Dwarf comedy can be short on laughs

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THE SHOW "Life's Too Short"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO

REASON TO WATCH "The Office's" Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are back.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Warwick Davis is a little person -- a "dwarf" is his preferred self-description -- who's trying to jump-start his career as an actor after success in the "Harry Potter" franchise as Filius Flitwick. (He launched his career as Wicket, in "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi.") But gigs are hard to come by, so he occasionally visits old friends like Gervais and Merchant to cadge roles in whatever new movie or show they're producing. Plus, he has his own talent agency, Dwarvesforhire.

MY SAY Yes, "Life's Too Short" is a put-on, and yes, it's supposed to be funny -- and often is. The series basically asks whether it's OK to laugh at someone's dwarfism when this person does? In a way, that's the whole point here: The joke is on you for being uncomfortable in the first place.

It's not an uninteresting conceit for comedy, nor one Gervais and Merchant are unfamiliar with. This is "Extras," and "The Office" and even Gervais' 2011 Golden Globes performance -- mocking and self-mocking. As movie producers, Gervais and Merchant sit in a bare office appointed only with mementos of past glory, while priggishly brushing off an increasingly desperate Davis.

This joke's on them, too. But "Short" is inconsistently amusing, and works best when big stars like Liam Neeson or Johnny Depp wander into the Gervais-Merchant inner sanctum.

BOTTOM LINE Odd . . . make that very odd, and not for all tastes -- probably very few. But there are some funny bits, while Gervais expertly fashions his own comeuppance for last year's Golden Globes' roast.

GRADE B

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