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Hercules Has Seen HBO’s
New Merchant/Gervais

I am – Hercules!!

“Life Is Short,” like the BBC’s “The Office” and “Extras” before it, is the brainchild of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and it’s a lot like “The Office” and “Extras” – only with 3’6” British actor Warwick Davis in what you’d call the Ricky Gervais role. Nothing I’ve ever seen Davis perform (including his role in “Extras”) even hints at what an adept comic actor he is.

“Short” centers on a vain, vindictive, dim, deluded, boorish and generally unpleasant version of Davis, who in real life played the title roles in “Willow” and “Leprechaun” and has since played a variety of parts in the “Harry Potter” movies.

I like a lot of “Short,” though it’s sometimes sillier than it is funny and on occasion wanders down some paths that don’t yield a lot of laughs.

Like “Extras,” the new series is swimming in celebrity cameos.

There’s a strange first-episode scene with Liam Neeson (playing a loony version of himself) seeking comedy advice from Gervais that builds slowly but proves inspired and hilarious. It also feels like it snuck in from another show.

An extended (and largely improvised?) sequence in episode two with Johnny Depp (playing a loony version of himself) doing research on dwarf behavior quickly grows tedious.

But if you’re reading this you really do owe it to yourself to click on that Neeson clip.

HuffPost TV says:

... There's something sour and awful about Ricky Gervais' comedy these days. He used to be a sly, cheeky observer of human behavior, but his current status as a smug, self-absorbed blowhard finds its clearest expression in his new HBO show … Gervais may think he's bold, but at this stage, he's just a bore.

HitFix says:

... In this case, I wish [Gervais and Merchant] had stuck to their initial impulse of four years ago and decided not to repeat themselves.

Time says:

... the real problem here: we’ve seen this before ... the problem with the humor of discomfort, which Gervais pioneered with distinction, is that it doesn’t last long when it becomes a comfort zone. …

The New York Times says:

... The show’s Warwick is the same inconsiderate jackass but without the prissiness or the lumpen quality that sometimes makes Mr. Gervais’s performances grating. ...

The Los Angeles Times says:

... If Gervais still wants to satirize his chosen field, he needs to figure out another way. ...

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... it's a little too familiar. … The show conjures the most laughs when Mr. Gervais is on screen, but his presence doesn't mesh naturally with Warwick's world. …

The Washington Post says:

… almost everything about “Life’s Too Short” somehow echoes pieces of all of Gervais’s previous TV work, which makes this show seem particularly limp. … Like “Extras,” the show leans too heavily on celebrity cameos, where even the funniest lines barely encourage a smirk. …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

… it takes a very big man to laugh at himself, and a very good actor to get us laughing along with him as well.

The Boston Herald says:

... Life may be short, but this comedy is not long enough. …

USA Today says:

... perhaps its most impressive aspect is the nonstop guest appearances. ...

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... looks, after three episodes, to be another vein of gold for Gervais and Merchant. ...

Variety says:

… the concept finally disappoints -- feeling too precious and derivative for its own good. …

10:30 p.m. Sunday. HBO.

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Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 19, 2012, 3:46 a.m. CST


    by Darth_Nader

    We're closed.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 3:46 a.m. CST

    Stick with it.

    by Sprout

    I found the first episode a bit painful to watch as Warwick just seems to act like a mini Ricky Gervais, as it goes on the character develops beyond that and there are some really great moments. Although I guess if you like Ricky Gervais' shtick you'll possibly love it from the start!

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 3:57 a.m. CST

    I agree with Sprout...

    by Righteous Brother

    aside from the Liam Neeson bit which his hilarious, the first episode is not that great, but the rest of the series gets much better as it progresses.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:03 a.m. CST

    Needs more Pilkington...

    by A for Aristocrat

    or any actually.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:25 a.m. CST

    I liked it!

    by Wormie1

    I've seen the whole series, and I did find it mostly funny. And, oh yeah, Warwick Davis, he was in Willow, Leprechaun, Harry Potter, and some other sci-fi movies I forget the name of. Anyone know? Maybe someone writing for this site might remember what he became famous for, eh?

