Hello Ladies is based on the stand up of its star and co-creator Stephen Merchant, the gangly, frequent partner-in-crime of Ricky Gervais. That’s what the pilot episode feels like: a series of bits loosely tied together by a central theme. This time around it’s about the oft-soul crushing nature of singledom, a feeling that is many times deserved. It’s not a new concept. Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick Up Artists, for instance, was sold as a manual to some extent—but as it delved into the lives of its main characters, including the author himself, it simply showed how bravado could mask desperation and insecurity. Merchant applies these characteristics to web designer Stuart Pritchard, a men attempting to to bone his way through Los Angeles with a mix of genuine optimism, a healthy helping of narcissism, and entirely no self-awareness. His modus operandi is put on immediate display. “Hello ladies,” Pritchard says to two women, before introducing his recently-separated friend Wade. One clearly uninterested woman can only utter two words before the conversation devolves into the cringe-inducing jokes about Roe v. Wade.
That opening scene—pitch-perfectly awkward—sets the tone for the rest of the episode. When he asks where his targets are from, and one says L.A., he responds, “Can’t do anything with that,” and immediately turns to the other. It’s not a particular woman he’s interested in, but the concept of women as a whole. While on a hike with his recently separated best friend Wade (Nate Torrence), Stuart tries to cheer Wade up by saying he could sleep with anyone in Los Angeles, maybe even a movie star. “There will be someone out there,” Stuart says to Wade. But Stuart doesn’t want someone. He wants anyone. “Making love to a stranger seems empty to me,” Wade responds. Stuart, looking like he’s just sucked on a vinegar-soaked lemon wedge, shakes his head in disgust at Wade. That’s Stuart’s whole reason for getting up in the morning.
Stuart is a man so unaware of how he’s perceived by others that he’s mystified at his own romantic failures. It’s certainly familiar to anyone aware ofMerchant’s hand in creating the original Office, along with Gervais. Hello Ladies co-creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky similarly have roots in Merchant’s Americanized offering. When his initial attempt to bed the two women fails, he immediately launches into his next “Hello, ladies.” When that fails, he retires to the grocery store’s frozen food section and subsequently his couch. Where he encounters his roommate Jessica’s bedmate, the able-bodied Glenn. Stuart tries so desperately with the women around him, but he’s perplexed by his interactions with men as well. His choice in late-night snack food is the one salient detail that Stuart is remembered for. Glenn is the guy Stuart wants to be: The guy that can love ‘em and leave ‘em, the guy who can get into any club, the guy who goes to parties in Silver Lake at 3 a.m.
Jessica, of course, is the woman Stuart should be with all along. A web series creator, Jessica makes Stuart feel comfortable, allowing him to the drop the lothario pretenses. Neither of them see it but, surely, one of them will. The possibility of a Jessica-Stuart love connection is the first hint of a story beyond the concept of Stuart’s inability to pick up women, followed by scenes of his crushing loneliness. That’s okay for now. There’s still quite a bit of joy to be mined from watching Stuart spill $800 worth of drinks he’s just bought for his latest target.
But there’s a lack of depth that could prove troubling as the series progresses. Because of that, the first episode can feel like a string of standup bits weaved together. In the second half of the episode, Stuart offers to buy drinks for comely Courtney and her friend, who turns to the massive group and lets everyone know that Stuart is buying. The scene then cuts to Stuart taking down orders. It’s an extended punchline and a good gag, closely followed by Stuart spilling the drinks while attempting to ask Courtney if she’s dating, mating or masturbating. This is funny and awkward in a way that has served Merchant throughout his career, but it’s not much more than that.
- This week's most cringe-inducing moments: When Wade opens the car door in front of the club and it gets stuck on the curb (this has actually happened to me), closely followed by Stuart's attempts to sit next to Courtney.
- Stuart’s employee, Rory, is new Saturday Night Live castmember Kyle Mooney.
- The use of Cypress Hill's “When the Shit Goes Down” was in wonderful contrast to the rest of the music, namely softer rock from the '70s (dig that Hall & Oates!), in this episode.
- “It’s a couple more because it’s Fiji. The good stuff.”
- “It’s not like I can just go hop in bed with Sigourney Weaver.”