Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Sacha Baron Cohen Reportedly Returning To Write, Produce, Star In & Direct The Freddie Mercury Biopic Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut Watch: Explore The Loneliness Of Sofia Coppola's Films With This Supercut 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Preview: Stephen Merchant's Uneven, Unfunny HBO Comedy 'Hello Ladies'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist September 28, 2013 at 4:36PM

After working together as writers, producers and stars of TV hits "The Office," "Extras," the underrated "Life's Too Short" and "An Idiot Abroad," the undeniably, comedically potent duo of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant has decided to split up for their latest TV ventures. Earlier this month, Netflix debuted "Derek," the latest from Gervais, while this weekend comes "Hello Ladies," produced, written, directed and starring Merchant, with assists in all departments from Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (who helped make the U.S. port of "The Office" a success). Yet, despite a track record of success and the necessary ingredients for another hit, "Hello Ladies" is a surprisingly and disappointingly uneven effort, completely absent of the craft and precision of Merchant's previous efforts.
11
Hello Ladies

After working together as writers, producers and stars of TV hits "The Office," "Extras," the underrated "Life's Too Short" and "An Idiot Abroad," the undeniably, comedically potent duo of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant has decided to split up for their latest TV ventures. Earlier this month, Netflix debuted "Derek," the latest from Gervais, while this weekend comes "Hello Ladies," produced, written, directed and starring Merchant, with assists in all departments from Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (who helped make the U.S. port of "The Office" a success). Yet, despite a track record of success and the necessary ingredients for another hit, "Hello Ladies" is a surprisingly and disappointingly uneven effort, completely absent of the craft and precision of Merchant's previous efforts. 

While much of the comedy from "The Office" and "Extras" relied on David Brent and Andy Millman falling into one cringeworthy situation after another, both of those flawed and at times deeply unlikeable characters had a relatable core to them, of men still striving towards some kind of ambition or dream, no matter how misguided. And it's that element, at least in the first two episodes sent to press, that's crucially absent in "Hello Ladies." The show finds Merchant playing Stuart, an Englishman now living in Los Angeles, and as the title suggests, trying to find sex and romance. And while the premise is rather dusty, there are a lot of potential avenues that could be taken to make it contemporary, fresh and unique, but "Hello Ladies" fails to utilize any of them.

Hello Ladies

For a show centered around a 6’ 7” Englishman, new to America, none of the comedy revolves around his fish out of water status. To the contrary, he seems remarkably successful, owning a sports car and a property large enough that he has a tenant living in the guest house, Jessica (Christine Woods), an attractive actress who is working on a web series. The pair of them share an easy camaraderie and a spiky friendship not unlike that of Jerry and Elaine from "Seinfeld," although they haven't previously dated. Meanwhile, Stuart has one best friend, the pudgy and sweet Wade (Nate Torrence), who is going through a separation from his wife, while he has a pal, the handicapped ladykiller Kives (Kevin Weisman), often coming with them to the clubs—the running joke being that he's the one always getting laid, despite being in a wheelchair.

However, the majority of the comedy seems to rest simply on Stuart being a self-centered boob, forever on the hunt for a woman but hapless in his endeavors. The pilot episode finds him chasing a colleague Jessica is working with, worming his way into a club opening and making a spectacular ass of himself in the process. While the following episode follows him out on a night on the town in a rented limo with Nate and Kives, partying with with women from St. Louis, before Stuart again chases Jessica's sexier friends, and makes an ass out of himself. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

Hello Ladies

While Stuart has the same sort of David Brent/Michael Scott-esque fantasy of his future, living "with my beautiful wife, who's a model, PhD in philosophy…and everyone I ever went to school with and all the girls that wouldn't ever go on dates with me, they come, they see the limo, they're 'Who's that? It's Stuart Pritchard — why'd we let him slip through our fingers?'" the character lacks their heartfelt vulnerability. Stuart is simply buffoonishly insensitive and far from being a mid-level manager at a tiny company in a small city. His career suggests he's been nothing short of enterprising, which surely would require at least some understanding of how to act in social situations. This creates a fundamental distance in being able to sympathize with his plight. When he heads home each night, stopping late in a nearly empty grocery store to pick up dinner, and eats alone in front of the TV—a melancholy tonal shift that never quite works—he deserves it. Where David Brent or Andy Millman might be well-meaning despite themselves, Stuart is mostly just kind of mean.

Perhaps there is a longer tail-plot at play in the eight-episode first season, but with Stephen Merchant at the helm for half of those—he directs the first four episodes—this is clearly the vision he has put together for "Hello Ladies." And at least in the early going, the goals of "Hello Ladies" are lightweight, and when coupled with comedy that is as gracelessly executed as Stuart is himself, it can make for rather plodding viewing. It misses by such a distance you wonder how much weight Merchant really carried in his much more entertainingly satisfying relationship with Gervais. Certainly, Merchant has no problem in arranging scenarios that play out for maximum awkward effect, but thus far, he's missing the heart (that we only assume is Gervais' speciality) that makes a character like Stuart resonate with empathy even when he's falling onto a table full of drinks or going for a second chance with a woman he callously rejected. Without that emotion, "Hello Ladies" is more often than not cartoonish and empty. [First two episodes, C-]

"Hello Ladies" premieres Sunday, September 29th at 10:30 PM on HBO.

This article is related to: Stephen Merchant , Hello Ladies, Television, TV Reviews, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates