Hello Ladies with Stephen Merchant

stephen-merchant-shines-as-desperate-casanova-in-hbo-comedy-hello-ladiesI was planning to love this show from the start, because I love Stephen Merchant.  I would definitely marry him, despite the fact that he is about 1 foot taller than me, probably weighs less than me, and sometimes looks like a stick insect. I’ve loved him since the Ricky Gervais Show, and have loved all of his work with Ricky.

On the other hand, his character in this show is pretty unlikable at times.  He walks a very fine line. He’s an asshole about 90% of the time, but he does come through in the end.  Barely.

Stephen plays Stuart Pritchard, a web designer living in L.A. and trying to find a lady.  He rents his guest house to Jessica (Christine Woods), a struggling actress.

helloladies04__1381442741_93.107.148.139He’s got a best friend named Wade, who has just separated from his wife and is not doing very well.  He’s obsessed with a model he’s seen on a billboard, and convinced that if he met her, she would be perfect for him.

Here’s the problem with Stuart–he’s really stupid.  Not…intellectually, but in terms of awareness of other people.  He really believes that if he could just get the most attractive girl, then suddenly he’ll feel wonderful about his life.  So he tries, desperately and obviously, to gain the attention of beautiful women. He will throw off one woman if he sees another, more attractive woman that might want him.  It’s painfully obvious, and his biggest crime is that he really cannot see how obvious it is.  He’s inconsiderate, embarrassing, and hard to watch.

On the other hand, he is inevitably punished for every terrible thing he does.  In almost every episode, he manages to manufacture his own downfall. He tries to throw a huge bash of a pool party, hoping it will turn into a scene from Spring Breakers or Project X. The party starts out slow, and he gets very annoyed with the quality of people who have turned up.  He scares off the only attractive women who show up, and then leaves out of frustration.  As he is leaving, a big group of hot girls shows up at the party.  Stuart tries to get back in, but he is blocked by the security that he insisted upon having (to keep out undesirables).

His cloying attempts to be successful with women are his Achilles’ heel, inevitably leading to utter disaster.  So that instills a certain sense of pleasurable self-righteousness in the viewing.  He always gets exactly what he deserves. We see that every time, but he seems a little slow to recognize it.

And how genius is Stephen Merchant (or whomever came up with it) for calling this show Hello Ladies.  There is no situation where a straight man can say that phrase to a group of women without sounding creepy and weird.  It can’t be done; I’m convinced of it.

Can I say that I am so glad I don’t live in L.A.? I can’t think of a single worse place for trying to find a real relationship.  I would go out of my mind.

The show is very funny, but it is the classic British ‘cringe comedy’.  You want to look away because you are so embarrassed for the characters.  It’s a fine line in this type of show, and sometimes I think Hello Ladies steps just a bit over.  I mean, surely Stuart must get it eventually?!

I will say that, in the end, he did eventually do the right thing.  I’m sure there will be 2 steps back for every half-step forward with this character, so if there is a season 2 (I hope there is!), I expect him to make up for being a good guy by behaving like a moron for several episodes in a row.

My boyfriend’s only complaint about the show is that it seems too obvious that Jessica and Stuart will end up together.  If they do ever get together, I think it won’t be until Stephen finds someone who might actually be a-interested in him and b-a real person, rather than his paragon ideal of what he wants.  Right now, Jessica is the only ‘real’ woman in his life–one that he sees as a person, rather than as an accessory to prove his virility/success/popularity. I don’t see her showing any feelings for him unless there’s another genuine human being in his life that is interested in him.

That being said, I honestly hope they stay friends.  It would be far more interesting for me to see a friendship between them, while they both try to find the right person, rather than resorting to the tried-and-true  ‘I couldn’t find the right person because they were standing next to me the whole time’ rom-com standard.

I know the show hasn’t gotten great reviews, but I think it improved a lot by the end of the season, and would probably get better with a few more episodes.  I hope HBO gives it another shot.

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