Stuart gets the girl. Sort of. At least he gets out of the bar, and into the restaurant for his first official date as the main character on a television series. What does this prove about Stuart? That even when he’s got the girl, he’s still not a very good person. Shocker, I know. Despite my reservations about this episode, “The Date” felt like one of Hello Ladies most fully-realized episodes if only because not everything had to do with Stuart. Christine (whom we will get to later) and Wade got to exist without Stuart's presence. Wade’s AG assurances were a silly little diversion, but Christine’s story was the episode’s strong suit.
The main storyline, of course, was still Stuart-centric. When Christine encourages Stuart to ask out smoothie girl Annie (Lindsey Broad, who played Jim-seductress Cathy on The Office), she taunts him because he’s too afraid to actually go after a girl who will clearly say yes. It’s not just getting the girl that’s the problem, there’s something terrifying about believing she may actually be into him. So Stuart plays text message games like a teenager to make her think he’s unavailable, only to project his own mind games onto Annie. Insecurity is at the heart of everything Stuart does. Even when Christine assures him that Annie will accept a dinner invitation, he immediately puts on the facade of smooth operator that has never worked well in the past for him.
“The Date” was an episode about power dynamics. Stuart tries to take the upper hand by not answering Annie's texts in a timely manner, then Stuart tries to retain that power at the expense of the waiter’s dignity. He ruins everything when he feels that power has been taken away from him by the possibility of another dude. That threat didn’t exist, so he ends up losing Annie anyway.
I didn’t like the initial dinner scene between Stuart and the waiter, and that is indicative of one of the reasons Hello Ladies does not work at times. It wasn’t funny in an uncomfortable way; it was just uncomfortable. The beats felt off, as Stuart rushed from the waiter back to his table, without languishing in uncomfortability or moving on as soon as the jokes didn’t work. The best awkward-comedic scenes have that visceral, stomach-doing-backflips feeling. Instead, it was just a peak into the action of—to allude to Stuart’s Britishness—a twat.
The scene also didn’t involve Stuart being a dick in a way that would come back to humiliate him later. The joke wasn't on him; it was on the waiter. When Stuart, or characters like Stuart, eventually get their comeuppance for acting the way that they do, it justifies their actions to us as an audience. We know they won’t get away with whatever they're doing unscathed. Other characters will realize their motives. But here, only the audience is in on the joke and it’s not a funny joke. While he loses Annie, there’s no consequence for him degrading the waiter. Stuart just comes off like a guy I don’t really want to follow for the next four episodes. The dinner scene was a shame because there was a spark of real humanity in “The Date,” specifically when Stuart drops Annie off after their first date. “But why would I play a game called mini golf? I’m a giant,” Stuart says charmingly. When they agree to go out again, he couldn’t look happier. It’s a moment of genuine sweetness, but it was crowded out by nastiness where the joke was on the server. Stuart still gets the girl, for now.
Christine has her power taken away from her by her professional rival, Amelia (Jenny Slate), who has been off on a movie set in foreign lands, gallivanting with Leonardo DiCaprio. Christine is already somewhat of a powerless figure because she’s a woman in the entertainment industry and she’s not 20. The aged-out ingenue isn’t a new concept, by any stretch. In Bossypants, Tina Fey wrote, “I have a suspicion that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.” Rather than attack Amelia, the humor in Christine's storyline derives from her making the situation worse for herself, in opposition to Stuart. The joke is on Christine; we go with her as she humiliates herself, rather than attacking Amelia. Christine’s plot married her woes about her age with insecurity about her career, while expanding who she is, namely by revealing that her fuck-buddy is her agent. Her interactions with Amelia demonstrate why I disliked the dinner scene so much. Christine’s embarrassment was on her, it was based on her decisions, and she was the one who came out looking like a putz.
- I usually think menses-related humor is stupid, but “I'm sure the scripts are similar. Plenty of blood in both” and “Good luck pretending to be on your period” were both pretty great.