Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pilot Review: Hello Ladies

Hello Ladies (HBO)
Premiered September 29 at 10:30pm

Stephen Merchant is best known as Ricky Gervais’ creative partner, working with him to create “The Office,” “Extras,” and “Life’s Too Short.” Gervais tends to get the focus when he stars on the show, and Merchant appears as a lanky straight man in many of his parts. Now, Merchant isn’t working with Gervais, and he’s found himself a new starring role that actually suits him quite well. Like those three series, Merchant’s Stuart is awkward and obscene, often offending those around him with his callous language and disregard for the feelings of others. Yet he’s a different type of protagonist on a different type of show. His awkwardness comes from his overenthusiasm, and his British roots don’t hold back his personality. He’s much more like Steve Carell’s Michael Scott than Gervais’ David Brent. He’s charming despite his bad qualities, and it’s a lot of fun to watch him and possible to feel bad for him at the same time. He’s paired wonderfully with Christine Woods, whose previous TV roles on “Perfect Couples” and “Flash Forward” haven’t used her to her full potential and who here gets the chance to shine as Stuart’s neighbor Jessica, who, like him, means well but still has a few issues to work out. Nate Torrence, previously seen working behind-the-scenes on TV shows-within-shows on “Mr. Sunshine” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” provides good comic relief without being over-the-top, and it’s a blast to see Kevin Weisman from “Alias” as Stephen’s crude wheelchair-bound friend Kives. HBO usually has a British import rather regularly, and it’s nice to see this American production with a British star presented something familiar but even more creative and fulfilling.

How will it work as a series? Brits in comedy never have a shortage of ways to embarrass themselves and make other people feel uncomfortable. Merchant has done this many times before, as have co-creators Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupinsky. The show also only has an eight-episode order, which means it won’t be trying too hard to fill a full-length season.
How long will it work? It seems that not as many agree with me that Merchant without Gervais is a hit, but it will ultimately have to do more with ratings than anything else for HBO, which is rather selective about which comedies it endorses for a long life. I think this one may be back for a second season, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Pilot grade: B+

No comments: