Life’s Too Short

For fans of Ricky Gervais' brilliant HBO series "Extras," "Life's Too Short" feels like a rehash, with about half the laughs.

Warwick Davis - Himself
Ricky Gervais - Himself
Stephen Merchant - Himself
Sue - Jo Enright
Cheryl - Rosamund Hanson

For fans of Ricky Gervais’ brilliant HBO series “Extras,” “Life’s Too Short” feels like a rehash, with about half the laughs. Of course, there’s a pun there, as there is in the title, since the show focuses on Warwick Davis, the diminutive “Willow” star and one-time Ewok, whose adventures (and indignities) in showbiz essentially mirror Gervais’ character in the previous show, an extra with leading-man ambitions. The program still yields some irresistible humor by plumbing the depths of discomfort, mostly courtesy of its celebrity cameos. Still, the concept finally disappoints — feeling too precious and derivative for its own good.

As has become increasingly common, part of the gag hinges on Davis essentially playing a less-famous, presumably more idiotic and decidedly more desperate version of himself, an actor whose various challenges are magnified by being a dwarf. On top of that, Davis is also a part-time agent for other dwarfs, and conveniently keeps dropping in on his pals, series creators Gervais and Stephen Merchant, as themselves.

Mostly, those encounters provide an excuse to put Davis, and at times Gervais and Merchant, in contact with celebrities, who the producers have once again found to be inordinately game in willing to be depicted as megalomaniacs and loons.

So in the premiere, Liam Neeson comes in eager to do standup comedy, with a horrifying routine that keeps falling back on AIDS jokes. In a subsequent half-hour, Johnny Depp portrays the insane auteur — he wants to hang out with a dwarf, method-style, because Tim Burton has cast him as Rumpelstiltskin — and for good measure, seeks revenge against Gervais for his Golden Globe slights regarding “The Tourist.”

Thanks to the mock “celebreality” format, Davis keeps getting captured in awkward scenarios, mostly because — as he channels Gervais, down almost to his mannerisms — he’s utterly lacking in self-awareness, starved for approval and, not incidentally, in need of money. So a trip to a sci-fi convention descends into farcical disaster when he insists on charging a cancer-stricken kid $25 for an autograph, just like he does everyone else. And he can’t seem to figure out that his wife (Jo Enright) is really through with him.

Not surprisingly, the show produces some very funny moments, but the gags are hit-miss, and the poorer ones tend to drag on too long, frequently relying on someone’s stupidity, particularly when involving Davis’ daft assistant (Rosamund Hanson).

It’s also somewhat dispiriting, frankly, to see Gervais and Merchant repeating themselves in this fashion. Not to disparage Davis, but if they were going to return to this milieu, they might as well have done another round of “Extras” and skipped the middle man.

Still, almost every episode here yields at least a couple scenes worth savoring, which in the bigger picture is probably enough to justify the participation of HBO, whose relationship with Gervais has also included an animated version of his podcasts and standup specials.

Certainly, “Life’s Too Short” won’t do anything to diminish Gervais and Merchant’s reputation for comedic fearlessness, diving headlong into areas well beyond the boundaries of political correctness. That said, measured against the yardstick of their own lofty standards, the show comes up a little short.

Life's Too Short

Production: Credits: Filmed in the U.K. by Backlash Prods. and presented by HBO and BBC. Executive producers, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Warwick Davis; producer, Charlie Hanson; writers-directors, Gervais, Merchant.

Crew: Camera, Martin Hawkins; production designer, Anna Higginson; editors, Richard Halladey, Graham Barker; casting, Tracey Gillham. 30 MIN.

Cast: Warwick Davis - Himself
Ricky Gervais - Himself
Stephen Merchant - Himself
Sue - Jo Enright
Cheryl - Rosamund HansonWith: Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter.

More TV

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Who Survived to See the 'Red Dawn'?

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Red Dawn,” the fifth episode of “American Horror Story: 1984.” After five episodes, “American Horror Story: 1984” is moving onto another day within the story. The sun finally came up in “Red Dawn,” but not every would-be counselor at Camp Redwood survived to see it. [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Sesame Street' Sets

    TV News Roundup: 'Sesame Street' Sets 50th Anniversary Special

    In today’s TV news roundup, Sesame Workshop announced a premiere date for “Sesame Street’s Historic 50th Anniversary Celebration” and “Brave New World” adds Sophie McIntosh. CASTING New Zealand actress Sophie McIntosh has been cast in USA Network’s “Brave New World” series, Variety has learned exclusively. She will play the recurring role of Jane, and joins a cast [...]

  • HBO Max Adds Three Execs to

    HBO Max Adds Three Execs to Drama Team

    HBO Max is continuing its spate of executive hires. The nascent WarnerMedia streamer has now tapped Roberto Alcantara, Chika Chukudebelu and Mark Tuohy to all be vice presidents in the drama department. The announcement was made by Joey Chavez, EVP of original drama at HBO Max, to whom they will all report. Chavez and his [...]


    'Stranger Things 3' Is Most-Watched Season to Date, Netflix Says

    The Upside Down delivered upside for Netflix in the third quarter: “Stranger Things” season 3 was the most-watched season of the series to date, according to the streamer. In the first four weeks of release, “Stranger Things” season 3 was watched by 64 million member households, Netflix said in the Q3 letter to shareholders. The [...]

  • HBO Max - WarnerMedia

    HBO Max Orders LGBTQ Movement Docuseries From Scout Productions, Jim Parsons, Greg Berlanti

    HBO Max has commissioned a four-part docuseries on the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. Titled “Equal,” the series will explore the true stories of leaders and activists of the movement. Each hour-long episode will feature interviews, reenactments, and never before seen footage. The series hails from Warner Horizon Unscripted Television. “We are extremely proud to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content