'Life's Too Short' Review: Gervais Comes Up Small in New Mockumentary

A show about nothing still has to be interesting.

HBO’s latest offering, (another) Ricky Gervais mockumentary “Life’s Too Short” isn’t. Forget any smoke screens about the political correctness of making a show built around the stature of star Warwick Davis, a dwarf. Don’t get sucked into a debate about sight gags featuring Davis falling out of his big SUV or trying to reach a doorbell. If this show was funny, or interesting, anything could be forgiven.

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The problem with “Life’s Too Short” is that it’s dull. It’s not even uncomfortable, which is apparently what Gervais is going for. Gervais reinvented the mockumentary with “The Office” and deserves credit for that, but he can’t keep making the same show over and over again. And if he does, he has to at least put some effort into it.

“Life” pretends to portray actor Warwick Davis (“Return of the Jedi,” several “Harry Potter” features) as he falls down on his luck and needs to find acting work. Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant manufacture some awkward encounters between them and the desperate Davis, who’s hamstrung by a ditsy assistant, a jilted wife, an incompetent accountant and his own bloated sense of importance.

But the whole thing feels like it was sketched out on a cocktail napkin. One of those seemed-like-a-great-idea-at-the-time barroom creations: “What if I said, ‘I’m ready to work,’ and then, there’s like this long pause or something? … Oh, you could roll your eyes, yeah that’s good. This is gold!”

It’s not. There’s a difference between wry and bone dry. In case HBO forgot, people have to pay for the channel. Productions should reflect that. Lately the free cable channels are producing better fare.


And. as he did in his previous HBO clunker “Extras,” Gervais mistakes cameo appearances (Liam Neeson in episode one) for clever storytelling.

HBO deserves praise for sending multiple episodes of its new shows for reviewers to watch. But in this case, life’s too short to watch them all. That’s a lazy, unimaginative zinger but more than appropriate for a lazy show.

For viewers craving a mockumentary about self-important stars, there’s far better fare in that genre tonight. The new season of “Celebrity Apprentice” premieres on NBC.

“Life’s Too Short” premieres Sunday at 10:30 p.m. EST on HBO


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