…. so perhaps that explains why the set up has been shamelessly replicated from The Office.

I’m a huge fan of comedic writers Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I adore their catalogue of work, spanning sitcoms, stand up, podcasts and radio shows. The Office is one of the most interesting and emotionally engaging comedies that I have ever seen. It was one of the first mockumentary style sitcoms (ignoring undervalued earlier examples like Operation Good Guys), and the juxtaposition of hilarious, sometimes even slapstick, comedy with romantic, emotional plot lines is truly praiseworthy. I welled up like Gwyneth Paltrow at the end of the Christmas specials and I attribute this to the incredible creation and development of the sitcom’s key characters. Although they are entirely different, every character is immediately likeable. In following the series, you inevitably become more and more enamoured with the characters, feeling a real investment in their successes and failures. You are desperate for Tim and Dawn to get together, willing Brent to stand up to Finchey, and it’s a testament to the writing skills of Gervais and Merchant that they provide this conclusion. With The Office they haven’t just written a comedy, they have told a story.

I believe the above paragraph demonstrates effectively my love and admiration of The Office. So when I learnt about the arrival of a new sitcom from the pair, focussed on the trials and tribulations of Warwick Davis (I ❤ Star Wars!), I was suitably excited. That’s what makes it so disheartening to discover how bad it is….

I have watched the first three episodes and apart from the odd snigger I have been entirely disappointed. Perhaps the most obvious problem is that it’s just not very funny, but as that is something innately subjective I will skim over it for now. The biggest fault I have witnessed is that it appears to be a shameless amalgamation of The Office and Extras. Obviously the premise is similar to The Office, a mockumentary comedy following a business manager. It is shot in very much the same way, with regular cut aways to Warwick Davis being interviewed, just like Brent. Furthermore, the celebrity cameo appearances are unavoidably reminiscent of Extras. Unfortunately the comparisons are far more damning than these quite superficial ones.

Warwick is Brent. His mannerisms, his speech, his attitudes are all exactly the same. He has a pretentious ego, assuming that everyone knows who he is and admires him, with a feeling that the world owes him something. He even speaks with the same tone and pace. Talk about Mini Me.

Watch this clip:


It seems insane to me how similar they are. It doesn’t help that both of these scenes have taken place after a failed comedic skit. The awkward, ill-placed confidence of Warwick’s wedding speech reminds me heavily of Brent’s welcoming talk with Swindon and his blundered motivational speech.

Comparisons are noticeable in other characters also. The dreary secretary is Maggie from Extras. Both are bumbling females, perpetually making mistakes, often ruining opportunities for the male protagonist. They speak out of turn, they say the wrong things and every episode cause embarrassment. Also, Warwick’s inept accountant plays very much the same character as Stephen Merchant in Extras as Gervais’ agent. Both characters are completely incompetent; they are entirely ineffectual in their jobs, and are seemingly kept on out of pity. It is an interesting irony that the accountant, played by Steve Brody, also played Brent’s bumbling agent in The Office Christmas specials.

Another gripe I have, beyond the blatant repetition, is that I am unsure why Gervais and Merchant really need to be in the show. Perhaps it’s going somewhere and there is a significant reason why they need to be in it, but so far it’s seemed like nothing more than a vehicle to massage their egos. Their role has been to demonstrate how successful and profitable they are, in comparison to a failing Warwick Davis, a man who is desperate for their attention and friendship in the hope of securing future acting roles. The show is as much about them as Warwick, which completely undermines the whole premise. In episode two Johnny Depp came to speak with Gervais, and part of his response was “I write and direct all my own stuff”. This line really stood out to me as a needless pitch of self-assurance and perhaps explains why they feel they deserve to be central characters in the show, for no real reason.

I will endeavour to watch the rest of the series in the hope that I will be proven wrong. I’m not confident.

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Comments
  1. […] anyone that read my review of Life’s Too Short, you will be aware of how much I adore the co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen […]

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