On the small screen at least, Ricky Gervais has seldom encountered anything short of enormous success since “The Office” (in this writer’s opinion the finest sitcom of the last two decades) first aired in July 2001. That show went on for two seasons (plus a Christmas special), as did the inferior but still undeniably brilliant “Extras.” The animated version of his podcast with Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington, “The Ricky Gervais Show,” went on for three seasons and found far more success than the format reasonably had any right to, and similarly “An Idiot Abroad” (in which he sends Karl Pilkington around the globe) has been a huge success in the UK, and has just concluded after adding Warwick Davis to the mix for its final run this Christmas.
It was all the more surprising then when “Life’s Too Short” failed to connect last year. Critically and ratings-wise it well and truly bombed in the UK, and while it seems to have been rather more warmly received on the other side of the Atlantic, the show didn’t resonate in the way that its predecessors had. The mockumentary series was a co-production between HBO and the BBC, and starred Warwick Davis (who was great in it despite the show’s other failings) playing a struggling actor version of himself, as he tries to rebuild his career mostly by bugging Gervais and Stephen Merchant, alongside a steady stream of celebrity cameos. Although Gervais had initially talked confidently about the prospect of a second season, apparently that won’t be happening. But HBO and The Beeb have now both committed to a one-off special to wrap up the story.
It’s probably the best possible outcome. Fans of the show will get the closure they wanted for the series, and those who rallied against the show won’t have to rant about it for much longer. We’re happy for Davis who deserved his moment in the spotlight, and with the talent involved in its creation there’s no reason why this final special can’t still be a great piece of television. But with less “Life’s Too Short” to focus on, there’s still plenty for Gervais, Merchant and Davis to be getting on with. For Gervais, the one-off TV movie “Derek” (which he wrote and starred in without the involvement of Merchant) is being spun out into a full series that will air on Channel 4 in the UK and on Netflix in the U.S. Merchant has his upcoming HBO vehicle “Hello Ladies” coming up, while Davis will (we can only presume) have a lot of “Star Wars” work to do in the next few years. But before all that, let’s hope that “Life’s Too Short” can go out on a high (pun intended)! [Deadline]