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You don't have to be Einstein (or Stephen Fry) to figure out that Ricky Gervais greatly anticipated new sitcom is simply a cross between 'The office' and 'Extras', Britain's 'go to dwarf' and star of the show in Warwick Davies a mini David Brent in all but name, the A-List movie star cast sprinkled in to ape the successful 'mocumentary' ingredient of Extras a tad predictable. There is no doubt that Ricky is playing it safe here and sticking to what he knows now that his Hollywood dream has stalled. The problem is he is a big star now and mixes with those very celebrities he likes to ironically send up, certainly confident enough to slag them off at the Golden Globes, and so having Johnny Depp and Liam Neeson on his new show just feels like showing off to me, the narcissism of David Brent more and more in his real life these days. I think he thinks he is big enough now to no longer disguise his comedy as much and one long joke about dwarfs would be about Asian people with wobbly heads if he could get away with it. I'm not saying he is a biggot or anything and he is certainly most of us when it comes to secretly sniggering at those 'risky' gags, ones we thought had been buried by an avalanche of political correctness at Bernard Manning's funeral. But the recent 'mong' comment on Twitter was rather crass and an expression of Ricky's clout in the comedy world that he can say as he pleases with no censure. I agree he should have the right to say as he pleases but it's noticeable that the middle-class media that gets a secret pleasure from his comedy is not really challenging his views now.
Warwick Davies, of course, is hardly going to stick up for his fellow little people and make that political point that the sitcom is just taking the piss of dwarfs after landing the dream starring role here. We are laughing at a funny little bloke (Warwick, not Ricky) and the things he can't do, simple as, and no amount of A-List celebrities will disguise that. But those taboos are what we really want to laugh about in life and that's why we are laughing at Ricky's comedies time after time. He is brave and smart enough to be able to walk the politically correct comedy tightrope and not tumble by openly offending. But there's no doubt anything Ricky Gervais does is an event for the white-collar classes, the same middle-class censors allowing his subtle blue comedy to get to the screen. Race, gender, sexism and now dwarfism in the mix and we chuckle away with no guilt. He likes to tell us we are laughing at the way people react to the above 'isms' but we are really just laughing at old fashioned prejudices we all share.
Episode one has Ricky in the Simon Cowell role, behind a big desk in his production office alongside Stephan Merchant, lecturing little Warwick Davies for constant visits to the office to beg for work. Warwick can't reach the intercom to buzz into the office and that sets the general tone for episode one.
The big celebrity first up was the lugubrious Liam Neeson, demanding Ricky let him have a crack at stand up comedy, a bizarre but funny scene. Putting surprise cameos in the show is a concurrent joke.
In the show Warwick runs an agency for Dwarfs and steals all the best jobs, way behind on his tax and about to be divorced from his tall wife and big house, monies earned from Willow, Return of the Jedi and Harry Potter all but gone, and his accountant as incompetent as he is with money. But Warwick thinks he is a big star still and refuses to believe he is famous just for playing teddy bears in and little people, shameless what h will do for money.
Episode two and London based Johnny Depp is in town, Warwick's dim new secretary forgetting to mention to her boss his agent had called. Ricky gets some stick from Johnny over the Golden Globes abuse and Warwick shamelessly takes money for his signature and services at Comic Convention and 500 quid up front for a fans wedding.
Johnny Depp was fun and it's a 'wow' that he did the show but again it feels like showing off by Ricky to jemmy him into the show in a forced situation, big Hollywood star after big Hollywood star sitting opposite Ricky and Stephen in his office in a much smaller chair. In Curb Your Enthusiasm it works when they do that as Larry David stumbles upon the celebrities in social situations and in the street and so it has more credibility and comic nuance.
But, the above critic aside, the show is still funny, mainly because sitcom opposition on the BBC to make you laugh is limited, 'Rev' about the best there is and so Ricky's sitcoms always stand out affairs and much anticipated by viewers who don't want to be patronised by safe sitcom. And trying to live up to The Office for Ricky and Stephen is impossible and so the downward curve inevitable. But how can you not laugh at Liam Neesons 'full blown Aids' comment. If it wasn't for Ricky and the IT Crowd most would have given up on the genre years ago.
From the creators of The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, comes an all new fake documentary starring Warwick Davis - Lifes Too Short. With his career on the slide, a massive tax bill caused by his useless accountant and a wife who's divorcing him, the showbiz actor has no choice but to open his doors to a film crew 24/7. Maybe living his life like an open wound will get him back on top? The film crew charts Warwick's every move as he tries to maintain his pride and self-respect in some very unusual situations. Starring Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Jo Enright, Steve Brody, Rosamund Hanson and Shaun Williamson plus guest appearances from Liam Neeson, Johnny Depp, Sting, Helena Bonham Carter, Steve Carell, Cat Deeley, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Les Dennis and Keith Chegwin.