Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hello Ladies: “The Limo”

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A limo is more than just an elongated car. For Stuart, anyway. A limo is a status symbol, of not just untold wealth, but also sophistication and class. It’s the one thing that would make all of the girls who ignored him at school sit up and wonder why they ever let this gangly beanpole ever slip through their perfectly manicured teenage grasps. The kind of people who feel comfortable in limos are the kind that could model on hotel billboards. But to everyone else, it’s just a really long car.

So when Wade’s estranged wife, Marion, refuses to go out on a planned chauffeured date, Stuart gets to have that style and sophistication, if only for the amount of time the chauffeur is hired. Stuart aims high. He’s an aspirational character, who always wants better for himself even if the sure thing is a teacher on vacation who has been to England twice and is sitting right next to him. There’s always a hotter girl to be had.

Hope and aspiration are not traits that I associate with British comedy. This idea that there’s something better that its characters can achieve, rather than just want to achieve, is distinctly American to me. It’s an interesting mix of sensibilities from both Stephen Merchant, who created the British Office and Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who worked on its American counterpart. Michael Scott, despite his overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction, always had a sense that he could do better. David Brent didn’t have that hope for something better built into his DNA. There are merits to both characterizations, but Stuart in his early goings on is a mixture of those two ideologies. We’re supposed to root for Stuart and Christine to get together—we’re not supposed to root for him to succeed with other women. But at least Stuart believes there is something better out there for him, if he could just land it. That model girlfriend with the Ph.D in philosophy is attainable—he just needs to attain it first.

The limo gag started out strong, but it became confining as the episode drew on. There was real pathos in the argument between Wade and Marion. She wants to be someone beyond Wade's Wife, and he doesn't understand why she needs that. The subsequent three-point limo turn, soundtracked to an a capella version of “Born to be Wild” was perfect. But at some point the episode stopped feeling like a story and became an extended bit. Stuart is an established character. “The Limo” didn’t need to make him any clearer. But that’s all it seemed to accomplish.

The previous episode established Stuart as a character and put forth the message that soul-crushing loneliness can be funny too. “The Limo” further reiterates why Stuart was in that loop of soul-crushing loneliness. Christine and her trio of actress friends reject Stuart’s limo invitation, so Stuart, Wade and Kives settle on three tourist teachers. Stuart is more than happy to kick to his sure thing to the curb once the hotter trio returns, and more than happy to go back to his average-looking educator once he finds out that Christine's friends are all unattainable. To bring up The Office once again, that was okay when it came to David Brent because there were other storylines moving around him—namely Tim and Dawn’s love story. But Hello Ladies lacks that sideline humanity, making "The Limo" feel thin.

The character who benefits from further establishment is Christine. Like Stuart, her misery derives from trying to force a persona that is simply not innate to her. That doesn’t mean she can’t enjoying a fine viewing of Battleship Potemkin on the weekends, but she can’t force it on her friends who expect to sit around and discuss the merits of 10 Things I Hate About You. Stuart is not a ladies’ man, despite all of his best efforts, and Christine thinks that listening to jazz will give her life heft and importance, even though that’s not true. It’s sitting in the back of a limo and sharing snacks that matters.


Stray observations:

  • Some familiar faces at the Ambassador Room: Noted acidic comedian Eddie Pepitone was the paparazzo. The gatekeeper was Stephanie Beatriz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • The use of Bill LaBounty’s “Look Who’s Lonely Now” was so beyond too-on-the-nose that it went there and came back to apropos again. The soundtrack to this show is quite wonderful.
  • Miles Davis, Lance Armstrong, The Loneliest Monk.
  • “It’s Saturday night! Maybe something with words?”