Hear the Kerrang Radio review
Ricky Gervais seems to have been having some kind of slow burn mental breakdown ever since The Office. Erratic behaviour accompanied by delusions of grandeur and maniacal laughter tipped us off and it’s a vexed question how much pleasure you should take from somebody’s disintegration but let’s make like an old vaudevillian stager and see where the laughter takes us. Gervais, it should be said up front, is a brilliant comic, one of the most important of his time. He produced an all-time great sitcom at his first attempt and has been funny in fits and starts ever since. His weird mentoring of his XFM producer Karl Pilkington, guiding him from obscurity to stardom has been one of the stranger stories in entertainment these last few years. Two series of Gervais tormenting Pilkington across the globe in An Idiot Abroad had been a big success for the pair and for this third series that retraces Marco Polo‘s steps on his great Eastern Odyssey he has some company: Warwick Davis.
Ah. Warwick Davis, dwarf actor. I could say “Warwick Davis, actor” but he’s here first and foremost in his capacity as a dwarf and that is problematic. In Life’s Too Short he played a Napoleonic David Brent version of himself – deluded, tyrannical and conniving – his height the butt of many of the jokes. Unfunny from the off and feeling like the warmed up offcuts of The Office and Extras it was hard to like anything about it.
“You take what you can in life and having to chomp daily on the shit sandwich of being born a person of restricted growth means your acting opportunities are limited to ewok, goblin or cupid.”
Not that you’ll hear Warwick Davis complain. You take what you can in life and having to chomp daily on the shit sandwich of being born a person of restricted growth means your acting opportunities are limited to ewok, goblin or cupid. Under Gervais’s patronage he’s getting work, getting paid and getting his profile raised way higher than any other little person out there. Still, I’m taken back to the St Patrick’s Day episode of Boardwalk Empire when Nucky is haggling with the dwarves playing the leprechauns who threaten to go on strike. The dwarves demand $10 for the humiliation but settle for $7 because at the end of the day it’s a buyers’ market and they are a bunch of dwarves and he’s the crime lord of Atlantic City, New Jersey. You wonder how much things have changed.
“Hating it won’t stop it, loving it won’t help it and your indifference is of less consequence than Blandrew Stinkin’s Acting Masterclass.”
At least he isn’t here purely for his disability. He’s set up to be the sunny can-do foil to Pilkington’s gloomy can’t-do curmudgeon and in theory this could work. In practice it feels clunky and at least for this first episode where they visit Venice and travel by gondola to a fancy dress masquerade shindig they are not yet a functioning comedy duo. Pilkington had a couple of good lines but Davis feels redundant and with Gervais being Gervais you’ll be able to plot this show’s future trajectory in your sleep.
But why would anyone involved care when it keeps doing the numbers? It was a big hit for its first two series and it started strongly again here. Hating it won’t stop it, loving it won’t help it and your indifference is of less consequence to the show than a Blandrew Stinkin Masterclass is to acting. It exists on its own terms, in its own ecosystem nourishing both itself and its audience in a weird symbiotic relationship beyond our reckoning.
Best leave it be.
The verdict on An Idiot Abroad 3: Short on laughs.
Marks out of 10: 6