Tonight, on primetime TV, Warwick Davis takes one small step for man, one giant leap for… oh.
“The UK’s ‘go to’ dwarf” stars in spoof documentary series Life’s Too Short, playing a fake version of himself - a Hollywood pro who has diversified into running an agency for dwarf actors as his career wanes and his marriage fails. It’s a comic look at the scrapes he gets himself into as he tries to pay off a massive tax bill, and features plenty of cameos from in-on-the-joke famous faces, including Johnny Depp.
So, basically, what you want to know is: is Life’s Too Short offensive? And, perhaps more importantly, will it make you laugh?
Well, it didn’t offend me. It's clear that Davis, who conceived the initial idea and took it to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, is a smart man. Nobody is going to force him into doing something on screen that he’s uncomfortable with.
And possibly the only thing that burns brighter in Davis than his self-confidence is his sense of humour about the everyday challenges he faces as a little person. To see these exaggerated
for comic effect is, I would argue, hardly the greatest crime in comedy.
But the most important thing to note is that – from what I’ve seen so far - very few of the jokes are actually aimed at its lead’s height (or lack of it).
Secondly, is it funny? Well, most of the time I chuckled rather than guffawed.
But then, much as I love their work – and I do - that’s normal for me
when it comes to a Gervais/Merchant project.
Though the second episode, in which Davis attends a sci-fi convention, did have me laughing out
loud, there’s also a hilarious exchange in the first episode between him and his hopeless accountant, Eric Biddle (“Is 0.4... is that like saying 40 per cent of something?”).
Similarly, Liam Neeson puts in a brilliantly po-faced turn as the world’s most unlikely stand-up comic, his approach to improv prompting the response from Merchant: “It’s getting quite heavy, this sketch, and I just wonder if perhaps – just for the sake of comedy – you might not want to have contracted Aids from an African prostitute.” Gervais bashers, meanwhile, will be pleased to note several of Neeson’s lines openly mock The Office star’s career.
Sure, there’s a sense in which Life’s Too Short doesn’t have much that’s new to say. The familiar Gervais/Merchant trademarks are there, from the comic looks of distress that actors shoot to camera to the excruciating verbal awkwardness of unwanted conversations. Even Shaun “Barry from EastEnders” Williamson pops up, doing odd jobs for the multi-award-winning pair.
But if you’ve enjoyed its directors’ and stars’ previous work, you’ll welcome their return to the small (no pun intended) screen. As someone who often feels her own cringeworthy life might be scripted by Ricky Gervais, I offer this advice: go ahead, laugh. Life’s too short not to.
Life's Too Short starts tonight, 9:30pm, BBC2.