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:30 a.m. CST

    Liam Neeson (playing a loony version of himself)

    by DerLanghaarige

    Yeah, when comedy writers have no good ideas, they just let play celebrities play "hilarious" versions of themself. Extras, 30 Rock,'s one of the lowest forms of comedy. "Oh no, Academy Award winner XY said something outrageous, hahahahaha". I think only The Simpsons did that right, with their classic Mel Gibson episode. Note that this is only one of their dozens of celebrity episodes.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:34 a.m. CST

    Puking dwarf. You'll know it when you see it.

    by ChickenStu

    Laughed till I fucking cried.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:34 a.m. CST

    That was a loony version of himself?

    by DOGSOUP

    Damn Id hate to see him play it straight, people might kill themselves

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:49 a.m. CST

    That Liam Nesson bit was Genious! The rest of it..not so much.

    by Porrohman

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:49 a.m. CST

    The series that is.

    by Porrohman

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:50 a.m. CST


    by JAMF

    it's fucking awful. most of us in the uk gave up after a couple of eps. it's just horrible. it's basically a dwarf doing a ricky gervais impression. both of those elements make me wanna throw up.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 4:53 a.m. CST


    by peterclay65

    No mention of the first major roll that Davis played, you can only think of mentioning the two movies that have any reference to his size in the title, and the harry potter movies. What about maybe he was WICKET WTF

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 5:14 a.m. CST

    Liam Neeson - Funniest scene in the series

    by thommcg

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 5:32 a.m. CST

    Yeah show is a bit lame,

    by DirkD13"

    but I thought that WD was excellent in it, a really good comic performance. So what if it's a Brent impersonation, blame the directors for that. My favourite moment was WD saying to Sting "fuck off you coconut headed git".

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 5:56 a.m. CST

    I liked it

    by RexNebular

    First episode was probably the worst, then it got better. The fan faire episode, the wedding episode, Helena Bonham-Carter's episode. It's not the second coming of The Office but it has lots of lol moments.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 6:22 a.m. CST

    it was Warwick's idea originally

    by SminkyPinky

    Being pals with Gervais & Merchant helped get it commissioned but I have a feeling that they had to put their own stamp on it, beyond Warwick's idea, in order for it to get commissioned but unimaginative BBC execs. I heard the original idea was less Gervais-centric.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 6:32 a.m. CST

    Thought it was great.

    by vanchimera

    Warwick scaling the bookshelf was the funniest shit I've seen in ages.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 6:55 a.m. CST

    between 2010 and 2011

    by emeraldboy

    i do think that ricky gervaise spread himself too thin.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:01 a.m. CST

    the key to ricky's comedy

    by emeraldboy

    is that he is really playing himself. david brent and andy millman are fictious. but both played and created by him. as someone once said really hard to know where gervaise begins and brent ends. same for andy milman.

  • Go check out The Larry Sanders Show someday...

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:06 a.m. CST

    Sorry, forgot to add quotations marks above in reference to an earlier quote...

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:06 a.m. CST

    It really is funny, especially in the later episodes but...

    by niven really is quite samey, it feels like a office/extras mash up with a dwarf. Warwick does fine in the role, but it's just too much sometimes, especially with very little morally redeeming qualities that Extras had. (aka i don't predict a good end for Warwick)

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:11 a.m. CST

    i saw this...

    by emeraldboy

    gervaise and merchant are in it. as its wd's show, merchant and gervaise keep themselves in the background and dont appear beyond the scenes which dont involve them. that scene with neeson is very funny. but I loved the scene with accountant and the scene with interviewer. other than that it was fairly hit and miss.... miss more than hit...

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:24 a.m. CST

    Shit Show

    by SonOfChiba

    And I'm a fan of Gervais, but this was a lazy re-do of Extras, with Davis doing most of the Gervais stuff because the man himself couldn't be bothered. The amount of gags centered purely around David being small got old quick, too. Some of it bordered on hateful, I thought.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:53 a.m. CST

    by Dman Den

    Ever since extras gervais has had 0% quality. This hopefully is his nadir. Because people eat his shit up.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 8:26 a.m. CST

    This series already aired over here

    by baronweazle

    It's pretty good, but not great. The Neeson cameo was the best, the depp one not so much. He was too self aware. Steve Carrell also has a hilarious cameo in one of the episodes. I would recommend watching it through to the end, because like most Gervais series, the good moments can be really good. Warwick shows some good acting chops as well. The biggest problem is, his character is written too much like a character Gervais would have played himself. And those characters feel more natural when Gervais is the one portraying them.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 8:43 a.m. CST

    I watched every episode...

    by pumaman

    ..and was mostly disappointed with the writing and boring pace, although I did think Warwick Davis was superb throughout. The Liam Neeson clip actually made me laugh out loud, and was the funniest thing in the entire show. Especially his last line :-) Comedy GOLD.

