Sunday, February 19, 2012

Life's Too Short

Tonight HBO's new series Life's Too Short premieres on HBO and HBO Canada, and I can say without any hesitation that it's the funniest thing I've seen in months, and the funniest sitcom in years.

I know Ricky Gervais has fallen out of favour with a lot of people in recent years. He's lost a lot of weight, so aw... he's not big and cuddly and easy to poke fun at anymore. It's hard to laugh along with the self-deprecating Ricky when he's now looking rather hot right now. His stand-up comedy isn't as funny as it once was, and last year he was searingly cruel at the Golden Globes, and this year he wasn't funny at all, so watered-down that Seth Rogen stole the show when he uttered the single funniest line of the evening.

But when it comes to TV series, the team of Gervais and Merchant really can't be beat. The Office, Extras, and An Idiot Abroad are brilliant, and even the animated Ricky Gervais Show, which is a series of cartoons using the soundtrack of his podcasts with Stephen Merchant and the always hilariously doddering Karl Pilkington, is laugh-out-loud funny.

Enter Life Is Short. Another faux-documentary like the others, this one stars Warwick Davis, star of Willow and the guy who plays Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films, Marvin in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and got his start at age 11 playing Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi. Or, as he says in Life's Too Short numerous times, "Warwick Davis? I was the star of Star Wars?"

In this show he plays an outrageously exaggerated version of himself, a guy whose life is falling apart because he can't find work, his wife has left him and he's going through the divorce proceedings now, and his incompetent account effed up so badly on his tax returns for the past 20 years that he now owes £250,000 to the government. Crikey.

And so, he's desperate to find work. But he's "England's go-to dwarf," as he puts it, so there's GOT to be work out there. Every day he wanders over to the offices of Gervais and Merchant, who always seem to be wearing exactly the same outfits, sitting behind a large glass desk and not actually doing anything at all, and they roll their eyes and pray he'll go away and make small talk with him that goes nowhere.

In the meantime, he's running his own little people talent firm called "Dwarves for Hire," (I can't even type that without giggling) and he's trying to get work for many other actors of small stature in the UK. But whenever the phone rings and someone is looking for a dwarf, he takes the job himself.

This is far more self-deprecating than Ricky Gervais's David Brent ever was, and is screamingly hilarious. I won't spoil anything, but in the first episode when Warwick is in Gervais and Merchant's office, Liam Neeson comes in and announces he wants to attempt a stand-up act. What follows, watching the world's Most Serious Actor attempt stand-up, made me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe, and my husband and I struggled to reach the remote to pause it so we could finish laughing, back it up to see what we'd missed, and then laugh so hard again that we had to repeat this about 4 times. Neeson is genius in this scene.

In the second episode, Johnny Depp hires Warwick so he can learn how a dwarf spends his days because he's studying for a role in Tim Burton's next film, an adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin. Again, Depp plays an exaggerated version of himself (more Hunter S. Thompson Johnny than Johnny Johnny) and the two eventually end up in Gervais and Merchant's office again. Remember Ricky ribbing Johnny at the Golden Globes? Yep, so does Johnny. Hilarious.

And in the third episode, Warwick gets the opportunity to "star" opposite Helena Bonham Carter in a period movie, but the part wasn't what he expected.

Along the way, we see him at Britain's Comic-Con and trying to make money in odd jobs (seeing him dressed as an "Ewok" for a quick £500 had me on the floor), and he is SUCH a genius. Davis is sublime in this, from his arrogant lines to his flustered reaction shots when terrible things happen around him and he has no idea how to get out of the situation.

Check it out tonight at 10:30 and let me know what you think. I hope you love it as much as I do.


Batcabbage said...

Seeing Liam Neeson in the first episode is probably the funniest thing I've seen on TV in years. Utterly hilarious. That being said, I never really took to this show. It's OK, with some funny bits, but it wasn't really my thing (which is odd, because I'm the one person who liked Extras more than the Office). But Liam Neeson... man. I almost coughed up my pancreas at that. Also Johnny and Helena, they were great (in fact, the Helena scene reminded me of the Clive Owen scene in the Extras finale). I should mention that I've seen the whole series, but I just didn't take to it, I guess. Can't wait for season 3 of TRGS, though. Chess!

c said...

Just watched The Ricky Gervais Show on the Movie Channel free preview. Laugh out loud is right! Wish I got the new show.

Justin Mohareb said...

Bell does its best to make sure I can never have fun. So I have no On Demand service, and it doesn't list this show in it's interactive programming guide.


Jojo said...

"I'm always making lists. In fact, that's probably why Steven Spielberg cast me as Oskar Schindler"!!!

Nikki Stafford said...

And, as I mentioned, I have full-blown AIDS.