one way or the other. Matthew Holness was still good as the deadpan adversarial lawyer, which was something, and the one gag with a bunch of paparazzo's refusing to take Warwick's picture at a charity auction made me giggle, but we're talking scraps here.

Life's Too Short was a real mess, no matter what anyone says. The kind of show that had to promote itself with special "previews" (including a Making Of documentary before the first episode had even aired), in a desperate attempt to make people think every half-hour would be as funny as out-of-context clips from seven episodes combined. My guess is that the HBO broadcast will hope to find an audience based on the people who devoured the YouTube clips of Liam Neeson and Johnny Depp sending themselves up—which are admittedly amusing. But given the fact Life's Too Short is fundamentally a British show aimed at British people (who get the gag of Keith Chegwin and Les Dennis cameos on an ingrained cultural level), most American fans of Gervais/Merchant will probably be even less impressed by this.

I'm glad it's over. There's nothing worse than when one of your comedy heroes starts losing his mojo, and for Ricky Gervais he's been creeping into post-Extras obsolescence since he started recycling his podcasts as cartoons and trying desperately to turn Karl Pilkington into a superstar. His big screen work hasn't exactly set the world on fire (Cemetery Junction went straight-to-video in the US, too), so he really needs another unmistakable TV hit. Gervais is a clever man. I hope he can pull himself together and do something that's as exciting and fresh as The Office was, instead of find ways to feed his fans the same meals in different packaging (which is what his stand-up tours are all about).

Unfortunately, Gervais has already mentioned on his Twitter that a second series of Life's Too Short is due in spring 2013, after Davis goes on a round-the-world cycling adventure with Pilkington, and he stars in a Channel 4 sitcom about a man called Derek with mental problems...

written & directed by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant / 20 December 2011 / BBC Two