  • I will give this show a shot.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 11:20 a.m. CST

    1st 2 episodes I watched were very dissapointing

    by alexander

    but there were some very funny bits in there, namely, Liam Neeson, Johhny Depp messing around with Warwick like you see Gervais do with anyone he can get his hands on in pretty much any docu footage shot for extra material, and his reasoning to his ex after he gets caught trying to break in through the cat flap. That was priceless.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 11:21 a.m. CST

    Warwicks reasoning I mean

    by alexander

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST

    Nothing particularly new to add

    by cptrios

    I've seen the whole thing, and I'll pretty much just echo what everyone else has said: It's effectively Extras 2.0, another show where the celebrity cameos are far and away the funniest bits. However, I do think that Davis makes a better lead than Gervais - he's actually crafted a character as opposed to Ricky, who rarely seems to play anything but himself. It's worth watching all the way to the end, though, as it improves toward the last few episodes.

  • pretty much every american review i've seen so far has been stupid. lumpen? lump this.

  • Honestly HBO has NOTHING to do with this show. Oh and up here I love watching the CBC's Simpsons. Best show Canada has produced.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 1:34 p.m. CST


    by torontoxic

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 1:35 p.m. CST

    -- "Let's do some improvisational comedy... now"

    by MooseMalloy

    Might not have to watch the show now since that was one of the funniest things I've ever seen and can't see how it could get any better than that.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Neeson is the best thing in it

    by R.S

    After that the whole thing nose dives. I couldn't get beyond episode three. It's just boring.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 2 p.m. CST

    This show is fantastic... You'd be nuts to miss it...

    by MST3KPIMP

    I downloaded them all and they vary in quality but Just watching Warwick alone is fascinating. It's easily the funniest thing I've seen in years.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 2:36 p.m. CST

    That was fucking funny!

    by Jake Pantlin

    I've seen the show, and I think it's great. The critics who are dissing it can go fuck themselves.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Looks hilarious to me...

    by elsachmo

    I watched the "Making Of" on HBO yesterday and this show looks great. Maybe the critics just have such ridiculously high expectations of Gervais and Merchant now. "An Idiot Abroad" is one of the best shows on television, and I have yet to see anything from them that is not amazing.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:30 p.m. CST

    Yes that Leeson scene is the funniest bit in it.The rest is DIRE.

    by Dead_Kate_Moss

    Reheated jokes from other much better Gervais/Merchant shows, plenty of jokes involving a dwarf falling over, a dwarf being put in a bin, dwarf vomiting.... Relies on 'character looks awkwardly to camera' for laughs, though the tired 'fake doc' format often doesn't make sense here and this series kills off that 'looking to camera' device forever. Really boring, laughed twice through entire series, most sad that people who were capable of creating The Office thought this shit was somehow good enough. It isn't.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 7:44 p.m. CST

    If Gervais was half as smart or funny as he thinks he is

    by Mugato5150

    He'd be in something worth watching.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Life's Too Short is worth the watch

    by Clio

    Warwick Davis is simply great in this....playing a guy so full of himself that he's often clueless in his relationships with other people. I watched the series last year and loved it. The British critics really came down hard on it....kept talking about how much of it was repeated material. It's not repeated from Extras (one of my favorite series of all time), so they must be talking about the BBC Office. I never watched it, nor the American version, so I can't relate to that particular criticism. Helena Bonham Carter is great in another episode, and Davis at the Star Wars con is a hoot. And his secretary is so looney as to make Maggie from Extras seem a genius. Thumbs up for this one.

  • Feb. 19, 2012, 10:08 p.m. CST

    Johnny Depp bit was HILARIOUS

    by Dharma4


  • Feb. 20, 2012, 1:50 a.m. CST

    Gave up after ep 1

    by BenBraddock

    Gervais is running on the spot here.

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Same old shit again

    by Fuck The Napkin

    It's just Warwick Davies doing an impression of David Brent. Brent actually had more likeability than Davies does and none of the supporting characters are interesting - Gervais and Merchant play dull, unpleasant versions of themselves. The droning assistant and Barry from EastEnders are the two best things in it. The comedy lawyer could have been good but he's too extreme to be believable. Warwick Davies' physical comedy's great though. A dwarf falling over will always be funny.

