Monday, 16 July 2012

Verdict: Life's Too Short

Life's Too Short features stars like Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. 

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant; the comedic geniuses behind landmark television shows like The Office and Extras, An Idiot Abroad, The Ricky Gervais Show, a plethora of podcasts and stand-up tours. Now, they're back with a third slap of comedy in Life's Too Short; but how does it stack up alongside it's predecessors?

Initially it might seem that Life's Too Short is treading over old ideas. Similar in concept and approach to both The Office and Extras through it's 'documentary' style and twisted versions of familiar faces, Life's Too Short doesn't appear to be doing anything that Gervais and Merchant haven't tackled before. It's themes of discovering the harsh realities of fame and fortune can be seem reflected in the chronicles of previous character's David Brent and Andy Millman.
Protagonist Warwick Davis, famous for appearing in the Star Wars and Harry Potter films, exhibits all of the same traits one would associate the Messrs' Brent and Millman; ignorance, obnoxiousness and being generally offensive. He is however, on the whole, a more likeable and endearing character than his predecessors'.

There is no doubting that the special guest appearances are works of genius. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's short skit's were genuinely funny. Depp's dedication to his new film (it's directed by Tim Burton y'know), leads him to studying Warwick, and the more excited and intense Depp becomes the funnier it is. Likewise, Bonham Carter's inability to work alongside Warwick because he's a dwarf is the equal amounts cringe-worthy and funny.

Also, the scenes where Ricky and Steve play dead-pan and "holier than thou" versions of themselves are gold; fans of Extras will delight at the addition of Shaun "Barry from Eastenders" Williamson as the duos errand boy.

The show however, like both of Gervais' and Merchant's previous works tries to do a lot more than just flex it's muscles and show off its star power. There is heart and soul in Warwick's mistakes that show that Life's Too Short has a story and a message to tell. Yes, the jokes are skin-crawlingly awkward and make you want to throttle the star, but this all adds to the charm and appeal of the show. You do feel that come the end of the story arc, Warwick will have learnt from these mistakes and changed his ways in the same way Andy in Extras did.

This being said, the similarities to Extras and The Office are in my mind a little too obvious; the format, the character roles, the settings, the general feel. All of these factors add up to give a overbearing sense of deja vu. For example, Rosamund Hanson's role as Cheryl is really just a re-imagining Ashley Jensen's Maggie in Extras. She may be genuinely funny but it is easy to see where the idea for the "ditzy girl" character came from. Also, once the novelty of going "ooh look it's Johnny Depp/Liam Neeson/Steve Carrell" has worn off, the show reduces itself to laughing at midget ten-pin bowling and Warwick climbing a bookcase three times his size to reach a trophy.

So even though its more of the same witty and clever stuff from Gervais and Merchant, Life's Too Short seems to fall a little, well, short to be honest. It might have genuine character development and a moral at it's heart, but it is also not as revolutionary as The Office and not as outrageous as Extras were, and is seriously lacking in Karl Pilkington.

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