A Little Limelight

February 8, 2012

Little people are … oh, please, forgive me … having a Big TV Moment this month. A little person competes on CBS’ “Survivor” (Feb. 15). TLC airs a special edition of “Little People, Big World,” its reality show about a family of short stature (Feb. 19). On that same date, the notoriously offensive Ricky Gervais launches “Life’s Too Short,” an HBO comedy series with Warwick Davis (above right), a respected 3-foot-6-inch tall actor who’s appeared in “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” films, playing a vain, underemployed version of himself.

Some in the dwarfism community think the exposure is “just an updated version of the sideshow,” says Gary Arnold, president of the Little People of America. Yet he gives the reality shows credit for showing that “people with dwarfism have physical differences but live lives that really aren’t that much different than the average person.”

As for Gervais, he brilliantly (and hilariously) captures the tendency to demean little people. In one scene, a dim secretary suggests a chimney sweeping career for cash-strapped Davis. “People will say, “Wow, that is the cleanest chimney ever,” she imagines. Then she’d reveal how it was done: “We had a dwarf on a pole!”

Marc Silver has been watching TV since the days when people wrapped aluminum foil around TV antennae to improve reception.
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Stephen M. Deusner | February 8, 2012