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 5:58 a.m. CST

    If you want more Office and Extras you kinda get both in this.

    by DidntPullOutInTimeCop

    Better than the American Office, nowhere close to the original. Looking forward to "The Short Way Round" with Warwick and Karl P!

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 6:51 a.m. CST

    Liam Neeson's bit is funniest part: FACT

    by Fixthe Fernback

    I say fact as there have been too many talkbackers that agree (me too). This type of consensus around these parts gives it authoritah.

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 8:58 a.m. CST

    I know I'm late to the discussion..


    I was really disappointed with this show. I love al of Ricky Gervais' other stuff, especially the Merchant/Gervais stuff, but I barely laughed through the whole series and only watched until the end through habit or because I wanted it to be good.

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 10:04 a.m. CST

    Loved it.

    by memento108

    Warwick Davis is awesome.

  • I knew he'd found himself on the Hollywood shit list when Tom Hanks and Tim Allen came out on his first Golden Globes appearance radiating butthurt like a pair of walking neon was the ratings and notoriety the event generated that brought him back, not any willingness to lighten the fuck up. Hell yeah, I'll watch this.

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 11:48 a.m. CST

    Liam Neeson scene was so funny.

    by Randy

  • Feb. 20, 2012, 12:51 p.m. CST

    The show may be a Gervais retread, but Warwick is hilarious

    by fuldamobil

    The physical comedy is perfect and he has a great presence. It's totally worth watching for him. I hope this leads to more work for the little guy.

  • Feb. 21, 2012, 5:54 a.m. CST

    Gervaise did an interview couple of years ago..

    by emeraldboy

    dressed as a military dictator. the point was gervaise was the ruler of his kind of comedy and that no one else would be as long as he was around.

  • Feb. 21, 2012, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Warwick at the Star Wars fans' wedding was the best scene

    by Golden_Ux

    Personally I hated the Depp cameo it was way too OTT and was just plain nasty, with the other cameos you could (at least slightly) believe the celebs are like that but Depps was poor. Neeson's seen was fab but takes 2nd place to its equivalent on Extras with Patrick Stewart. I thought Warick acted his socks off and is a great comedy actor but I agree he is basically a carbon mash up of the Millman/Brent characters. Overall 6.5 out of 10 for the series as it lacked originality and not enough laugh out loud moments.

  • Feb. 21, 2012, 2:22 p.m. CST

    A bit hit and miss for me...

    by my job sucks

    But some of it was bleeding hysterical; Helena Bonham Carter having WD put a bin because 'it' was putting her off, the 'Broke Back mountain’ re-enactment and especially WD climbing up the bookcase and trying to look cool in front of wife made me laugh so much I nearly followed through. Much preferred and Idiot abroad though, do they show that in the states?.

  • Plus his shows are just more entertaining.

  • Feb. 22, 2012, 7:26 a.m. CST

    Gervais pioneered NOTHING

    by goatboy500

    His whole 'thing' is robbing better shows peacemeal. The Office is a rip-off of Larry Sanders and a long forgotten UK show called People Like Us, a mockumentary set in an office (a different office every episode). The similarities are striking to say the least. Then, he was inexplicably called a genius (mostly by you yanks) and I can't for the life of me work out why. Then Extras comes along and he just rips Larry Sanders entirely (celebrities playing loony versions of themselves? how original Rick!) Seriously, I hate the man. While there are some nice dramatic moments in both series and some laughs, it's Gervais' schitck and ego that grates on me. That and his high pitched cunty laugh. Fuck Ricky Gervais. Genius my ass, even stealing from better works of art is old news in Hollywood. Anyone ever seen 'Gervais Meets Shandling'? I'm one of the few people who not only enjoys watching Gervais getting his ass handed to him by Gary Shandling, I masturbate to the scene where Shandling calls Gervais on the anti semetism an episode of extras before walking away from him. The look on Gervais' pie addled face more than makes up for the horrible second series of the Office.

  • Feb. 23, 2012, 6:02 a.m. CST

    I liked it.

    by Itchy

    Got promise. I was actually impressed with Warwick Davis - I never imagined he was actually that good of an actor. Fun to watch. I'll give it a shot.

  • Feb. 23, 2012, 3:03 p.m. CST

    Tell me Peter Dinklage shows up in this one.

    by DanielnocharismaCraig

    I cannot tell you the amount of awesome that would be.